London Attraction: St Paul’s Cathedral

Peter Smith beneath the Dome

St Paul’s – some things you may not know

London sightseeing has a lot to thank architect Christopher Wren for. He also worked on Hampton Court Palace and Kensington Palace.

The current St Paul’s Cathedral is at least the fourth to occupy the site at Ludgate Hill.

When Christopher Wren was first commissioned with the task, it was only to refurbish the existing Norman Cathedral which has suffered years of neglect under Britain’s Puritan rule. His advice was to knock it down and start again, a bold suggestion which was promptly rejected. Just one week later when the Great Fire of London reaped havoc, there was no other choice.

An ‘acoustical oddity’, the famous Whispering Gallery in St Paul’s is one of the few places where a whisper is louder than the spoken word.

St Pauls Cathedral
See if you can spot...

The bizarre sculpture by artist Edward Bainbridge Copal, portraying the lamentable fate of Thomas Becket.
300 year old graffiti! The font entrance of St Paul's is scattered with 18th Century "tags" carved into the walls. These were probably the work of the builders, one example is dated 1702 - when the Cathedral was still in construction.

St Paul’s under attack

Upon completion St Paul’s Cathedral was critically slammed by eminent politicians and Wren’s contemporaries. Opinion among certain critics was that the medieval/Renaissance fusion was too voluptuous and ‘Catholic’ for stanchly Protestant England.

Attacks became a bit more physical in the 20th Century. In 1913 the Suffragettes planted a bomb under the Bishop’s Throne, (in the choir). It was eventually de-fused and women got the vote.

During World War II Winston Churchill declared that ‘the cathedral must be preserved at all costs’ after it became a target during the Blitz. Since then St Paul’s Cathedral has been considered the ‘spiritual home of the nation.’

St Pauls in the Blitz

Prince Charles and Princess Diana

Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer married at St Paul’s Cathedral in 1981. Royal weddings traditionally take place in Westminster Abbey, however on this occasion – and never since - St Paul’s was chosen. St Paul’s offered more seating and as it is further away from Buckingham Palace, (the end destination) it offered a longer procession through the streets of London.

Charles and Diana Wedding

Did you know: It took Lady Diana 3.5 minutes to walk her eight metre gown down the aisle of St Paul's.

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