I love cathedrals. Even the admittedly less impressive ones still manage to tickle my fancy. The fact that I had yet to pay a visit to St. Paul’s before – this wasn’t my first trip to London – was a mystery to all who know me. Actually, it’s a mystery to me too. Nevertheless, I finally made it there this last time around and it was worth every pence and every minute spent there! It’s truly spectacular and remains entirely worthy of every ounce of hype it receives. And more. While I knew I would enjoy my visit, I wasn’t fully expecting it to be so aesthetically appealing, for one. I also wasn’t expecting it to be so large either.
The interior is something I’ll never forget. The whole place had a golden hue to it that rendered it completely welcoming from the second I stepped inside. It’s so incredibly large, yet it never once exuded that cold stone structure feel that I’ve always found so many other cathedrals do. It’s definitely touristy but it really didn’t get in the way of enjoying the cathedral. It’s so vast in size that it didn’t feel as populated as it was too.
A highlight was going up to the dome and outside of it onto the roof. The view of the city is awesome and you can see the Shard to the London Eye with the Thames in-between and beyond. The crypt is also a must see as it contains the tombs of Horatio Nelson and the Duke of Wellington. Also, walk around the outside of the cathedral. The west front is fairly iconic and the southeast front is the one that faces the Millennium Bridge with both being views to behold. The Millennium Bridge – seen above in the header photo – is the one that the Death-Eaters destroyed in the Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince movie.
Interesting to note, is that the exterior dome and the interior dome are two different domes. The exterior dome was made to look bigger and taller in order to afford the cathedral an even grander appearance. The inside of the dome is noticeably lower because there is a bit of a vault between the two domes.
The current cathedral is the fourth church to stand upon the location at minimum. The demise of the previous church building coming at the hands of the Great Fire of 1666. As far as is known, the site of St. Paul’s has been designated as a place of Christian worship since at least the early 7th century. The first church was built out of wood which burned down and was then replaced by a stone one during the 10th century. The third church was the one that actually managed to stand for any length of time and was begun in the late 11th century. It was this cathedral that witnessed the separation from Roman Catholicism under King Henry VIII despite being briefly reinstated under the reign of Queen Mary Tudor shortly thereafter. Once Elizabeth I took the throne, St. Paul’s settled into Protestantism. So we come full circle back to the Great Fire of London that finally took down the third cathedral and gave way for the one we behold today.
The new cathedral was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and construction began in 1675. The interior is newer however, as the original design was deemed uninviting. The building was also hit twice by bombs during WWII. The current structure hosted the wedding ceremony of Prince Charles and Princess Diana bringing global recognition on an even larger scale. Today it is still an active house of worship as well as being a major London tourist attraction.
Pictures are not allowed of the inside so I simply made sure to take twice the amount of the exterior and while I was walking along side the dome – which is technically outside so pictures are happily permitted. However, while I am not condoning my actions I will admit to taking a picture of the inside of the dome. Honestly, the supervisors there only seemed to care if a flash went off. Besides that, I know the one lady working there saw me snap my picture and she just smiled and shook her head ‘Ok’ when I pointed to my ‘no flash’ button. There are WC facilities, a cafeteria (the cafeteria can get quite busy but there is a Starbucks and a Marks & Spencer beside the cathedral), and a gift shop located in the crypt. Audio guides are available upon entry and as usual in a cathedral, excessive noise will be politely ‘shushed’.
As I’m certain everyone can tell, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to St. Paul’s! The biggest single piece of advice I would give to anyone planning on going there is to take their time. I had only planned for roughly an hour but alas I ended up staying at the cathedral for over two very deserving hours. The entire venue was simply so inviting that I actually just sat under the dome for a good long while staring up at it and looking around from there. Really good visit and I would absolutely go back whenever I’m in London once again!
Official website of St. Paul’s Cathedral: http://www.stpauls.co.uk