It is better to travel well than to arrive


When we were in Tennessee over Christmas, my uncle mentioned that one of his favorite places he visited in London was St. Paul’s Cathedral. I’d seen the church many times in passing, as you do in London, but hadn’t had the opportunity to go inside until a couple weekends ago, prompted by my uncle’s insistence that it would be worth our time. {He wasn’t wrong!}

We happened to visit on one of those rare sunny days London experiences in the winter, and I was so impressed by how magnificent the cathedral was against the blue skies, particularly St. Paul’s famous dome, that I ended up taking more pictures than I meant to. If you’ve been a reader here for long, you’ll know what that means – St. Paul’s is going to be a two-parter. It’ll be Friday’s post before I get into the inside of the cathedral because today we’re just admiring the outside!

The current St. Paul’s is a relatively new cathedral at only 300 years old. It was built by the famous English architect, Christopher Wren, after the Great Fire Of 1666 destroyed the old St. Paul’s. Wren was charged with rebuilding over fifty churches after the Great Fire, but St. Paul’s was his grand masterpiece. He died shortly after its completion and is buried in the OBE Chapel in the cathedral’s crypt.

We’ve seen and toured quite a few churches since moving to Europe, and most of them, like Bath Abbey and Notre-Dame Cathedral were built in the Gothic architectural style. St. Paul’s was our first cathedral to visit built with a neoclassical design. Our tour guide called it a “simple” design. I’m not sure I’d go that far, {I grew up going to country churches – I know what simple looks like!} but I suppose in comparison to flying buttresses and pointed spires, St. Paul’s could technically be perceived as simpler. However you want to describe it, there’s no denying the elegance of the dome and those tall, white Corinthian columns. Pure beauty.

Heading around to the majestic West Front, you’ll see the statue of Queen Anne {reigning monarch at the time of the cathedral’s completion} welcoming visitors to the cathedral. The entrance is on this side of the church, but us common folk won’t be able to enter through the fancy doors pictured above. Those are known as the Great West Doors and are only used for special occasions or royalty. {You might recognize them from Prince Charles and Lady Diana’s wedding that was held here. They were used for Diana and her procession’s entrance, as well as the couple’s exit.}

A massive church clean-up and restoration, on both the exterior and inside, was recently completed in 2011. Three centuries of pollution and exposure to the elements had left the cathedral blackened and dirty. But now, 15 years and £40 million later, St. Paul’s gleams in the sunlight, almost blinding white at times, the symbol of purity. As you wander around admiring the cathedral, make sure you stop in the gardens, particularly if you visit in spring and summer. Benches are scattered throughout, and they’re a lovely spot to sit and marvel at the view!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *