Visiting St. Paul’s Cathedral in London
The House’s of Parliament and Big Ben maybe more recognizable, but St. Paul’s Cathedral is the figurative and literal heart of London. Sitting atop the highest point in the area known as the City, St. Paul’s iconic dome looms over the River Thames. The church is an absolute must see on any trip to London.
St. Paul’s is dedicated to the apostle Paul and multiple churches have been constructed on this site. The present day design rose from the of the great London fire of 1666. The incomparable Christopher Wren spearheaded much of the rebuilding of London and St. Paul’s was his crowning achievement. Construction began in 1670 and completed in 1710 when it was the tallest building in London for more than 250 years.
St. Paul’s has become a place where London has celebrated, mourned, and a symbol of perseverance. The wedding of Charles and Diana, along with jubilee celebrations for both Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth have taken place here. The funerals of Lord Nelson, Winston Churchill, and Margaret Thatcher occurred here. The church somehow survived the bombs of World War II and became the symbol of English resistance to Nazi Germany.
The baroque style building also took queues from other styles. It’s famous dome was inspired from St. Peter’s in Rome. The dome rises to a height of 325 feet making it still one of the tallest in the world.
The interior is grand yet soothing. It is 574 feet long with 223 feet of it dedicated to the enormous nave. The western end of the church maintains the original interior of white walls and ceiling, while the east end is covered in gold.
The entire basement is a crypt. This serves a structural purpose as it secures the foundation as it was it was built on soft soil. Included in the crypt are some of London’s greatest heroes including Admiral Lord Nelson and St. Paul’s architect Christopher Wren.
Climb the dome to see the famous Whispering Gallery. The acoustic qualities of a dome were discovered in this very spot. It also provides a wonderful view to the nave below. Anyone capable should climb to at least this spot.
For those brave enough, you can climb to the top of the dome. It’s a total of 528 steps, many of them a steep, narrow, spiral staircase that is not for those with a fear of heights. The reward however is a commanding view of the entire city of London.
St. Paul’s is an absolute masterpiece. It is equally grand and beautiful. Majestic yet restrained. There are many churches in London including the equally famous Westminster Abbey. There are many sites to see in London. Do not make the mistake and skip St. Paul’s. It is well worth the trip to London by itself.
Visiting St. Paul’s Cathedral
St. Paul’s is conveniently located near the River Thames near other top London spots. It is within a 10 minute walk of Tube stations St. Paul’s, Mansion House, Bank, and Blackfriars. You can use the train and exit City Thameslink Station. If you find yourself on the wrong side of the bridge a great approach is using the Millennium Bridge that leads right up to the church.
You can buy tickets in advance through the website. It is open Monday through Saturday from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM. It is only available on Sunday to worshippers.