St Paul's Cathedral is one of the most famous of the many landmarks in London. It is an Anglican cathedral and the seat of the Bishop of London and it is the mother church of the Diocese of London. Along with Westminister Abbey, this is one of the must-see church buildings in London today.
Visiting St. Paul's is an important part of anyone's first time trip to London. The cathedral is not only spectacular, but it is also deeply rooted in the history of the City of London (and pigeons).
History Of St. Paul's Cathedral
The cathedral is predictably dedicated to Paul the Apostle and is built on the site of an older church. The present building dates from the late 17th century. It may come as a surprise to many but most of the buildings in London are not all that old considering the age of the city.
- Built: In the Late 17th Century
This is because the Great Fire of London of 1666 destroyed gutted the city leaving around 70,000 of the 80,000 inhabitants homeless. The older Gothic cathedral also succumbed to the inferno. St. Paul's Cathedral was part of a part rebuilding program in the city after the destruction wrought by the Great Fire.
- Rebuilding Program: Part Of The Rebuilding Program After London Was Largely Destroyed By A Fire
Today it is one of the most famous and most recognizable of the many sights of London. Its beautiful and mighty dome has dominated the city's skyline for over 300 years. At 365 feet (or 111 meters) high it was the tallest building in the City from 1710 to 1963.
- Tallest: It Was The Called Building In London For 253 Years
Today it remains one of the highest domes in the world and the second-largest church in the United Kingdom (behind the Liverpool Cathedral).
- Second-Largest: It is the Second Largest Church In The UK
- Suffragette Bombings: St. Paul's Was The Target Of Two Suffragette Bombing Attacks In 1913 and 1914
St. Paul's would prove to be a survivor. During WW2 in the London Blitz, it was struck by bombs in October 1940 and again in April 1941. The first strike destroyed the high altar, the second left a hole in the floor above the crypt. It was struck by another time-delayed bomb in September 1940. Fortunately, this bomb was defused and removed, had it exploded it would have totally destroyed the cathedral.
Many of the buildings around it were destroyed in the bombings.
St Paul's has seen some important services in its time - including the funeral of Admiral Nelson, the Duke of Wellington, Winston Churchill, and Margaret Thatcher. Other services have included:
- Jubilee Celebrations: Of Queen Victoria & Queen Elizabeth IIPeace Services: the Peace Services That Marked The End of The First and Second World Wars
- Wedding: The Wedding Of Prince Charles and Lady Diana
- Thanksgiving Services: For the Silver, Golden, and Diamond Jubilees (and the 80th and 90th Birthdays Of Queen Elizabeth II)
Visiting The Church Today
Today the cathedral is a working church with hourly prayer and daily services. No fee is charged for worshippers attending advertised services. The cathedral has many services going on at the cathedral all the time, they are all listed on St. Paul's website.
- Admission Fee: £20 ($26) For Adults (Online Price £17 - $22.50)
- Includes: Entry To Cathedral Floor, Crypt, and the Dome Galleries (on those days and dates the Dome is open)
- Hours Open: From 8.00 am or 10.00 am to 4.30 pm
The cathedral is open for sightseeing from Monday to Saturday. As at the time of writing the Whispering Gallery is temporarily closed while the Stone Gallery and Golden Gallery are open Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
St. Paul's Cathedral In Mary Poppins
Many people will be familiar with St Paul's as it was the site of the famous scene from the 1962 Disney movie Mary Poppins. It was on the steps of St. Paul's that the scene of feeding the pigeons was shot and set with the famous song "Feed The Birds".
Mary Poppins is a charming movie - even if one has to endure Dick Van Dyke's (the chimney sweep's) horrendous attempt at a cockney accent.
- Fun Fact: Dick Van Dyke's Cockney Accent Has Been Voted One of The Worst Ever Accents In Film
Today when visiting the cathedral one may not help but have the famous lyrics singing in one's head:
"Early each day to the steps of Saint Paul's
The little old bird woman comes...
"Feed the birds, tuppence a bag
Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag
Feed the birds", that's what she cries
While overhead, her birds fill the skies
All around the cathedral, the saints and apostles
Look down as she sells her wares..."