St Paul’s Cathedral - History and Facts | History Hit

St Paul’s Cathedral

London, England, United Kingdom

St Paul’s Cathedral is an iconic historic building in central London and the seat of the Diocese of London.

Amy Irvine

16 Apr 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About St Paul’s Cathedral

St Paul’s Cathedral, with its vast dome, is an iconic feature of the London skyline and known across the world. It is the city’s central church (a Grade I listed building) and the seat of the Diocese of London.

History of St Paul’s Cathedral

The current building of St Paul’s Cathedral was built between 1675 and 1710, designed in the English Baroque style by Sir Christopher Wren. Its construction was part of a major rebuilding programme in the City after the Great Fire of London. However the site on which it sits has been home to cathedrals since 604 AD. In fact, the St Paul’s Cathedral seen today is the fourth of its kind.

The first St Paul’s was ransacked by Vikings and rebuilt in 962 and a fire destroyed the second. The third and penultimate incarnation of St Paul’s fared no better and was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666.

At 111 metres high, St Paul’s was the tallest building in London from 1710 to 1963. It’s dome remains the second largest cathedral dome in the world.

St Paul’s fascinating history is inextricably intertwined with that of the nation, with images of the dome surrounded by the smoke and fire of the Blitz being symbolic of Britain’s wartime defiance.

Many of important events from around the world have been marked at St Paul’s including the end of the First and Second World Wars, the marriage of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer, royal jubilees and birthdays and commemorations of events such Remembrance Day and 11 September 2001.

St Paul’s Cathedral is also a famous burial site. Its crypt houses many world famous icons, including Admiral Lord Nelson, the Duke of Wellington and Sir Christopher Wren, whose funerals were hosted at the cathedral. Though not buried at St Paul’s, the state funeral of Sir Winston Churchill was also held here.

St Paul’s Cathedral today

Whilst one of London’s most popular tourist attractions, the cathedral remains a working church with hourly prayer and daily services.

There are many different parts of the Cathedral for visitors to discover, from the underground Crypt (containing famous tombs along with a 270° film experience – ‘the Oculus: an eye into St Paul’s’ – that brings 1,400 years of history to life) up to the Whispering Gallery, Stone Gallery and, if taking all 528 steps up, the view from the uppermost Golden Gallery.

Visitors can also see the magnificent architecture of St Paul’s Cathedral as well as the artwork and decorations which have been changed and added to over the centuries. There are also 7 chapels and an impressive exterior & churchyard to explore.

Guided tours are available in English and last approximately 90 minutes. Audio tours are available in English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Russian, Japanese and Chinese (Mandarin).

Getting to St Paul’s Cathedral

As with all London sites, it’s best to travel by public transport. The nearest tube stations are St Paul’s (a 2 minute walk, Central Line), Mansion House or Blackfriars (District/Circle Lines) or Bank (Central, Northern and Waterloo & City Lines).
The nearest rail stations are City Thameslink (3 minutes walk), Blackfriars, Cannon Street or Liverpool Street.

Many local buses stop nearby, including routes 4, 8, 11, 15, 17, 23, 25, 26, 56, 76, 100, 172, 242 and 521, and a public car park is available nearby on Queen Victoria Street.

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