St. Paul’s Cathedral is the largest Protestant temple in Europe, the second largest church in the country, located in the capital of Great Britain – London.Prim and correct, a country of strict rules, England considers the majestic cathedral to be a national treasure. Built several centuries ago in honor of the Apostle Paul, the ancient cathedral is currently the current residence of the Bishop of London.
A look through the ages
The modern structure of the State Church of England is the fifth version, erected at the highest point of the sacred hill Langeith Hill.
The first cathedral was built in 604 by King Sabert with the support of the priest Mellit, bishop of the kingdom.
The temple, which burned down in 675, was immediately resurrected from the ashes. The Vikings, who came to conquer British territory in 961, ravaged and destroyed the church. The third, stone cathedral, which called parishioners by ringing bells as early as 962, was consumed by fire during a major fire in London.
The Fourth Cathedral of St. Paul – a huge structure 180 meters long and 149 meters high spire, in 1666 incinerated a four-day fire that engulfed London.
Two years later, the British bishops proposed to the mechanic and mathematician, a versatile architect, Christopher Wren, to create a cathedral that would glorify and exalt the nation.
From the history of construction
A bold and independent architect proposed an ambitious plan for the cathedral, which was controversially reacted by Londoners, so the architect rewrote the sketch three times.
The temple, designed in a simple style, began to be built in 1675. The building was solemnly consecrated on October 20, 1708. Completion date – 1711 was the pinnacle of the career of the 76-year-old architect, who saw his brainchild in all its splendor.
According to British law, it is forbidden to build buildings next to the cathedral, so as not to obscure the view of its walls. All interested people should have a clear view of the complexity of the architecture.
Indeed, implementing his project, Christopher Wren came up with bold engineering designs, combining different materials, so that St. Paul’s Cathedral is recognized as a model among the domed structures of European countries.
The dome of the cathedral, framed by spiers, rises above the city for 300 years and is still considered one of the tallest in the world.
The impressive structure combines artsy Baroque and classics, English Gothic and medieval architectural traditions.
The cost of construction with modern money is 150 million pounds sterling. The weight of the cathedral is 65,000 tons.
Architectural excellence and grandeur of a Protestant temple
The temple was under construction for 35 years. The authorities ordered the architect a majestic and grandiose cathedral. The construction, consecrated on the birthday of the author of the project, became a monument to the brilliant architect.
In a colossal structure – 175.5 meters long, 111 meters high and 90 meters wide – the architect thought out every little detail, using the modern construction achievements of that time.
But not only this gives the cathedral a majestic look. At the personal request of King Charles II, the cathedral in London is crowned with a huge triple dome , under which there are three galleries.
St. Paul’s Cathedral is stretched out in length with transepts protruding to the side. These are the parts of the cathedral building that intersect its central part at right angles. The ends of the transept extend beyond the main body of the cathedral.
Along the length of the cathedral there is a crypt (underground vaulted room, tomb), which is at the same time the basis for 8 massive columns supporting the multi-ton dome of the cathedral: the weight of the structure is evenly distributed at the level of the foundation.
The construction of the huge dome is supported by specially designed thick walls. Despite this, the vault of the cathedral is reinforced with flying buttresses – external retaining arches hidden behind a decorative wall, externally designed in the form of a second floor.
The main, western, facade of the cathedral was built in the Baroque style. Here is the central entrance of the cathedral, to which a two-flight staircase with wide steps leads, decorated with a 30-meter two-tiered classical portico. Both tiers support 10 pairs of twin columns. Architectural details are harmoniously combined with each other.
The triangular pediment of the facade is decorated with a stone bas-relief “The Conversion of Saul” (this was the name of Paul before the adoption of Christianity). On both sides of the portico there are bell towers with 17 bells. In front of the main entrance there is a monument to Queen Anne , who ruled England during the completion of the construction of the temple.
In the south tower of the cathedral there is a clock with a dial 15 meters in diameter and a movement of 5.8 meters, which was created in 1893. There are also 4 bells here. The largest bell in the British Isles, installed on the bell tower of the cathedral, is named Big Paul and weighs 16.5 tons. Traditionally, he calls at 13:00.
The bell, called Big Tom , rings every hour. It is called in the event of the death of representatives of the royal family, bishops and Lord Mayors of London.
Two smaller bells weighing 1500 kg and 600 kg are ringing every quarter of an hour. The 13 bells of the northwest tower are used to chime and announce the start of the morning service.
Outstanding artists of their time worked on the interior of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Visitors are fascinated by the spacious nave 68 meters long, 37 meters wide and 28 meters high with an organ made in 1694 and an episcopal throne.
Wooden benches decorated with carvings, stone carvings of balustrades, mosaics of Venetian glass frame the heroes of the Old and New Testaments. The hall is decorated with wide stained-glass windows, on the vault there is a gilded arch. The path to the altar is blocked by openwork wrought-iron gates ; there is no iconostasis here.
In the center of the altar, decorated with carved gilding, there is a crucifix and a sculpture depicting saints. The choirs are fenced off with wrought iron bars.
A huge granite font, standing in the first grass (section of the nave), is a kind of call to be baptized with water. On both sides of the font there are small chapels of St. George and Michael and St. Dunstan.
Along the walls of the nave, there are 67 monuments depicting those people whose activities made England famous. Among them – the monument to Duke Arthur Wellington, Lord Horatio Nelson, naval commander, as well as the monument to John Donne, poet and abbot of the cathedral.
The key element in the appearance of the cathedral is the dome with a diameter of 478 meters. The structure rests on two tiers of cylindrical masonry and rests on a peristyle – a colonnade erected around it, which supports the lanterna (a stone turret at the top of the dome). Between each of the four columns of the dome, the architect added niches, giving the structure lightness and grace.
Above the peristyle – the second tier, surrounded by a balcony with a balustrade – is the Stone Gallery, from where a beautiful view of London opens up. The second tier is decorated with pilasters and windows, separated by gilded niches with statues.
Above the upper tier there is a dome covered with lead plates, in which there are 8 light wells. Wells illuminate the interior of the outer dome.
The stone turret – lanterna – consists of three tiers. The first tier is surrounded by the Golden Gallery, to which 530 steps of stairs lead. The second tier is in the form of a small temple with 4 porticos. Lanterna is crowned with a small dome with a cross. Lanterna weight – 850 tons.
At the base of the dome, at a height of 30 meters, there is a cornice supporting the Whispering Gallery. The unusual gallery got its name because the word spoken here in a whisper can be clearly heard at the other end of the cathedral at a distance of 34 meters. The space under the dome was decorated with mosaics – 8 scenes from the life of St. Paul.
Crypt and burial in the cathedral
A massive crypt (burial vault) of the underground tier is arranged along the perimeter of the cathedral with a special safety margin. From the burials of famous people who found peace within the walls of the church, one can study the history of England. 200 honorary citizens of Great Britain are buried in the tombs of the cathedral.
The ashes of its creator rest in the cathedral. Christopher’s son Wren left the inscription on the architect’s tombstone: “If you are looking for a monument, look around.”
The greatest Britons are buried on the territory of the cathedral :
- Arthur Wellington – statesman and military leader;
- Lord Horatio Nelson – English naval commander;
- Florence Nightingel – the heroine of the Crimean War;
- Joseph William Turner – landscape painter;
- Hubert Perry – public figure, composer;
- Samuel Janson – literary critic
- Thomas Edward Lawrence – officer, traveler;
- Alexander Fleming – the bacteriologist who discovered penicillin;
- Henry Moore is a sculptor.
St Paul’s Cathedral in British life
The cathedral is inseparable from the life of the British, in whose minds it occupies a special place. Important services and state ceremonies are held here:
- the funeral of Lord Nelson, Winstor Churchill and Lady Margaret Thatcher;
- celebrations in honor of diamond anniversaries – reigns for 60 years – Queen Victoria (1897) and Queen Elizabeth II (2012);
- thanksgiving service in honor of the Golden Jubilee and the 80th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II;
- celebrations of the marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana;
- the beginning of the UK Festival;
- service in the name of peace at the end of the I and II plague wars.
St. Paul’s Cathedral is a vibrant church filled with hourly prayers and daily services. In 2001-2005, the cathedral was restored.
In 2010, the cathedral launched the long-term project “Interpretation”. The multimedia panorama tells about 1400 years of history of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. The screens show the architectural details of the cathedral and frescoes, walls and archival records of the most important services and events. Information is available in 12 languages.