From state funerals to exciting art installations, St. Paul’s Cathedral embraces tradition and innovation and remains a popular site for tourists. As one of the top attractions on the London pass, here’s a few facts about St. Paul’s Cathedral to help you prepare for your visit.
Dating all the way back to 604 AD, the land that St Paul’s Cathedral stands upon has been consecrated ground for a very long time. With three different predecessors, the cathedral’s previous iteration was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666 and designed by Sir Christopher Wren, an architect instrumental in rebuilding the city.
Joining the likes of the Roman Pantheon, St Paul’s Cathedral boasts one of the biggest domes in the world at 366 feet high. Scale hundreds of steps to the top and bask in the architecture – don’t forget to spend some time in its famous Whispering Gallery on the way up.
Due to the specific design of the cathedral’s dome, sound carries incredibly well across the Whispering Gallery – a walkway thirty metres up. Try it for yourself with a friend and see how quietly you can whisper to one another from the opposite sides.
In 1964, Martin Luther King was invited by Canon John Collins to speak to a congregation of over four thousand people in St Paul’s Cathedral. Aside from being an activist, Martin Luther King was also a Baptist minister and he spoke about three different approaches to life in a sermon now known as The Three Dimensions to a Complete Life.
Besides being a work of art in itself, St Paul’s is home to many gorgeous pieces ranging across different time periods. Henry Moore’s Madonna and Child sculpture and the Victorian mosaics trailing the walls are accompanied by modern works such as Gerry Judah’s thought-provoking white crosses and Ian Hamilton Finlay’s neon piece L’étoile dans son étable de lumiere.
Interred in 1723, the prolific British architect was laid to rest in his own masterpiece and was the first of numerous key figures to have the honour. The epitaph inscribed on his crypt reads: Lector, si monumentum requiris – which is Latin for ‘If you seek his monument, look around’.
Artists, writers, politicians, humanitarians and more have been granted one of the highest national honours: a burial, memorial or funeral in St Paul’s. John Donne, Florence Nightingale, William Blake, Sir Alexander Fleming have celebratory monuments, while prime ministers Winston Churchill and more recently Margaret Thatcher have had funeral services held here.
Depicted in artworks by famed artists such as Canaletto, Daubigny, Signac and Derain, St Paul’s Cathedral has been a source of artistic inspiration since its construction. As time has passed, it has also been featured in movies such as Lawrence of Arabia, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Sherlock Holmes and Thor: The Dark World as an instantly recognisable icon of British heritage.
In an attempt to raise awareness for equal voting rights, suffragettes planted a battery-powered bomb underneath the bishop’s throne. However, the bomb was faulty and failed to go off. It wasn’t until 1918 that women were allowed to vote and full voting equality wasn’t introduced until 1928.
The likes of Yoko Ono, Rebecca Horn, Anthony Gormley and more have had their works featured in St Paul’s Cathedral. From a scientific collaboration with Swarovski in 2011-2012 to strings of ropes mimicking rays of light, there’s a list of current and previous installations on their site here.