St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul's Churchyard
TfL Fare Zone1
St Paul’s Cathedral is the younger of the two great churches associated with London, the other being Westminster Abbey. St Paul’s is also the premier church of the City of London, the historic core of ancient London. The City’s boundaries have not changed since the medieval period and the City constitutes only one square mile (2.6 square km) of Greater London.
Since 604 AD there has been a church dedicated to St Paul on the present site. Over the centuries churches were demolished and rebuilt. The present St Paul’s was built to replace that burned down in the Great Fire of London
in 1666. The church we see today is Sir Christopher Wren
’s masterpiece completed in 1710.
Old St Paul’s prior to 1666 was a mish-mash of styles. The Normans started rebuilding ‘the world’s largest Christian church’ in 1087 and successive monarchs kept enlarging and building until it was finished in 1314. Although the body of the cathedral was stone it had a wooden roof.
In 1633 Inigo Jones was commissioned to remodel the cathedral in the classical style. He had completed the west front when all work stopped with the English Civil War. King Charles I was executed in 1649 and Old St Paul’s was turned into stables by Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentary forces. A marketplace and a road ran through the transepts.
With the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Old St Paul’s resumed its original function and restoration was carried out. Christopher Wren was asked to plan this restoration. His design was accepted in August 1666 but before work could be started the Great Fire swept through the City of London destroying everything in its path.
Wren wanted the City of London
to be rebuilt in a grand classical style but the residents set about rebuilding their houses just anywhere. He did get his chance to design something wonderful when in 1668 he was asked to design a brand new Cathedral.
Christopher Wren's Cathedral
All in all, Wren had to produce four designs. The first design was considered too modest, the second design in the shape of a Greek Cross was considered too radical, as was the third design known as the ‘Grand Model’ and now on display in the crypt. The final ‘warrant' design was accepted in 1675 and building started in 1677.
The ‘Warrant design’ had a small dome with a spire but Wren reworked this to the grand dome we see today and added the two towers at the west end. Wren was very frustrated by the slow progress and the Cathedral was not finished until 1710.
A Prominent Position
St Paul’s stands on the top of Ludgate Hill overlooking the City of London. It is built of Portland stone in the Baroque style. A wide flight of steps leads up to the West door which is flanked on either side by two towers topped with small domes.
The building is dominated by the famous dome rising 365 feet (111.2 metres) and crowned with a cross. Two pillared galleries encircle the Dome – the larger stone gallery around the bottom of the Dome and the Golden Gallery encircling the top below the cross. Both galleries can be accessed from inside and provide panoramic views over London.
The two towers have identical round holes in their walls. The south-west tower has a clock in the hole, but the north-west tower has nothing. This is because this tower houses St Paul’s impressive ring of 12 bells. Not normally open to the public, the writer was fortunate to be invited to see the great bells as they were being rung by the experienced bellringers below.
Contrary to popular belief, the bells are not loud enough to burst your ear drums or kill you.
The bells are hung for change ringing, very unusual for such heavy bells. The Tenor bell weighs over 3 tons (2.72 tonnes) and the Treble over half a ton (.45 tonne).
St Paul's Interior
Inside the Cathedral, the visitor is surprised by the airiness of the interior. The centre space is under the Dome with its beautifully painted ceiling. The Dome is supported 99 feet above the Cathedral floor by a circular Whispering Gallery. The interior is mainly white with golden mosaics and intricate stone carvings.
The Cathedral is reminiscent of the great European basilicas.
It is worth climbing the 259 steps to the Whispering Gallery to put your lips to the wall to whisper something. The listener with their ear to the wall on the other side of the Dome can hear what has been said. Normal voice does not work, it must be a whisper.
The Nave leads from the West door to the central domed space. On the left are the north aisle and the Chapels of All Souls’ and St Dunstan’s. On the right are the south aisle and the Chapel of St Michael & St George.
All Souls’ Chapel
This Chapel is dedicated to Lord Kitchener and is a memorial to World War I. There are several fine sculptures.
The North Aisle
The figure on horseback in the North Aisle is the Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington
, hero of the Battle
of Waterloo. He is buried in the crypt.
The two short arms to left and right of the nave are the transepts. The north transept is dominated by William Holman Hunt’s painting ‘The Light of the World’. In the Middlesex Chapel hang the colours of the Middlesex Regiment. The urn-like Italian marble font dates from 1727.
The stairs to the Whispering Gallery and Dome, the Disabled Access ramp, entrance to the shop and toilets are also on this side.
Quire, Quire Aisles and Apse
On the eastern side of the Dome are the Quire, Quire Aisles and the Apse. The Quire was the first part of Wren’s Cathedral to be finished. The choir stalls on both sides are beautifully carved by that master craftsman Grinling Gibbons
. He also made the organ case. Other examples of his work can be seen in Hampton Court Palace
and other Royal palaces.
The High Altar looks old but was in fact built in 1958 to a Wren design. It replaces a Victorian marble altar which suffered World War II bomb damage. The altar is of marble and carved, gilded oak surmounted by a magnificent oak canopy.
In the Quire’s north aisle is a beautiful modern Madonna and Child sculpture by Henry Moore, who is commemorated in the crypt. The beautiful wrought iron gates and other work in the Cathedral are by the French craftsman, Jean Tijou. A magnificent screen and gates by Tijou can be seen at the river entrance to Hampton Court Palace
In the south Quire aisle is one of the few effigies to have survived the Great Fire. This is the marble sculpture of John Donne, poet and Dean of the Cathedral who died in 1631. If you look carefully at the base of the statue you can see the scorch marks.
American Memorial Chapel
In the Apse at the eastern end of the Cathedral is the American Memorial Chapel. It honours over 28,000 American servicemen and women who died either on their way to, or while stationed in the UK during World War II. In front of the altar is the roll of honour. The stained glass windows incorporate the insignias of the American States and US Armed Forces while the limewood panels include a rocket – a tribute to American space achievements.
South Transept Memorials
Memorials in the south transept include memorials to JMW Turner, landscape painter, Robert Scott, Antarctic explorer and of course Horatio Nelson
Admiral Lord Nelson
In the south transept is Admiral Lord Nelson’s monument. He leans on an anchor and a ceremonial lion indicates that the monument commemorates someone who has died in battle, in this case the Battle of Trafalgar fought in 1805. The entrance to the Crypt is marked by 3 death’s heads.
The Crypt Tombs
Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson
In the centre of the crypt, directly below the Dome, is Horatio Nelson
’s tomb. It is a black sarcophagus originally made for Cardinal Wolsey in the 16th
century to house his remains. When Nelson died on the 'Victory'
during the Battle
of Trafalgar his body was placed in a large wooden barrel and preserved in French brandy, topped up with spirits of wine and camphor on reaching Gibraltar.
At Portsmouth the body was wrapped in bandages and put in a lead lined coffin; brandy, camphor and myrrh were added. Inside another lead coffin, he was finally placed in an ornate mahogany casket finished in black velvet and gilt for burial in St Paul’s. A fitting tribute to a great naval commander.
Duke of Wellington
By contrast, the grave of Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington
, another great warrior, is modest by comparison – a simple Cornish granite casket. Wellington preferred to let his battle successes speak for him although he always found winning a melancholy business. The banners hanging over his tomb were made for his funeral procession.
His name is commemorated in many things like Wellington Boots, Beef Wellington and a brand of cigars. He is supposed to have said that “the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton.”
Although Wellington did attend Eton College
for a short time, there were no playing fields whilst he was there!
Sir Christopher Wren
In the south aisle at the east end of the crypt is the tomb of Sir Christopher Wren
, surrounded by other members of his family. His tomb is marked with an architect’s mark. The inscription on his stone reads
Sir Christopher Wren, Knight
The Builder of this Cathedral Church of St Paul &c.
Who dyed in the year of Our Lord DCCXXIII
And of his age CXI”.
The famous quote “Reader, if you seek his monument, look around” was actually written by his eldest son Christopher Wren, Jnr.
In the same section are many memorials and monuments to artists, musicians and scientists such as Sir Joshua Reynolds, Sir John Everett Millais and Henry Moore, Sir Arthur Sullivan of Gilbert & Sullivan fame, and Sir Alexander Fleming credited with discovering penicillin.
At the east end of the crypt is the Chapel of the Order of the British Empire. The banners hanging overhead are the banners of the Royal Family.
Services are held each day and on Sunday and visiting worshippers are always welcome. There is no entry cost and it is a wonderful way to hear the bells, the boy choristers and experience a cathedral service.
Around St Paul’s Cathedral - Paternoster Square
On the north side of the cathedral is Paternoster Square
. A modern redevelopment named after the medieval clergy’s habit of walking here reciting the ‘Our Father’ prayer (Pater Noster). If the weather is fine this is a delightful place to enjoy your sandwiches.
St Bride's Church
After the Great Fire of London
, Sir Christopher Wren
was commissioned to design 50 churches to replace those lost in the fire. One of the most remarkable and not far from St Paul’s, is St Bride's Church
. Its tiered steeple is reputed to be the model for the modern tiered wedding cake.
Plan Your Visit
Open all year Monday to Saturday 08:30 - 16:00 hours.
A visit will take at least 1½ hours.
Admission Costs, Information & Ticket Purchase
For up to date Admission Times and Costs please check the Cathedral website before visiting.
The Chapter House, St Paul's Churchyard, London EC4M 8AD
+44 (0)2072 468 350
+44 (0)2072 364 128 (office hours)
To find the best way for getting to St Paul's Cathedral, visit TfL Journey Planner.
- By Underground
St Paul’s Station Central Line
Mansion House Station District & Circle Lines
Cannon Street Station District & Circle Lines
- By Bus
Routes Nos. 4, 11, 15, 23, 25
- By Open Top Tour Bus
Do not forget that Visitors may use their 'Open Top' Tour Bus ticket to journey to this attraction
Google Map - St Paul's Cathedral