St Paul’s Cathedral
|An aerial view of St Paul’s Cathedral. By Mark Fosh|
The original St Paul’s was built in AD 604 by Mellitus, the first bishop of the East Saxons, as his seat.
In 962 and 1087 the cathedral burnt down and was built again. A further fire in 1136 disrupted work on the third St Paul’s, and the new cathedral was not consecrated until 1240.
|Reconstructed image of Old St Paul’s before 1561, with intact spire|
In 1621, the poet and cleric John Donne was appointed the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral.
During the Great Fire of London of 1666, the Old St Paul’s was gutted. After the Fire, it was at first thought possible to retain a substantial part of the old cathedral, but ultimately the entire structure was demolished in the early 1670s.
The task of designing a replacement structure was officially assigned to the architect Sir Christopher Wren. He had previously been put in charge of the rebuilding of 52 churches to replace those lost in the Great Fire.
King Charles II rejected Christopher Wren’s first plan for St Paul’s, it was deemed too modest and Wren was so upset at it being turned down he wept. The king also rejected his second scheme as it was not thought “stately enough” but accepted Wren’s third design in the English Baroque style.
|St Paul’s, the final design|
Work began on the building in 1675 and it along with the rebuilding of the other 52 churches was financed by a tax on coal.
St Paul’s landmark dome, inspired by The Pantheon, is among the highest in the world. The clergy worried that Wren’s dome was redolent of the Roman Catholic churches of Europe, opposed him every step of the way.
Wren was greatly abused and criticized for the design, The concerned architect put up a screen so the public could not peek at it.
On December 2, 1697, the new cathedral was consecrated for use. The Right Reverend Henry Compton, Bishop of London, preached the sermon. It was based on the text of Psalm 122, “I was glad when they said unto me: Let us go into the house of the Lord.” The first regular service was held on the following Sunday.
The anthem “I was glad when they said” by John Blow was written for opening of the choir in St Paul’s Cathedral.
Wren used as his building material Portland stone, a limestone quarried on the Isle of Portland, Dorset. He used around 80,000 tonnes of the stone and it required 1,000 workmen. Wren’s choice of Portland for the cathedral established it as London’s choice of building stone.
The dome took over another decade to complete. The “topping out” of the cathedral (when the final stone was placed on the lantern) took place on October 26, 1708, performed by Wren’s son Christopher Jr and the son of one of the masons.
|19th cent colored engraving from the south-west by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd|
On October 9 1940, at the height of the London blitz, a bomb hit St Paul’s Cathedral, destroying the high altar.
St Paul’s is today the seat of the Bishop of London and the mother church of the Diocese of London.
It was the tallest building in London from 1710 to 1967 and St Paul’s remains the second-largest church building in area in the United Kingdom, after Liverpool Cathedral.
St Paul’s Cathedral can be seen from King Henry’s Mound, 16 kilometers (10 miles) away. No building obstructing this view is allowed to be built by law.