Friday, 4 February 2011

A noble cupola -

- a forme of church-building not as yet known in England, but of wonderfull grace. 

So John Evelyn described the proposed design for the new St Paul's, to replace  the cathedral destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666. It’s a building that every English person probably, and every Londoner certainly, should see at least once.

It’s not cheap to go in (£14.50 at time of writing), but there is a lot to see. It needs a whole afternoon to begin to do it justice.

To men accustomed to the Norman and Gothic styles, Wren’s design for St  Paul’s was revolutionary. His plan, with the great dome, was rejected in favour of something more familiar.

Wren reputedly achieved his masterpiece by erecting a high fence around the site, allowing no-one but himself to see the complete plans, and making alterations as building progressed, until the work was too far advanced to reverse them.

Despite the initial reservations about the design, the dome of St Paul’s has become an essential and iconic part of the London skyline.

The image of the cathedral surrounded by smoke and flames came to symbolise Londoners’ resistance during the Blitz of 1940-41.

Wellington and Nelson are probably the best known of those buried in St Paul‘s, but it is not only national heroes who are commemorated there. There are memorials to artists, musicians, newspapermen. In the north aisle are plaques commemorating the crew of HMS Captain, lost in 1870. In the crypt is a memorial to correspondents who covered the Sudanese campaigns of 1883, 1884 and 1885.

Christopher Wren is buried in his cathedral. His tomb is unobtrusive and easily overlooked. It does not matter. His epitaph, composed by his son, also Christopher, says all that is necessary:

Lector, si monumentum requiris, circumspice

Reader, if you seek his monument, look around you.


  1. A fascinating insight to St. Pauls. I have yet to visit, but hope to do so soon. I have just stumbled across your blog and shall keep a close eye on it!

    English Gent.

  2. Hi, thanks for reading and commenting. I hope you enjoy St Paul's when you get there. I'll check your blog to see your thoughts on it. Hope to see you here again, too.