St Pauls … IMHO is a very special place in London. I know many of you might be thinking … when I go to the UK and/or Europe I don’t want to spend all my time in Cathedrals … but this one is worth the visit. It is simply beautiful … but I think that the special place it fits within the fabric of English and society is enough for it to be included within any visit … plus the views from the top are lovely.
St Paul’s Cathedral
St Paul’s Cathedral over the years has acted as an important meeting place for people and ideas, as a centre for the arts, learning and public debate … and a centre piece of hope and resistance during the dark days of the blitz during the Second World War.
I know when I think of St Paul’s my first thoughts go to the Second World War and the London Blitz. I think when you live in Australia it can be a bit hard to understand what it must have been like during the Blitz. And I think word like horrible and horrendous really just don’t do enough. During this horrible time, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had asked that St. Paul’s Cathedral should be protected at all costs in a bid to boost morale across the capital. So in particular on the night of the Second Great Fire of London. Over the night of 29/30 December 1940 more than 24,000 high explosive bombs and 100,000 incendiary bombs were dropped. The area destroyed was greater than that of the Great Fire of London in 1666. Over 1500 fires were started, with many joining up to form three major conflagrations which in turn caused a firestorm that spread the flames further, towards St Paul’s Cathedral. Twelve firemen and 162 civilians lost their lives that night. And yet St Pauls stood. And only because of the dedication of the London firemen who kept the fire away from the Cathedral and the volunteer firewatchers of the St Paul’s Watch who fought to put out incendiaries dropping firebombs on its roof.
But there is more to St Pauls than the Blitz. Last year it celebrated it’s 300th Anniversary of the current St Pauls Cathedral and a cathedral dedicated to St Paul has stood on the same site since 604AD (the last one destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666). So many interesting things have happened here … and interesting people have been buried here.
What’s to see and do at St Paul’s Cathedral?
Lots of things … But here is a some short highlights
- Climb the Dome – At 111.3 metres high, it is one of the largest cathedral domes in the world and weighs approximately 65,000 tons. If you are game to clib the 528 steps to the Golden Gallery that runs around the highest point of the outer dome, 280ft (85.4 metres) you will be treated to panoramic views of London that take in the River Thames, Tate Modern and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. But there is more than the great view you will enjoy ..
- Discover the crypt – Visit the tomb of Lord Nelson, Lord Wellington’s Tomb, Christopher Wren’s Tomb (architect of St Pauls) and The Chapel of St Faith: Chapel of the Order of the British Empire. I love how on the epitaph above Christopher Wren’s Tomb in Latin it is written ‘Reader, if you see his monument, look around you.’
- Visit the The American Memorial Chapel. The chapel is at the east end of the Cathedral behind the High Altar.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 and a page of the book is turned every day.
- Come for the music – Evensong. The music at St Pauls … is just so beautiful. The first time I heard it was just by chance … but once it started I coun’t leave. There has been a choir of boys and gentlemen at St Paul’s Cathedral for over nine centuries. I know that it might not be everyone’s sort of thing … but if you are near by come and listen even to just alittle. It is just so uplifting.
I will also admit I have another reason while St Pauls has a very special place in my heart. St Pauls was my father’s favourite cathedral. I am not sure if was his staunch devoution of the Anglican Church, something to do with his father’s family coming from London … or simply that he loved St Pauls but he did. And when he got very sick I emailed them to ask them to say a prayer for him … they included him in their daily prayers throughout his final battle with illness and for a short time after. I know that would have helped give him strength near the end and for me that means so much … and I will always be grateful to them. For I know that while he is here with us in our hearts… there is a small part of him in St Pauls siting smiling and waiting patiently for his favourite part of the day … evensong.
For more information including how to get there, time of opening and special exhibits to the the official website of the St Paul’s Cathedral.