Town Guide

St Paul's Cathedral

Ludgate Hill, EC4
Tel: 020 7248 4619
Nearest Tube: St Paul's

St Paul's Cathedral, London, 14K
Places of worship have stood on the site of St Paul's Cathedral since Roman times. Between the 1st and 11th centuries several Saxon cathedrals were built there, but they all burnt down. Then in the 14th century the original St Paul's Cathedral was built, but it too was destroyed by fire in the Great Fire of London in 1666.

The present cathedral was designed by Christopher Wren as part of the re-building of London after the fire (Wren built over 50 churches after the fire), and the building was eventually completed in 1710.

Queen Anne was on the throne and so there is a statue of her outside the main entrance. And once you are inside, you can see Wren's simple epitaph written in Latin "Si monumentum requiris, circumspice" - If you seek his monument, look around you.

The cathedral has dominated the city's skyline for over 250 years and it remains one of the most striking buildings in the city. The clock tower on the west side houses the bell known as 'Great Paul' - at 3 meters in diameter this is the heaviest swinging bell in the country.

But the most obvious feature of the cathedral is the huge dome (7). This is the second largest cathedral dome in the world, with only the one in St Paul's in Rome being bigger. The top of the dome is 365 feet above the ground and it is over 100 feet across. It remains one of the biggest attractions of the cathedral and you can climb up inside it to the three galleries that are open to the public.

The first is the Whispering Gallery (5), which you reach after climbing over 250 steps. It is so named because of the amazing acoustics of the dome which means that if you whisper against the wall on one side of the dome, the words can be distinctly heard by someone standing on the other side - over 100 feet away!
The Blitz

It was during the Second World War that St Paul's became one of the nation's most well known icons.

On 7th September 1940 German bombs began to drop on the city and so what became known as the Blitz had begun. Bombs were dropped for 57 consecutive nights and bombing raids continued intermittently until 10th May 1941.

The civilian death toll was over 20,000 and more than 200,000 homes were destroyed. And yet St Paul's Cathedral remained relatively undamaged and the dome survived intact. Photos of the cathedral standing defiant amongst the wreckage around it became some of the most famous images of the war. And the photos were used as an effective propaganda symbol of Britain's strength and invincibility.

The photos are now on display at the Britain at War Museum.

Further up is the Stone Gallery (5), which is on the exterior of the dome. Even though the cathedral is over 250 years old, this site still offers one of the best views over London. But even better is the view from the third gallery, the Golden Gallery. (5) The climb takes you inside the structure of the dome (7) where you can admire Wren's architectural genius. And just before you reach the top there is a peephole, which you can look down through to the floor of the cathedral below to see just how high you have climbed - not for the faint-hearted!

There aren't as many tombs of famous figures in St Paul's as there are in Westminster Abbey, but there are still several well-known people buried or commemorated in the cathedral. Whilst Westminster Abbey is largely predominated with burials and monuments of royalty, statesmen and poets, St Paul's tends to be associated with military figures, architects and painters. It is in the South Transept (8) you will find Artists Corner with monuments to Turner, Hunt and van Dyck amongst others. And all around the cathedral are monuments to military commanders.

All burials are in the Crypt (9), which is the largest in Europe, and it is here that Christopher Wren himself is buried. And among others, you can also see the tombs of two of Britain's most famous military heroes - Nelson and Wellington.

Next to the Crypt (9) is the treasury (9) where there is a display of the rich religious paraphernalia of St Paul's including the embroidered robes of the bishops and the church plate. There is also an excellent exhibition on the history of the cathedral, which includes a model of the old St Paul's and some of Wren's original plans.

When Britain's former Prime Minister, Winston Churchill died in 1965 he lay in state in St Paul's while millions paid their respects - a plaque beneath the dome (7) marks the place where he lay. And of course, St Paul's has been the venue of several celebrity weddings, most notably the Royal wedding of Charles and Diana in 1981.

The cathedral is open daily, but there is an admission charge if you want to go inside. There are both recorded tours and guided tours available.

St Paul's Cathedral, London, 5K
1Statue of Queen Anne7Dome
2Main Entrance8South Transept and Artists Corner
3St Dunstan's Chapel9Entrance to Crypt and Treasury
4Chapel of St George and St Michael10Choir Stalls
5Entrance to the Dome and Galleries11American Chapel
6North Transept 

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