Tourists walking on site of King’s coronation for first time must wear socks

Tourists will be allowed to follow in the footsteps of historical Kings and Queens - but only if they're wearing socks, Cari Davies reports

Visitors to Westminster Abbey are set to be allowed to stand in the exact spot where the King will be crowned - but they must wear socks.

It will mark the first time the public will be allowed access to the Cosmati pavement - one of Britain’s greatest medieval art treasures - which is usually roped off.

The intricate 13th century mosaic floor - at the heart of the Abbey’s coronation theatre - has been the site for the crowning of Kings and Queens for more than 700 years.

In keeping with tradition, it will also be the site of Charles' May 6 coronation.

Carpet covered the mosaic at many previous coronations, including Queen Elizabeth II’s in 1953 and George VI’s in 1937. But for the King’s, it will remain uncovered, the Abbey said.

The Cosmati pavement is rich in symbolism and is said to depict the universe, with a spherical globe at its centre.

Tourists - kept to small groups of ten - will be asked to remove their shoes and walk in socks to help protect the pavement, made up of geometric patterns of marble, stone, glass and metal, in the Sacrarium.

The guided Crown and Church visits will begin on Monday May 15, a week after the coronation.

Charles will be crowned sitting in the Coronation Chair, which will rest on a low stepped dais above the centre circle of the ancient floor, in front of the High Altar.

The expert guided tour will reveal the London abbey’s royal links, tell stories from coronations, visit the chair, allow access to the pavement and explain its history and significance.

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A spokesperson for the Abbey said: "It will be the first time in living memory that the Abbey has invited visitors to walk on the Cosmati pavement where the Coronation Chair will be placed for the crowning of HM The King on Saturday 6 May."

The 24ft 10in square pavement was commissioned by Henry III and completed in 1268 as a glittering adornment to his Abbey.

A cryptic inscription even predicts the end of the world, claiming it would last 19,683 years, with a riddle adding together the life spans of different animals, including dogs, horses, men, stags, ravens, eagles and whales.

It is considered the best surviving example outside Italy of a rare type of mosaic stonework known as Cosmati, after the Italian family who perfected the technique.

The pavement was hidden under carpet and away from public view for 150 years from the 1870s, until it was unveiled after a two-year programme of conservation work in 2010.

The Cosmati pavement is made up of geometric patterns of marble, stone, glass and metal. Credit: PA

The late Queen was depicted standing on the spot where she was crowned in Australian-born artist Ralph Heimans’ portrait, for her Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

Other elements of the special programme include a new exhibition in the Chapter House.

Key elements of the coronation service and its artefacts will be explained and illustrated by the exhibition, with the display opening on Wednesday April 12.

The Crown and Church tours will run until Saturday July 29 and cost £15, plus Abbey entry.

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