St Paul's Cathedral

Category: Tourist attractions

St Paul’s Cathedral is a cathedral on Ludgate Hill, in the City of London, and the seat of the Bishop of London. The present building dates from the 17th century, and is generally reckoned to be London’s fourth St Paul’s Cathedral, although the number is higher if every major medieval reconstruction is counted as a new cathedral.

The cathedral is built of Portland stone in a late Renaissance style that is England’s sober Baroque. Its impressive dome was inspired by St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. It rises 365 feet (108 metres) to the cross at its summit, making it a famous London landmark. Wren achieved a pleasing appearance by building three domes: the tall outer dome is non-structural but impressive to view, the lower inner dome provides an artistically balanced interior, and between the two is a structural cone that supports the apex structure and the outer dome. Wren was said to have been hauled up to the rafters in a basket during the building of its later stages to inspect progress.

The nave has three small chapels in the two adjoining aisles – All Souls and St Dunstan’s in the north aisle and the Chapel of the Order of St Michael and St George in the south aisle. The main space of the cathedral is centred under the Dome; it rises 108.4 metres from the cathedral floor and holds three circular galleries – the internal Whispering Gallery, the external Stone Gallery, and the external Golden Gallery.

The Whispering Gallery runs around the interior of the Dome and is 99 feet(30.2 m) above the cathedral floor. It is reached by 259 steps from ground-level. It gets its name because a whisper against its wall at any point is audible to a listener with their ear held to the wall at any other point around the gallery. This works only for whispered speech – normal voiced speech is not focused in this way.

The base of the inner dome is 173 feet (53.4 m) above the floor. The top of the inner dome is about 65 m above the floor, making this the height of the enclosed space.

The Quire extends to the east of the dome and holds the stalls for the clergy and the choir and the organ. To the north and south of the dome are the transepts of the North Choir and the South Choir.

The north-west tower contains 13 bells and the south-west contains four, including Great Paul, cast in 1881, and Great Tom (the hour bell), recast twice, after being moved from the old Palace of Westminster.


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