This past week we had an amazing opportunity to visit the city of London. As you read from the previous week, we had just finished up a Humanities class on the history, art, and literature of the United Kingdom. During the trip we stopped at all the big historic sites, such as St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, the British Library, Buckingham Palace, and more. Before we left on the trip, our teacher Dr Tim Donachie assigned us a Tour Guide project. For this project we were all given a location we were to find information on and tell to the rest of the group, as if you were a tour guide. My location was St Paul’s Cathedral, and out of all of our stops, this was my favorite one. Here are some of the facts I learned. This building’s location alone has history dating back to A.D. 604 when the original church was built, and there have been many churches built on the same location since. The building that stood before this one was built in a Gothic style and was known as the Old Cathedral. It was to be renovated by the famous architect Christopher Wren. He was originally contracted in 1661 to redo the interior and was hoping to replace the tower that stood in the middle of the cathedral with a dome. But after the great fire of 1666, he was contracted to design and build the new cathedral. The layout and design needed the approval of the bishops and archbishops, so it took 5 sketches before the final draft was accepted. Both sides compromised on what they originally wanted; Wren wanted the 4 wings of the building to be even, but the leaders of the church wanted to keep the cross layout, also Wren fought to keep the dome, so that is how the building is shaped today. Wren was charged by the Archbishop of Canterbury, in agreement with the Bishops of London and Oxford, to design a new cathedral that was “handsome and noble to all the ends of it and to the reputation of the City and the nation”, and that is exactly what he achieved. This building is one of the most famous and recognisable sites of London.
The dome stands at 365 feet and was the tallest building in London from 1710 to 1962. This dome is proclaimed to be one of the finest throughout the world. The cathedral is the second largest in the United Kingdom, second to the Liverpool cathedral, and it has the 4th largest organ with 7,266 pipes. By 1716 the total costs amounted to £1,095,556 (£146 million in 2015), and it was financed by a tax placed on coal. Since then more money has been put into the building for the purchase of tower bells, and statues that fill the roof. This church has 5 levels, a crypt, main floor, interior gallery (known as the whispering gallery), and exterior gallery (known as the stone gallery), and the second outside level known as the golden gallery. The whispering gallery is at the beginning of the interior dome. Here, you can stand on opposite sides of the building, whisper into the wall, and send a message clear to the other side. The galleries outside give you a wonderful overlook of the city. Within the crypt there are tombs and memorials of famous people, such as the Duke of Wellington, Christopher Wren himself, as well as others.
It is also the location for many funerals, for example Winston Churchill and Lord Nelson. It is the location of famous weddings, such as Prince Charles and Lady Diana. Also many festivals for London are and have been held there over the years. This building is still an operating church and holds 3 to 4 services a day.
The interior of this building truly brings you to awe when you step inside. With the large chamber roofs, and the bold murals painted on the ceilings and walls, it’s hard at first to take it all in. The design of the building is to point you to worship God in all His glory. You enter the building from the west, and look to the east to the high altar. The interior is an open layout with the choir seats in the middle. There used to be a wall that divided the church, but it was brought down so that newcomers may feel welcomed to the church and its services.
Out of all the other amazing sites we saw while in London, this one stuck out to me the most. The architecture of this building is beautiful and breathtaking. With its long story in history, I enjoyed how it held on to its past yet encouraged the future, pointing everyone who walked through its doors to God.