When you go sightseeing in London, do not miss St. Paul’s Cathedral. This church is almost 300 years old and one of London’s most fascinating cultural heritage buildings. The history of the church dates back to the sixth century of old England. If you are really keen in your history, then this site will feed on your enthusiasm in Londoner’s past spiritual life.
Although it may not be as famous as the Big Ben, Thames River, or Tower of London, St Paul’s Cathedral is a very significant and important landmark as well as meeting place in London. It also has been a subject captured and presented in postcards, depicting its enormous and magnificent dome. The cathedral also has held prominent services including the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, funerals of Sir Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher, and Jubilee celebrations for Queen Victoria.
St Pauls’ Cathedral is a church that belongs to the Church of England. It is the seat of Bishop of London and the mother church of the Diocese of London. The cathedral was named after Saint Paul when it was constructed in the 17th century, following the original church that stood there before the new one was erected. The construction of the new St. Paul Cathedral was initiated as part of the rebuilding program which took place the Great Fire of London which devastated the city. The design of the new church was done by Sir Christopher Wren who managed to see the completion of the church’s construction during his life time.
The Previous Cathedrals
There are some theories on cathedrals and worship sites erected before St Paul’s. William Camden, an Elizabethan antiquarian, argued that a temple dedicated to goddess Diana was once erected by the Romans there.
Another most popular version is that Æthelberht, king of Kent, built a cathedral for the new bishop appointed by St Augustine in 604. The society of the East Saxon was then fallen back to paganism before Christianity was restored in that area in the end of 7th century. Another cathedral was built before it was destroyed by fire in 962. Another fire destroyed the next cathedral in 1087 before the old St Paul’s was built in the same year.
Present St Paul’s
Old St Paul’s stood strong until 1666 when another fire, the Great Fire of London damaged the cathedral badly. A decision to build a new modern St Paul’s was then taken even though it was possible to reconstruct it.
The construction of the new cathedral began in 1669 and officially was lead by Sir Christopher Wren. It was then consecrated for use on 2 December 1697. The cathedral was officially completed on 25 December 1711 although the construction still continued years after that. The cost of the construction was said to reach £ 1,095,556 in 1716 or equals to £ 139 million in 2013.
Building and Architecture
St Paul’s Cathedral is built in Baroque style, inspired by Palladio and other France buildings in 17th century. The most notable part of the cathedral, of course, is the dome which rises to 108 meters tall. Once the tallest building in London, Wren designed the dome based on St Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
The walls of St Paul’s Cathedral are of ashlar masonry and balustrade with pilasters. Between the pilasters, windows are decorating the walls with their semi-circular heads and decorative keystones. In the basement, smaller windows with segmental tops play the role to let the sunshine in.
Inside the cathedral, there are three chapels, the Chapel of St Dunstan at the northern side and the Chapel of the Order of St Michael and St George at the southern side. There are also a 28-meter high nave and Corinthian pilasters which rise tall to the entablature. There is also a choir as the place for the clergy, the choir, and the organ.
St Paul’s Cathedral Map
Artworks and Historical Memorials
Built as the grandest church in London, St Paul’s is home to various precious artworks. Stone sculptures by Grinling Gibbons, paintings by Thornhill, metal works by Jean Tijou. There are also mosaics by Dykes Bower and a limestone sculpture of the Madonna and Child by Henry Moore.
The famous poet, John Donne, had left a memorial statue of his self carved by Nicholas Stone before his death. There are also memorials of members of British military who died in wars as well as prominent figures such as Florence Nightingale and Sir Alexander Fleming.
St Paul’s Cathedral has three to four services in a day comprises Matins, Eucharist, and Evening Prayer. It has been the church that holds many state ceremonies such as the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II and weddings of royalty members.
St Paul’s has a choir of men and boys which dates back to 1127. Many distinguished musicians such as Jeremiah Clarke, John Redford, and Alfred Deller have served in this church as choristers, choir masters, and organists.
When to Visit St Paul’s Cathedral
St Paul Cathedral is a busy church, so on Sundays it will only be open for worship. The sightseeing time is scheduled from Monday to Saturday at 8.30 am to 4.30 pm. The last ticket purchase is at 4.00 pm.
The ticket prices are: Adult (over 18 years old) : £ 16.00 Students and seniors : £ 14.00 Children (6-17 years old) : £ 7.00 Family ticket (2 adults + 2 children) : £ 39.00
St Paul’s Cathedral Address :
St. Paul’s Churchyard,
London EC4M 8AD, United Kingdom
Phone +44 20 7246 8350