St Paul’s is one of London’s most easily recognizable buildings. Standing majestically on the city skyline, this building is rich in history and a true architectural masterpiece. This article celebrates Sir Christopher Wren’s beautiful and imposing cathedral; a must-see for any visitor to London.
There are few Buildings in the London skyline as synonymous with the city as St Paul’s Cathedral. Its instantly recognizable dome is an iconic image of London. Although its predecessor may have been burned down in the Great Fire of London in 1666, St Paul’s Cathedral has stood since 1710 and hosted some of the country’s most important services. It’s a building with an impressive facade and one that’s rich in history.
Designed by architect Sir Christopher Wren, St Paul’s Cathedral is the fourth cathedral to occupy the site. It was built between 1675 and 1710, overseen by five monarchs who were determined that London’s leading church be as beautiful and imposing as their private palaces. Since the first service in 1697, St Paul’s has celebrated, mourned, and commemorated people and events of great importance for the country.
Important services have included the funerals of Lord Nelson and Sir Winston Churchill; peace services marking the end of both the First and Second World Wars; the service of Remembrance and Commemoration for the 11 September 2001 attacks; the wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer; and most recently, the thanksgiving services for both the Golden Jubilee and 80th birthday of Her Majesty, the Queen.
St Paul’s has changed over the centuries. Shifting tastes and attitudes have been reflected in the addition and removal of decoration; services have been updated; and some areas have been put to new uses. For example, the magnificent mosaics are the result of Queen Victoria’s complaint that the Cathedral’s interior was, “most dreary, dingy and un-devotional.”
The American Memorial Chapel is located behind the High Altar at the east end of the Cathedral and occupies an area that was damaged by bombs during the Second World War. Was rebuilt in the 1950s, this part of the Cathedral formed a chapel funded by the British people to commemorate the members of the British-based US forces who died in battle. The 28,000-plus names of those Americans who gave their lives traveling to, or while stationed in, the UK during
WWII are contained in a roll of honor housed in the American Memorial Chapel. The images that adorn the chapel’s wood, metalwork, and stained glass depict the flora and fauna of North America and include references to historical events.
The Cathedral’s famous dome is one of the largest in the world. This iconic feature of the London skyline measures 111.3 meters in height and weighs approximately 65,000 tonnes, being supported by eight pillars.
No visit to St Paul’s is complete without a climb up the winding staircase to the Whispering Gallery, which runs around the interior of the dome. Regardless of where you position yourself in the Gallery, if you put your mouth against the wall and whisper, your words can be heard on the opposite side, hence its name! Travel beyond the Whispering Gallery up and out to the Stone and Golden Galleries, and you’re afforded a panoramic view of London which is simply breathtaking.
The Cathedral also houses a crypt where some of the country’s great heroes are buried including Lord Nelson, the Duke of Wellington, and Sir Winston Churchill. And famous works of art by artists including William Holman Hunt and Henry Moore can be found on the Cathedral floor.
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