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St. Paul's Cathedral
St. Paul's Cathedral Review
St. Paul's is simply breathtaking, especially now that the scaffolding has been removed, after 15 years of major restoration work. The structure is Sir Christopher Wren's masterpiece, completed in 1710 after 35 years of building, and, much later, miraculously spared (mostly) by World War II bombs. Wren's first plan, known as the New Model, did not make it past the drawing board. The second, known as the Great Model, got as far as a 20-foot oak rendering—now displayed in the Trophy Room—before it also was rejected.
The third plan was accepted, with the fortunate proviso that the architect be allowed to make changes as he saw fit. Without that, there would be no dome, because the approved design had a steeple—and St. Paul's simply would not be St. Paul's as we know it without the dome, the third largest in the world. Even so, from inside the vast cathedral the dome may seem smaller than you'd expect—the inner dome is 60 feet lower than the lead-covered outer dome. Beneath the lantern is Wren's famous and succinct epitaph, which his son composed and had set into the pavement: "Lector, si monumentum requiris, circumspice"—"Reader, if you seek his monument, look around you." The epitaph also appears on Wren's memorial in the Crypt.
Up 163 spiral steps is the Whispering Gallery, an acoustic phenomenon; you whisper something to the wall on one side, and a second later it transmits clearly to the other side, 107 feet away. Ascend to the Stone Gallery, which encircles the base of the dome. Farther up (280 feet from ground level) is the small Golden Gallery, the dome's highest point. From both these galleries (if you have a head for heights) you can walk outside for a spectacular panorama of London.
The remains of the poet John Donne, who was Dean of St. Paul's for his final 10 years (he died in 1631), are in the south choir aisle. The vivacious choir-stall carvings nearby are the work of Grinling Gibbons, as are those on the great organ, which Wren designed. Behind the high altar is the American Memorial Chapel, dedicated to the 28,000 GIs stationed in the United Kingdom who lost their lives in World War II. Among the famous figures whose remains lie in the Crypt are the Duke of Wellington and Admiral Lord Nelson. The Crypt also has a gift shop and a café.
Triforium Tour. Entry to the crypt and galleries are offered on this tour. 020/7246–8357. £20. Mon. and Tues., 11:30 and 2, Fri., 2; pre-booking essential.
- Address: St. Paul's Churchyard, The City, London, EC4M 8AD | Map It
- Phone: 020/7236–4128
- Cost: £15 (includes multimedia guides and guided tours)
- Hours: Mon.–Sat. 8:30–4; Shop Mon.–Sat. 9–5, Sun. 10–4.30; Crypt Café Mon.–Sat. 9–5, Sun. 12–4
- Website: www.stpauls.co.uk
- Tube: St. Paul's.
- Location: The City
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