This year, one of London’s most famous and historic landmarks turns 300 – St. Paul’s Cathedral. Although the foundation of St. Paul’s has been home to a cathedral since 604 AD, the current and most noted domed structure of St. Paul’s was built in 1710.
After enduring hundreds of years of destruction followed by reconstruction, the cathedral that now stands seems to have been built to last. It has survived the Napoleonic Wars and two World Wars, despite being a little worse for the wear.
I have personally been to St. Paul’s twice and am always amazed at the following story told by one of the London tour guides…
During the great London Blitz of 1940, London was mercilessly bombed by the German airforce. Nearly 30 bombs landed on St. Paul’s during the blitz, but, thanks to 200 volunteers known as St. Paul’s Watch, the bombs were quickly doused and sandbagged, and taken to detonate away from the building. When the smoke cleared, much of the city was left in rubble, but St. Paul’s stood tall amid the destruction. This picture of St. Paul’s, shining through the fire and smoke, became a symbol for the nation’s unbeatable spirit.
Designed by the royal architect Christopher Wren, the current structure and dome house many interesting features for Christians and lovers of architecture. For instance…the dome of the cathedral is comprised of several galleries, including:
- The Whispering Gallery – after climbing 259 steps into the lower part of the dome, a person can whisper on one side of the gallery and be heard by someone on the other side.
- The Stone Gallery – at 378 steps, you’ll reach the Stone Gallery which is the exterior part of the dome, above the Whispering Gallery.
- The Golden Gallery – if you can make the 530 step climb to reach the smallest gallery, you will be rewarded with a panoramic view of London.
St. Paul’s has also been the scene of many great ceremonies including:
- Funerals for Lord Nelson, the Duke of Wellington, and Sir Winston Churchill
- The Wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Di
- The Thanksgiving for the Golden Jubilee of Her Majesty the Queen
To celebrate its milestone birthday, St. Paul’s has undergone a $64 million restoration facelift, making it appear almost brand new to the public. However, there are some things best left untouched. Just inside the Great West Door, a large slab of rock has been intentionally overlooked during the restoration process. This rock, in all of its grime, is no doubt a reminder of the tragic and triumphant history of this glorious monument.