St Paul’s Cathedral

Occupying the highest natural point in cetral London is the magnificence of St Paul’s Cathedral. The fourth ‘St Paul’s’ to occupy the site, it has been the central place of Christian Worship in central London since 604AD. The current cathedral was built by Sir Christopher Wren between 1675 and 1710 after its predecessor, a Norman Cathedral (also St Paul’s), was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. There had been plans to re-build St Pauls since 1661, but it was the Great Fire that provided the ultimate excuse. The St Paul’s of today is an English Baroque masterpiece, and has endured in spite of many a calamity. During the Blitz of World War Two it was repeatedly bombed. Once a time-delayed bomb hit the Cathedral, thankfully it was, at extreme risk to the Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Team, diffused and removed before it could detonate. Had it, the Cathedral would have been completely destroyed, beyond recovery. Due to its continued survival throughout the war, remarkable due to it being the highest point in Central London and such a visible landmark, it became an icon of the Blitz spirit that kept morale so high when everything looked so bleak.

This beautiful cathedral is lovingly cared for by the Church of England, and routinely undergoes maintenance and cleaning to maintain its sparkling beauty. Its great dome is an engineering marvel, not only from the outside, but also inside. Its famous ‘Whispering Gallery’, means even the faintest whisper from the opposite side of the dome can be heard, with clarity, simply by pressing your ear against the dome. St Paul’s is a mixture of styles and sentiments, its great dome and West Door, would have you believe its layout would resemble European Renaissance churches, with a ‘Greek Cross’ as its floor plan (all transepts of the cross being equal in length). This was Wren’s intention, but Church of England’s attachment to the ‘Latin Cross’ (the central transept being longer than the sides) meant the design was changed. While it appears to be a reflection of the Renaissance design, Wren had to incorporate several English Gothic aspects. To render it entirely in a neo-renaissance fashion would make it too different to all other English Cathedrals, and having some aspects of familiarity won the day. Despite being a structure of compromises, St Paul’s is a design, engineering and architectural success and wonder. It remains Wren’s swan-song.

Located in Central London, on the North Bank of the Thames, just a few hundred meters from the River, it remains the seat of the Bishop of London and is thus a working church. Should you wish to participate in any service held here, you are free to do so, should you wish to also look around and admire the splendour, you do have to pay. In order to pay for the constant maintenance, admission starts at £5.50 for children, £13.50 for students and £14.50 for adults (you can buy all tickets in advance online). You can of course explore the crypt or climb the dome for no extra charge. All filming and photography is strictly forbidden at all times. St Paul’s is open everyday from 8.30am to 4pm, on Sundays only worshippers are welcome (no charge of course) and sightseeing is not allowed.

You can easily reach St Paul’s via St Pauls, Mansion House, Cannon St, and Bank Tube Stations as well as Blackfriars Overground. There are several bus routes that serve the cathedral, you can also use a Thames ‘Clipper’ service, getting off at Tate Modern and walking across the Millennium Bridge. It is also in walking distance of Tate Modern and the Globe Theatre on the south bank of the Thames, simply cross using Millennium or Southwark Bridges.

Speak Your Mind