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St Paul's Cathedral


The majestic St Paul's Cathedral, London, is a Church of England and seat of the Bishop of London. St. Paul's Cathedral was built between 1675 and 1711. Its dedication to Paul the Apostle dates back to the original church on this site, founded in AD 604. St Paul's sits at the top of Ludgate Hill, the highest point in the City of London, and is the mother church of the Diocese of London. The present church dating from the late 17th century was built to an English Baroque design of Sir Christopher Wren, as part of a major rebuilding program which took place in the city after the Great Fire of London, and was completed within his lifetime.

The cathedral is one of the most famous and most recognisable sights of London, with its dome, framed by the spires of Wren's City churches, dominating the skyline for 300 years. At 365 feet (111 m) high, it was the tallest building in London from 1710 to 1962, and its dome is also among the highest in the world. In terms of area, St Paul's is the second largest church building in the United Kingdom after Liverpool Cathedral.

St Paul's Cathedral occupies a significant place in the national identity of the English population. It is the central subject of much promotional material, as well as postcard images of the dome standing tall, surrounded by the smoke and fire of the Blitz. Important services held at St Paul's include the funerals of Lord Nelson, the Duke of Wellington and Sir Winston Churchill; Jubilee celebrations for Queen Victoria; peace services marking the end of the First and Second World Wars; the marriage of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Lady Diana Spencer, the launch of the Festival of Britain and the thanksgiving services for both the Golden Jubilee and 80th Birthday of Queen Elizabeth II. St Paul's Cathedral is a busy working church, with hourly prayer and daily services.


St Paul's Cathedral has had an eventful history. Five different churches were built at this site. The first church, dedicated to the apostle Paul, dates back to 604 AD, when King Ethelbert of Kent built a wooden church on the summit of one of London's hills for Mellitus, Bishop of the East Saxons. At the end of the 7th century, the church was built in stone by Erkenwald, Bishop of London.
In 962 and again in 1087, the cathedral was destroyed by fire, but each time it was rebuilt and expanded. By that time, it had become one of the largest cathedrals in Europe. Renovations and extensions in the 13th and 14th century enlarged the cathedral even more.

Old St Paul's prior to 1561

The fourth St Paul's, known when architectural history arose in the 19th century as Old St Paul's, was begun by the Normans after the 1087 fire. Work took over 200 years and a great deal was lost in a fire in 1136. The roof was once more built of wood, which was ultimately to doom the building. The church was consecrated in 1240, but a change of heart led to the commencement of an enlargement programme in 1256. When this 'New Work' was completed in 1314 — the cathedral had been consecrated in 1300 — it was the third-longest church in Europe and had one of Europe's tallest spires, at some 489 feet (149 m). Excavations by Francis Penrose in 1878 showed that it was 585 feet (178 m) long and 100 feet (30 m) wide (290 feet or 87 m across the transepts and crossing).

By the 16th century the building was decaying. Under Henry VIII and Edward VI, the Dissolution of the Monasteries and Chantries Acts led to the destruction of interior ornamentation and the cloisters, charnels, crypts, chapels, shrines, chantries and other buildings in St Paul's Churchyard. Many of these former religious sites in the churchyard, having been seized by the Crown, were sold as shops and rental properties, especially to printers and booksellers, who were often Puritans. Buildings that were razed often supplied ready-dressed building material for construction projects, such as the Lord Protector's city palace, Somerset House.

Crowds were drawn to the northeast corner of the churchyard, St Paul's Cross, where open-air preaching took place. In 1561 the spire was destroyed by lightning and it was not replaced; this event was taken by both Protestants and Roman Catholics as a sign of God's displeasure at the other faction's actions.

England's first classical architect, Inigo Jones, added the cathedral's west front in the 1630s, but there was much defacing mistreatment of the building by Parliamentarian forces during the Civil War, when the old documents and charters were dispersed and destroyed (Kelly 2004). «Old St Paul's» was gutted in the Great Fire of London of 1666. While it might have been salvageable, 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.

The Great Fire

In 1665 Christopher Wren designed a plan for the renovation of the St. Paul's Cathedral, which was starting to fall into decay. But disaster struck again on the night of September 2, 1666, when the Great Fire of London destroyed 4/5th of all of London, wiping 13,200 houses and 89 churches, including the St. Paul's Cathedral off the map.

Christopher Wren's Masterpiece (design and construction)

In 1669, three years after the Fire, Christopher Wren was appointed 'Surveyor of Works' and was tasked with the construction of a new church to replace the destroyed Gothic cathedral.
His first design was deemed too modest. In his second design, known as the 'Great Model', the cathedral was shaped like a Greek cross, with a portico, Corinthian columns and a striking large dome, which would be the world's largest after Michelangelo's dome at the St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. This design was rejected as well; the Bishop considered it unsuitable for large processions. Wren suggested a third design, this time with a larger nave and smaller dome, which was accepted in 1675. After the approval however Wren enlarged the dome and made several other adjustments so that the built cathedral now resembles the 'Great Model' and not the approved design.
The cathedral was built in a relative short time span: its first stone was laid on June 21, 1675 and the building was completed in 1711. The dome reaches a height of 111 meters (366 ft) and weights about 66,000 ton. Eight arches support the dome. On top of the dome is a large lantern with a weight of 850 ton. 560 Steps lead visitors along three galleries all the way to the top of the Dome.

Sir Christopher Wren

The architect of St Paul's, Sir Christopher Wren, was an extraordinary figure. Although he is now best known as an architect, he was also an astronomer, scientist and mathematician.

Wren was a founder member in 1660 of the Royal Society, a national academy for science, but he was also a man of profound Christian faith. He came from a family of clergy who had been loyal to the Royalist cause during the Civil War, and it was faith that inspired his though. 'Architecture', he once explained, 'aims at eternity.'

As an architect favoured by royalty and state, Wren's commissions varied wildly. They included the Greenwich Observatory and Greenwich Hospital, and extensive work at Hampton Court Palace and Kensington Palace, as well as some magnificent building in Oxford, where he studied and worked as Professor of Astronomy from 1661 to 1673.

However, Wren's great passion was for the City of London, for St Paul's and for the many City churches he designed following the Great Fire of London.

The interior of St Paul's Cathedral

The Baroque interior is just as imposing as the exterior of the church. The mosaics on the ceiling were added in 1890 by William Richmond after Queen Victoria complained that there was not enough color in the cathedral. The baldachin above the altar was rebuilt in 1958 after it was damaged by bombardments during World War II. The design is based on a sketch created by Wren. The only monument in the church that survived the fire of 1666 is the tomb of John Donne, from 1631.
Several famous people are entombed in the cathedral's crypt. Most notable are the
tomb of the Duke of Wellington — who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo — and the tomb of Admiral Nelson, who died at the Battle of Trafalgar.

The Dome

St Paul's is built in the shape of a cross, with a large dome crown the intersection of its arms. At 111.3 meters high, it is one of the largest cathedral domes in the world and weighs approximately 65,000 tons. The area under the dome is the principal place for worship in the cathedral.
St Paul's has a three-dome structure. This allows the inner dome to rise in proportion to the internal architecture, and the outer dome to be much larger and impressive. It is this outer dome shell that is prominent on the London skyline. The inner dome is the painted dome one can see looking up from the cathedral floor. Between these two domes is a third; a brick cone which provide strength and supports the stone lantern above.
It has been suggested that Wren had intended to decorate the inside of the dome in mosaic. But in 1708 the cathedral commissioners appointed James Thornhill to paint it in monochrome, partly because mosaic was expensive, time-consuming and considered too elaborate.

Thornhill began work on the dome in 1715 and finished four years later. His murals are based on a series of pen and ink sketches on the life of St Paul's. What we see today are reproductions from Thornhill's designs that were repainted in 1853. The originals deteriorated as a result of the British climate and London smog.

The Whispering Gallery
The Whispering Gallery, just inside the dome, is renowned for its acoustics. It runs around the inside of the dome 99 feet (30.2 m) above the cathedral floor. It is reached by 259 steps from ground level. It gets its name because of the acoustic effects peculiar to domes; a whisper against its wall at any point is audible to a listener with an ear held to the wall at any other point around the gallery. A low murmur is equally audible.
The Stone Gallery
The Stone Gallery is the first of two galleries above the Whispering Gallery that encircle the outside of the dome. The Stone Gallery stands at 173 ft (53.4 metres) from ground-level and can be reached by 378 steps.
The Golden Gallery
The Golden Gallery is the smallest of the galleries and runs around the highest point of the outer dome, 280ft (85.4 metres). Visitors that climb the 528 steps to this gallery will be treated to panoramic views of London that take in the River Thames, Tate Modern and Shakespeare's Globe Theatre.
The Ball and Lantern
The original ball and cross were erected by Andrew Niblett, Citizen and Armourer of London, in 1708. They were replaced by a new ball and cross in 1821 designed by the Surveyor to the Fabric, CR Cockerell and executed by R and E Kepp. The ball and cross stand at 23 feet high and weigh approximately 7 tonnes.
The Crypt

The crypt is the cathedral's foremost burial place, and the place where those who have made an outstanding contribution to the life of the nation now rest.

The crypt has monuments to conflicts and other outstanding achievements in the cause of a better world. In some cases the names on these monuments are still cherished by loved ones. We are reminded of the human cost paid by those who have striven for what they believed in.

Nelson's Tomb
Lord Nelson was famously killed in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and buried in St Paul's after a state funeral. He was laid in a coffin made from the timber of a French ship he defeated in battle.

The black marble sarcophagus that adorns his tomb was originally made for Cardinal Wolsey, Lord Chancellor during the reign of Henry VII in the early sixteenth century. After Wolsey's fall from favour, it remained unused at Windsor until a suitable recipient could be found. Nelson's viscount coronet now tops this handsome monument.

Wellington's Tomb
Lord Wellington rests in a simple but imposing casket made of Cornish granite. Although a national hero, Wellington was not a man of glory in his victories. 'Nothing except a battle lost can be held so melancholy as a battle won,' he wrote in a dispatch of 1815, the year in which he defeated Napoleon at Waterloo.
The Duke was known as The Iron Duke and as a result of his tireless campaigning, has left a colorful list of namesakes — Wellington boots, the dish Beef Wellington and even a brand of cigars. He also coined some memorable phrases. He gave the expression '… and another thing' to the English language and declared 'The battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton.'

The banners hanging around Wellington's tomb were made for his funeral procession. Originally, there was one for Prussia, which was removed during World War I and never reinstated.

Sir Christopher Wren's Tomb
Sir Christopher Wren, the architect of St Paul's, is buried in the south aisle at the east end of the crypt.
Wren’s tomb is marked by a simple stone and is surrounded by memorials to his family, to Robert Hooke (Wren's associate and intellectual equal) and to the masons and other colleagues who worked on the building of St Paul's. The Latin epitaph above his tomb, written by his son famously addresses us: 'Reader, if you see his monument, look around you.'

In the same section of the crypt are many tombs and memorials of artists, scientists and musicians. They include the painters Sir Joshua Reynolds and Sir John Everett Millais; the scientist Sir Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin; the composer Sir Arthur Sullivan (of Gilbert and Sullivan); and the sculptor Henry Moore.

The Chapels

The Chapels at St Paul's offer a place for reflection, prayer and smaller services. On the cathedral floor you will find the Chapel of All Souls, Chapel of St Dunstan, Chapel of St Michael & St George, the Middlesex Chapel and the American Memorial Chapel and so on.

Chapel of the Order of the British Empire  The OBE Chapel
The original St Faith's was a parish church attached to the old cathedral destroyed in the Great Fire of London. During the rebuilding of St Paul's, this chapel was dedicated to St Faith close to the foundations of the former church and offered parishioners their own place of worship in the building.

In 1960 this chapel became the spiritual home to the Order of the British Empire. The Order was created by King George V in 1917, in recognition made by women during the First World War. Until then no woman had been eligible for an award, although an exception was made for Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern British nursing. The OBE was separated into military and civil divisions in 1918. Today, award-holders of the OBE and members of their family may be married and baptized in the chapel.

All Souls' Chapel: the Kitchener Memorial

Situated on the ground floor of the north-west tower, this chapel was dedicated in 1925 to the memory of Field Marshal Lord Kitchener and the servicemen who died in the First World War. Kitchener died at sea and his body was never recovered. He is best known for his restructuring of the British army during the First World War and for the most effective recruitment campaign in British military history, using the slogan 'Your Country Needs You'.

Among the chapel's artifacts are sculptures of the military saints St Michael and St George, a beautiful pietб — a sculpture of the Virgin Mary holding the body of Christ — and an effigy of Lord Kitchener. The silver-plated candlesticks on the altar are made from melted-down trophies won by the London Rifle Brigade.
St Dunstan's Chapel

This chapel was consecrated in 1699, was the second part of Wren's building to come into use, after the Quire. In 1905, it was dedicated to St Dunstan, a Bishop of London who became of Archbishop of Canterbury in 959. Before this it was known as the Morning Chapel, because the early morning service of Mattins was conducted here.

The Chapel of St Dunstan is set aside for prayer. You can light a candle here, as a sign of prayer, and you can also leave the names of those you wish to be remembered in prayer during one of the cathedral's services. Visitors do not have to pay to enter this chapel.

The Chapel of St Michael and St George

This chapel is located on the south aisle on the cathedral floor. The chapel was originally the consistory court in which cases of ecclesiastical law were heard. Renamed in 1906 and dedicated to St Michael and St George, it is the spiritual home of the Order of St Michael and St George, founded in 1818 to honour people who have rendered important service overseas.

Among the chapel stalls are banners of current knights and officers of the Order, including HM The Queen, who visits periodically for the Order's ceremonial service.
The Chapel of St Erkenwald and St Ethelburga: The Middlesex Chapel
This chapel is home to members of the Middlesex Regiment. The flags in the chapel are the colour of the Middlesex Regiment — the empty pole belongs to a flag that was lost during World War II. Behind the altar stands William Holman Hunt’s Light of the World.

The American Memorial Chapel

At the east end of the Cathedral behind the High Altar is the American Memorial Chapel. The Chapel is also known as the Jesus Chapel, as the space was known prior to World War II.

This part of the building was destroyed during the Blitz and as part of the post-war restoration it was decided that the people of Britain should commemorate the 28,000 Americans who were killed on their way to, or stationed in, the UK during the Second World War. Their names are recorded in the 500-page roll of honour encased behind the high altar. This was presented by General Eisenhower in 1951 and a page of the book is turned every day.

The American Chapel was designed by Stephen Dykes Bower and constructed by Godfrey Allen, Surveyor to the Fabric 1931-1956. The images that adorn its wood, metalwork and stained glass include depictions of the flora and fauna of North America and references to historical events. The three chapel windows date from 1960. They feature themes of service and sacrifice, while the insignia around the edges represent the American states and the US armed forces. The limewood panelling incorporates a rocket — a tribute to America's achievements in space.

The Knights Bachelor Chapel

The Chapel of the Imperial Society of Knights Bachelor is also known as St Martin's Chapel.

The Chapel was dedicated by HM the Queen in 2008. The Dean and Chapter of St Paul's had offered the Imperial Society of Knights Bachelor the use in perpetuity of an area which, although a chapel in the 1930s, had been disused for many years and was closed off from the main space of the Crypt.

The Chapel is panelled with English oak and in it, in two elegant cases, are kept the Registers which contain the names of all Knights Bachelor from 1257 to date and also the Founder Knights' and Benefactors' Book. Near them is displayed Queen Victoria's sword with which she knighted many famous men; this is on loan from Wilkinson Sword Ltd. The stalls of the Officers bear heraldic stall-plates. The cross and candlesticks were made by Mr Gerald Gilbert, and many other fine craftsmen from Houghtons of York have worked to make the Chapel noble and traditional in design.

The Collections

The Cathedral Collections form a unique record of the spiritual, liturgical, architectural, administrative and social life of one of the world’s outstanding buildings and its imposing predecessor, the Pre-fire Cathedral. They are maintained as an asset for current use and as a legacy for future generations.

The Library
The books and manuscripts are housed in one of London’s best-preserved 18th century interiors, the cathedral library. The Dean and Chapter of St Paul’s have retained a working library in the present building since 1720. Today it houses approximately 21,500 volumes, including printed books, manuscripts and separate pamphlets. These works accrued through purchase, bequest and donation, largely from 1690 onwards, form a collection still used today by academics, students and researchers of all kinds. Dean and Chapter, Minor Canons, and Cathedral School archives once held in the Library are now on long-term deposit at
Guildhall Library.
Object Collection
The Object Collection denotes a great variety of objects associated with the history of the construction and decoration of St Paul’s Cathedral and objects which have been or still are used or presented within the building. Within the Object Collection there are some very remarkable and important artifacts that are significant to the history of St Paul’s Cathedral, including models, paintings and archaeological stones. Many famous artists, architects and designers have contributed works to the decoration of the cathedral including William Holman Hunt, William Burgess, Alfred Stevens and G.F. Watts, Auguste Rodin and Henry Moore.
Architectural Archive
The Architectural Archive contains the papers and drawings created by the Surveyor to the Fabric and related drawings by consultants, contractors, artists and designers. The drawings and records chart the original design and construction of the Cathedral by Christopher Wren and the architectural history of the building to the present day.

Exterior and Churchyard

West Front

The west front of St Paul's is dominated by a triangular relief depicting the conversion of the cathedral's patron saint to Christianity. Above it stands the figure of St Paul himself, flanked by other apostles and the four evangelists. This was the work of Francis Bird (in 1718-21), who was greatly influenced by the church architecture of Rome. Bird also carved the statue of Queen Anne that stands in front of St Paul's. Anne was the reigning monarch at the time of the cathedral's completion.

The West Facade

There is also a tomb of Christopher Wren himself and a number of important artists are buried here as well. The impressive facade at the west facade of the church consists of a large portico and pediment. A relief on the tympanum depicts the conversion of Paul and was created in 1706. The portico is flanked by two towers which weren't part of the original plan. Wren added them at the last minute, in 1707.

West Towers
The two western towers are topped with a pineapple — a symbol of peace, prosperity and hospitality. Near the top of the south-west tower is a clock (in the picture), which was installed in 1893 and has three faces, each more than 5 meters in diameter.
Above the clock hang Great Tom, the hour bell, and Great Paul, the largest swinging bell in Europe. Find out more about the cathedral bells.

South Churchyard
The south churchyard was refashioned in 2008. On the pavement at the western end of the churchyard is a floor-plan on the pre-Fire cathedral with an outline of the present one superimposed on it.
Chapter House
Today the Chapter House, or administrative centre for the cathedral, stands on the north side: an elegant brick building that faces into the newly developed Paternoster Square.
St Paul's Cross
Nearby, in the cathedral's north-east churchyard, a plaque marks the location of St Paul's Cross, a popular centre of news and comment, where during the reformation William Tyndale's New Testament was burned because it was in English, and where generations of Londoners played their role in fomenting public opinion. The column mounted with a gilded state of St Paul also commemorates the public preaching of the Christian faith in this location.

 Important Events held in St. Paul's Cathedral

The church was the site of a number of important historic events such as the funeral of Admiral Nelson in 1806 and the funeral of Winston Churchill in 1965. Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer married here in 1981. Marriages according to the Rites of the Church of England take place in the Chapel of The Order of the British Empire located in the crypt of St Paul’s, subject to a successful application for a Special Licence granted by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
This privilege is extended only to members of the Order of St Michael and St George, the Order of the British Empire, holders of the British Empire Medal, members of the Imperial Society of Knights Bachelor and their children (but not grandchildren).

Worship and Music

St Paul's Cathedral stands as a symbol and focus of the presence of God in the world and is served by a community of people who work and worship in this place. At the heart of life of St Paul’s Cathedral is the daily pattern of prayer and worship. This daily rhythm of prayer forms the framework of all that we do. During hourly prayers visitors and pilgrims can join the Lord’s Prayer, in their own language, as they pause and pray. Music is integral to the worshipping and educational life of the cathedral. The Cathedral Choir, made up of Choristers and Vicars Choral, usually sing Evensong and the Sunday Sung Eucharist.