St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul's Cathedral, London. A Historic Place of Worship and Architectural Masterpiece
St Paul's Cathedral
See one of the most awe-inspiring baroque Cathedrals in the world. The famous dome is the most graceful of all. The architect Sir Christopher Wren’s meticulously designed dome has inspired a whole host of other domes worldwide, including the Capitol building in Washington DC. To see the silhouette of St Paul’s on London’s skyline is considered essential; the ‘views’ from various directions are now protected in law.
London’s Cathedral church has witnessed countless special events. The marriage of HRH Prince Charles (now King Charles) and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 (750 million people watched live), the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill in 1965, and Martin Luther King delivered a sermon with a congregation of 4,000.
Take a guided tour of the Cathedral, enjoy the sublime architecture and see the tombs of war heroes and hear their tales. A highlights tour of St Paul’s works well in our Old City of London Tour. We can tailor various walking tours to match your pace and interests and include a tour of St Paul’s Cathedral.
A baroque masterpiece
The brief history of St Paul Cathedral
The back story
The current St Paul’s is the fifth building on this site, taking 35 years to build and completed in 1710. The first was a much smaller wooden church consecrated in 604 ad. There were two others and then in the middle ages construction began on a massive new church. The result was a building nearly 600 ft long and 290 ft wide at the crossings, quite astonishing as the year was 1300. The most impressive feature was the spire that reached 489 ft or 149 m.
Following the Great Fire of London, it was decided the damage to the building was to great too rebuild. Sir Christopher Wren, the architect, wanted to rebuild the entire city, an opportunity not agreed upon, unfortunately. Wren gets the job to replace burnt out parish churches and the Cathedral. The right man at the right time, Wren was super clever. He was a mathematician, astronomer, inventor and architect. St Paul’s was completed after 35 years of labour; it is a masterpiece in stone.
If you are fit and healthy, climbing the dome is a must (there are no lifts). There are 530 steps to the golden gallery where you can view the rooftops of London; it is worth it. The first stop en-route to the top is the whispering gallery, when few people are around you can whisper next to the wall of the dome interior and be heard on the other side. The following section takes you through the superstructure, and eventually, you arrive at the golden gallery, perched on top of the dome.
The oculus or light well built in the dome allows light to flood the Cathedral floor, acting like a giant eyeball. Wren created an internal cone of brick to support the 800-ton lantern, balancing on the dome aloft. The 'dome' structure weighs an incredible 65,000 tons; eight enormous pillars take the strain. It is ingenious and extraordinary and a must-see on any guided tour of London
The tombs and monuments
In the crypt, placed directly beneath the dome is the impressive tomb of Lord Nelson. Who is he? I hear you ask? Well, he was probably Britain’s most talented naval commander. In short, he helped establish Britain as the world’s foremost maritime power, liquidating invasion threats from the French and Spanish – and therefore laying the foundations of naval superiority for the next 150 years. The French under Napoleon needed stopping on land; there was a danger of total European destruction and dominance. Millions of more lives under threat. Europe needed another hero.
Enter The Duke of Wellington, the most outstanding defensive military leader. On the 18th June 1815, Napoleon was defeated by British and Prussian Troops at the Battle of Waterloo. The Duke was a tough gentleman, but he knew how to look after his men. Waterproof boots (wellies or Wellington boots) kept soldiers marching feet healthy, good food made them strong, and decent clothing kept them warm. Then add excellent military training and discipline. The austere tome of the Duke of Wellington is just a few meters away from Lord Nelson.
Other large memorial statues stand guard around the church; something Wren would not have liked, as it disturbed his clean lines. These statues look like ‘a race of giant heroes’ ready to come to life when needed.
One of the glories of St Paul’s is the mosaics in the eastern half of the church. Famously Queen Victoria disliked the grey and un-devotional atmosphere. Colourful mosaics were installed during the last 40 years of the 19th Century in the saucer domes and aisles. The stunning design delights people from around the world.
The war years
Sir Winston Churchill made it clear to protect St Paul’s Cathedral at all cost. For people to see the magnificent dome of the Cathedral destroyed would have been a psychological punch in the guts. Brave firefighters stood on the roof of St Paul’s ready to extinguish firebombs; it must have been a terrifying job. There is an impressive memorial to those brave firefighters on the street outside.
Bombs landed on the east end of St Paul’s and transepts, destroying only portions. The damage was repairable. Imagine the morning after a terrible raid and looking to the skyline with St Paul’s obscured by dark smoke, then the breeze blows the awful dark gas clouds to one side, like curtains parting on a stage to reveal and the majesty of St Paul’s giving hope to the people.
Touring and accommodation
The best places to stay in London are Mayfair, St James, and the Royal Borough of Kensington. If you are considering day tours from London, staying further west in Kensington makes sense. Harrods and Hyde Park are close. Staying in Mayfair and St James will give you easy access to Green Park, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park and high-end shops. The theatre district called the ‘West End’ is a short hop too. Here is our recommended collection of the Best Four and Five-Star Hotel in London.
Our Tour Designers are here to customise your private tours of London and day tours from London. Tell us about you and your interests, and we will create a tailor-made tour. Our Old City of London Tour features the St Paul's Cathedral and will be customised for you.
If this is your first time to England, we would recommend a custom version of your Town and Country Tour; it covers the famous places and allows you to utilise your private driver-guide by getting-off-the-beaten-path. Our Classic tour of Ireland is a good place to start for the first trip to Ireland, and we suggest the Classic tour of Scotland for your first trip to the bonny Highlands. Merging Wales with England makes for a dynamic experience of mountains, stately homes and cosy country pubs.
One of the Greatest Baroque Churches in the World
- VIP Tours Available
- Climb the Dome
- Evensong Experience Available
- Join Prayers
- Henry Moore Sculpture
- Experience the Whispering Gallery
St Paul's Clock
St Paul's from Fleet Street
St Paul's West Front and Clock
The West Front of St Paul's
View from the Exterior of Dome