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St Paul's Cathedral


Designed by Sir Christopher Wren to replace the previous cathedral destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666, St Paulís Cathedral is of significant importance in the countryís identity. It contains the tombs and memorials of many of the countryís most famous people and is used for celebration services with regard to significant events in the countryís history.

St Paulís Cathedral was designed by Sir Christopher Wren to replace the cathedral destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666.  Constructed during the years from 1675 to 1710 it is the fourth religious building on the site. The first was built in 604 which was destroyed and rebuilt following Viking raids and subsequent fires. It was around 1087 that Bishop Maurice, the Chaplain to William the Conqueror started the construction of what was to become known as Old St Paulís. This was completed in 1240, although was subsequently enlarged and finally completed in 1300. 

Over the years the building gradually fell into disrepair until in 1633 under the supervision of Inigo Jones restoration work was carried out which included the addition of a portico to the west front. The work was stopped with the English civil war (1642 - 1651) and it wasnít until the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 that work was once again to start on the cathedral. However, before any major work could be carried out the Great Fire of London (1666) destroyed two-thirds of the city and made the cathedral so unsafe that in 1668 it had to be demolished. Prior to the fire Christopher Wren had produced plans for its renovation and he was asked to produce a design for the new building. These were accepted and work commenced in 1675, construction was to take 35 years with 9 years in the planning.

Models of the cathedral show how it looked prior to and then after the Great Fire.

St Paul's Cathedral is of significant importance in the countryís identity and has been the location of the thanksgiving services at the end of the First and Second World Wars and for Queen Victoriaís Jubilee celebrations and Queen Elizabethís 80th birthday and her Silver, Golden and Diamond Jubilees. It was also the place where the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer took place. It has been the location for the funeral services for Lord Nelson, and the Duke of Wellington, both who are buried in the Crypt, as are numerous other famous people including  Margaret Thatcher and Sir Winston Churchill, who is commemorated in the Crypt by the set of iron gates which separate the crypt from the restaurant and souvenir shop. 

Numerous tombs and memorials are scattered throughout the Cathedral with many being in the crypt. Some of the famous people include Florence Nightingale, T.E. Lawrence, Lord Kitchener, Sir Alexandra Fleming and the clergy from the cathedral over the years. It also has a number of memorials dedicated to specific conflicts such as the Falkland and the Gulf War.

Although St Paul's Cathedral is still a working church, with regular services, visitors are able to visit most of the cathedral which includes a number of chapels around the cathedral at ground level, while the crypt contains the Knights Bachelor Chapel and the OBE Chapel.

On entering the cathedral visitors see the nave stretching before them.

Located near the entrance at the west end of the North Transept is the font. This was carved in blue-veined Italian marble by Francis Bird in 1726-1727 and cost £350.

By the entrance is the Kitchener Memorial. 

Within the Nave is the memorial to Lord Nelson.

Although his body lies in a marble sarcophagus in the Crypt. 

The most striking memorial is that of Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington which is located in the central bay of the North Aisle.

The monument consists of the bronze effigy of Wellington reclined on a sarcophagus also of bronze. Above is an arched structure with a figure of him mounted on Copenhagen, his horse at the Battle of Waterloo. Originally this monument was placed facing the other way looking away from the altar, but was subsequently reversed.

The Duke's body also lies in a marble sarcophagus in the Crypt. 


The crypt contains many tombs including the simple tomb of Christopher Wren the builder of the cathedral.

Returning to the nave, just passed this is the Transepts with the crossing stretching between them, this in St Paulís is known as the Dome Area which is directly below the dome and provides views of the interior of the dome.

The dome consists of three structures that enable the inner dome to be proportional to the internal architecture. 

The circular gallery which runs at the point where the vault of the Dome starts to curve inwards, is called the Whispering Gallery. The name comes from the fact that a person who whispers facing the wall on one side, can be clearly heard on the other since the sound is carried perfectly around the curve of the Dome.

Visitors are able to visit the Dome and galleries which are set at a number of levels

The first level is the Whispering Gallery which is 30 metres above the floor and takes 257 steps to reach it. 

A further 23 meters and 119 steps go to the Stone Gallery, while a total of 528 steps go up 82 meters to the Golden Gallery, which provides panoramic views over the City of London.

Also in the dome area is the beautifully carved pulpit.

Leading from the Dome area is the Quire which is where the choir and the clergy sit during a service.

On either side of the quire are the quire aisles, both of which contain wrought-iron gates crafted by French metalworker Jean Tijou. Tijou worked in England between 1689Ė1712 at St Pauls, Hampton Court Palace, and Kensington Palace.

The organ, dates from the 1690s and originally stood on top of the screen which then divided the Quire from the crossing. When the screen was removed, the organ was placed to the north of the Quire.  In 1872 the organ case was divided in two, and the two halves were placed as they are now.

On the north side of the quire is the cathedra which is the place where the Bishop sits and what gives the cathedral its name. The one in St Paulís was completed in 1697 and is embellished with carved wooden flowers, plants, and cherubs. The mosaics decorating the walls and ceiling of the quire were installed following a remark by Queen Victoria that the St Paulís was ďdull, dingy and un-devotionalĒ. 

Behind the quire is the High Altar, this was built in 1958 and was based on a drawing by Sir Christopher Wren, and made of marble and oak. The Baldacchino (canopy over an altar) was created by W. Godfrey Allen and Stephen Dykes Bower. The original Victorian High Altar was destroyed by bombings during World War II.

At the top of the Baldacchino are gilded statues of Jesus and angels. 

The entrance fee to St Pauls includes a selection of guided tours of the building.

To see more photographs and take a virtual tour of the site click on the photoshow below.

Visit Official Site

Addition information can be seen in Encyclopaedia Britannica


              All  Photographs were taken by and are copyright of Ron Gatepain

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