on August 29, 2011
There’s been a cathedral on this site since 604 and the first cathedral, dedicated to St Paul, was built by the Saxons. This wooden construction was burnt down and destroyed by the Vikings in 675. The replacement church was a sturdier affair being built out of stone but even this did not survive the rampages of invaders as it was also destroyed in 962. Just over a decade later it was again destroyed by fire and this time the Normans rebuilt it. I’m not absolutely sure when the work started but the Normans were masters at their art and the finished cathedral took many years to build. Indeed it was not consecrated until 1300. Unfortunately this church was neglected over the years and in the early 1600’s a decision was made to tackle the restoration of St Paul’s under the watchful eye of Indigo Jones. The work had hardly got on way when The English Civil War started. This really meant that Churches were no longer given the respect that they’d been afforded earlier and I was surprised to read that St Paul's was used for stabling horses and the nave became a market-place. After the war the market was "moved on" and the Cathedra, what was left of it, returned to its religious function. Repairs were undertaken and plans were drawn up to restore the cathedral to its former glory. And then fate interceded and in August 1666 the Great Fire of London "took no prisoners" and the cathedral was gutted but before he had a chance to work, the Great Fire intervened. Four days worth of ferocious fires destroyed over two-thirds of the City of London, including the great Cathedral. Quickly King Charles II and the Lord Mayor asked Wren to draw up plans for the re-creation of the City.. The plan was rapidly drawn up but unfortunately Wren’s great vision for the City’s architecture was never implemented. Too expensive or too complex? More likely that people wanted to rebuild ruined houses and get back to normal living and so they got on with building. However, the hope that the Cathedral could be saved soon proved to be wrong so Wren was asked to draw up plans for a new place of worship on the demolished site of the original cathedral. Charles II wasn’t an easy monarch to please and it took Wren three attempts to present plans that satisfied the King. So nine years after the fire work started on the new St Paul’s and only thirty-six years later the building was finished. Wren must have been ecstatic!Today I guess we’re all grateful for the Great Fire of London and the heritage that came out of the destruction of 1666. The dome teased us for several blocks and then in front of us are the Romanesque columns supporting a plinth which supports more columns and the triangular relief depicting Saint Paul and the other apostles. St Paul is rightly central to the design but dwarfing his statue are the two mighty western towers. Golden pineapples top the tower - symbols of peace and prosperity. More fine columns surround the bell tower and in the tower on the right hand side, above a clock that was installed in the late 1800’s, is the hour bell known as Great Tom and Great Paul which is the largest swinging bell in Europe.But the towering above it all is the mighty dome that "just is St Paul’s".Our appetite was whetted and we entered the building to pay our money and start inspecting the inside of this superb iconic building of London.
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