I think St Paul’s Cathedral is definitely one of the most beautiful Cathedrals in England. I am quite lucky in that I have had the opportunity to visit this beautiful Cathedral more than once and couldn’t wait to show it to my friend Hermie on her visit all the way from South-Africa.
The two of us bought ourselves London travel passes for the day and started our adventure at LondonBridge and reached the Cathedral mid-morning. Trying to fit in as many of London’s great sites as possible in one day was quite a hard task. But definitely worth it!!
St Paul’s cathedral is one of the most famous and most recognisable sights of London. Its beautiful dome has dominated the skyline for 300 years and is usually featured in all London travel stories.
This stunning Cathedral isn’t only beautiful it has also had a very eventful and colourful history. Five different churches were actually built on this site. The first church, dedicated to the apostle Paul, was a wooden church and dates back to 604 AD. At the end of the seventh century, the church was re-built in stone by Erkenwald, Bishop of London.
In 962 and again in 1087, the cathedral was destroyed by fire, but each time it was rebuilt and expanded. I can also imagine that each time they would have changed all the details of the church. Renovations and extensions in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries enlarged the cathedral even more and it actually became one of the largest Cathedrals in Europe.
In 1666 disaster struck again on the night of 2 September, when the Great Fire of London destroyed 4/5th of all of London, It wiped out 13,200 houses and 89 churches, including the St. Paul’s Cathedral off the map.
The current Gothic Cathedral was rebuilt in 1711 and 300 years later is still impressive.
Walking towards this fabulous building looming over London I tried to imagine what it must have been like 300 years ago with horse carriages around instead of cars and busses. As we walked through the heavy wooden doors the Baroque interior was just as imposing as the exterior of the church. It takes my breath away every time. There are beautiful mosaics on the ceiling and the Cathedral is filled with tombs and statues but the only monument in the church that survived the fire of 1666 is the tomb of John Donne, from 1631.
You have to get yourself one of the audio guides as its fabulous to learn about the Cathedral and its history as you walk through it and actually get to see all the tombs and monuments I have heard about in history class.
The dome of the Cathedral is 111 meters high and 560 steps lead visitors all the way to the top of the dome where you can get a fabulous view of the Cathedral and the city of London.
After exploring London all morning and still having lots of London to fit into our afternoon neither one of us could face walking up those stairs to the top of the beautiful dome. We admired it from below and took a seat to rest our sore feet for a little while.
I read about the four bells in the south-west tower which was cast in 1777, the largest bell weighing 16½ tons is the largest bell in the British Isles. These bells has traditionally sounded at 1 o’clock each day. It chimes the hour and is traditionally tolled on occasions of a death in the royal family. It was last tolled for the death of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, in 2002.
I really wanted to hear these famous bells ring but not thinking it through very clearly we sat down inside the church to listen to them toll. After 1pm we stood up and I asked a guide if the bells were not going to be rung today. He looked at me all weird and told me they had just rung, but that you had to have been outside to be able to hear them. Oops, next time I will make sure I am waiting for them on the front steps!