Westminster Abbey has stood in Westminster for hundreds of years. Thousands of tourists and locals visit it every year. It is one of the most recognisable buildings in London and would be near the top of any list of attractions. However, there is one slight problem with all this. And that is, it is not Westminster Abbey. Yes, I know, I’m being a little oblique here, but hear me out.
Its real title is the Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster. Okay, with that little titbit of information over and done with, let’s move on to where a well-know phrase comes from. The phrase “Robbing Peter to Pay Paul” has its origins at this same church or abbey. It all came about with the competition between Westminster and East Minster which is St Paul’s Cathedral. Add to this the Reformation started by Henry VIII and carried on by his son, Edward VI.
This meant that many monastic lands and money were just handed out to whoever the monarch liked at the time. Creeping in the Royal Court does have its advantages it would seem. However, this also meant that some churches such as the aforementioned St Paul’s and Westminster Abbey / St Peter’s also went to the king for money and land in order to keep funding themselves.
But it would appear that the Westminster lot were so insistent, that they hacked off Edward, so much so, that he actually removed land they already had and gave it to, you’ve guessed it, St Paul’s. So, if we think about it, the king actually did rob St Peter to pay St Paul.