St Pauls Cathedral
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St Pauls Cathedral

 Distance from hotel: 5.1 miles (About 12 minutes)
 Hours of operation: 8:30am to 5:00pm
 Cost: Free to non-worshiping visitors, 6 for everyone else
 Included with tour: Yes

 

  THE HISTORY

  St Paul's Cathedral is a cathedral on Ludgate Hill, in the City of London in London, and the seat of the Bishop of London. The present building dates from the 17th century, and is generally reckoned to be London's fourth St Paul's Cathedral, although the number is even higher if every major medieval reconstruction is counted as a new cathedral.

The see of London dates from 604 CE, and its cathedral has always been situated on Ludgate Hill and dedicated to St Paul. Ludgate Hill itself has long been associated with religion. It is believed that it was originally the site of an ancient megalith and then later a temple dedicated to the goddess Diana, in alignment with the Apollo Temple which once stood at Westminster.

The first cathedral was built by the Saxons in wood. It burned down in 675 CE and was rebuilt, again in wood, ten years later. After this version was sacked by the Vikings in 962, the "second" St Paul's built, this time mainly in stone.

The third St Paul's (known as Old St Paul's), was begun by the Normans aftered the late Saxon cathedral suffered in a fire of 1087. Work took over two hundred years, and a great deal was lost in a fire in 1136. Nonetheless the roof was once more built of wood, which was ultimately to doom the building. The church was "completed" in 1240 but a change of heart soon led to the commencement of an enlargement programme, which was not completed until 1314. The cathedral was however consecrated in 1300. It was the third longest church in Europe at 596 feet (181 metres) and boasted one of Europe's tallest spires at some 489 feet (149 metres).

By the 16th century the building was decaying. In 1549 radical preachers incited a mob to destroy many of the interior decorations. In 1561 the spire was destroyed by lightning and it was not replaced. England's first classical architect Sir Inigo Jones added new west front in the 1630s. "Old St Paul's" was ruined in the Great Fire of London of 1666. While it might have been salvagable, albeit with almost complete reconstruction, a decision was taken to build a new cathedral in a modern style instead. Indeed this had been contemplated even before the fire.

Work on the present cathedral commenced in 1675, and was completed on October 20, 1708, the 76th birthday of its architect, Sir Christopher Wren. It is built of Portland stone in a late Renaissance to Baroque style. Its impressive dome inspired by St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, rising 108 metres (365 feet to the cross at its summit, i.e., one foot for each day of the year), makes it a famous London landmark.

The cathedral runs west to east from the Great West Door. The nave has three small chapels in the two adjoining aisles - All Souls and St Dunstan's in the north aisle and the Chapel of the Order of St Michael and St George in the south aisle. The main space of the cathedral is centred under the Dome, it rises 108.4 metres from the cathedral floor and holds three circular galleries - the internal Whispering Gallery, the external Stone Gallery and the external Golden Gallery. The Quire extends to the east of the Dome and holds the stalls for the clergy and the choir as well as the cathedral's organ. The organ was first commissioned in 1694 and the current instrument is the third biggest in Britain with 7,189 pipes and 138 stops; it is enclosed in an impressive case built by Grinling Gibbons. To the north and south of the dome are the transepts of the North Quire and the South Quire. The cathedral has a very substantial crypt holding over 200 memorials as well as the OBE Chapel and the Treasury; Christopher Wren was the first person to be interred (in 1723). The cathedral has very few treasures, many have been lost and in 1810 a major robbery took almost all of the remaining precious artefacts.

Within the cathedral are plaques, carvings, monuments and statues dedicated to a wide range of people. The bulk are related to the British military with several lists of servicemen who died in action - the most recent being the Gulf War. There are special monuments to Admiral Nelson and to the Duke of Wellington in the south transept and north aisle, respectively. Also remembered are poets, painters, clergy and residents of the local parish. There are also lists of the Bishops and cathedral Deans for the last thousand years.

The task of designing a replacement structure was assigned to Christopher Wren in 1668 along with over fifty other churches. His first design in the shape of a Greek cross was rejected as too radical in 1669 and his second proposal was turned down in 1673 before his 'warrant' design was accepted in 1675 and building work began in June. The Wren cathedral was completed by 1710 (although the first service was held on December 2, 1697) and has survived until the present day, despite being targeted during the Blitz (it was struck by a bomb on October 9, 1940 but survived). Wren achieved a pleasing appearance for the dome by actually building three domes. The tall outer dome is non-structural but impressive to view. The lower inner dome provides an artistically balanced interior. Between the two is a structural cone which supports the apex structure and the outer dome panelling.

The cathedral has been the site for many famous funerals, including those of Horatio Nelson, the Duke of Wellington and Winston Churchill. The British Royal Family hold most of their important marriages, funerals and other religious and celebratory functions at Westminster Abbey, but St Paul's was used for the marriage of Charles, Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer.