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St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul’s Cathedral has been intertwined with London history since its first appearance in the year of 604. When it comes to major sights in London, the Cathedral is in the same category as other iconic symbols like the London Bridge, Tower of London and Big Ben. St Paul’s Cathedral houses the Bishop of London and is the centre for spiritual life in London and in the United Kingdom. The current Cathedral, which sits in the province of Canterbury, is the fifth cathedral to be built on the site. It’s impressive architecture, religious significance and storied past make it one of the most visited tourist sights in London.
A Brief History
In the history of modern London, perhaps the spotlight moment for St Paul’s came when Lady Diana Spencer wedded Prince Charles of Wales at the Cathedral. One of the most nerve-racking moments for the Cathedral was when German invaders specifically aimed to destroy it during World War II.
The site of the Cathedral all together has over 1400 years of history, starting with the time the Bishop of East Saxons had it built. Fires have led to it having to be rebuilt a total of five times. During the 10th century, the Cathedral burnt down and was reconstructed. In the 11th century, the same incident repeated itself. In the year 1666, the Great Fire of London brought down the Cathedral again. Afterwards, Sir Christopher Wren directed the design and reconstruction of St Paul’s that still exists today.
The Cathedral has also been a place to celebrate diamond jubilees. Both Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II did so.
Most importantly, St Paul’s Cathedral has been a centre for mourning, joy and spiritual discourse. Elizabeth I made a stop at St Paul’s after England defeated the Armada in the early 16th century. Over one million attended the Duke of Wellington’s funeral in the 1850’s here. Martin Luther King preached here in 1958. The United Kingdom mourned the passing of Winston Churchill at St Paul’s. And following the terrorist attacks of 2005, Londoners gathered here to pray together.
When discussing the spiritual lifeblood of London, St Paul’s Cathedral is an important place and an icon.
Visiting the Cathedral
Whether you are visiting London with a family or coming with friends, St Paul’s has something for every type of traveler.
Stroll along the floor of the Cathedral and see the various chapels. View the monument to the great Duke of Wellington, tour St. Michael Chapel and the Chapel of All Souls, salute Admiral Nelson’s monument and check out the 7,189 pipes of the Grand Organ. Stop and take a moment to reflect at the icon of St Paul. Flower scented and contemplative, those who come to see St Paul’s monument have a hard time departing. Other chapels to see include the Middlesex Chapel, American Memorial Chapel and the Chapel of St Dunstan.
Walk up to the top of the Cathedral and look out upon London from the Dome. On the way up, take a good long stare at the painting of St Paul in Malta shipwrecked. It’s sublime.
At the Crypt, see the tombs of Lord Nelson, Wellington and architect Sir Christopher Wren.
Watch the virtual film of St Paul’s Cathedral. It details its 1400 year history and offers a glimpse into the soul of the Cathedral.
For those who fancy delving into research, go through the collections of the Cathedral. There is a fabric archive, an architectural archive and a library. Everything you could ever want to know about the Cathedral and its history is stored here.
After touring the grounds, take the time to enjoy tea time in London at the restaurant at St Paul’s.
Tickets and Hours
The Cathedral is open every day of the week except Sunday from 8:30am to 4pm. Note that you cannot take pictures or film video inside.
Prices are £14.50 for adults and £5.50 for children under 18. Group rates are a pound cheaper. A family ticket, which is for two adults and two children, is £34.50.
By the London bus system, take line 4, 11, 15, 23, 25, 26, 242 or 100. Via the Tube in London, take the Central Line to St Paul’s stop. By train, get off at Cannon Street or Blackfriar’s. Walking and biking in London is also very popular. If you are within five miles, walking or biking is a fast and free method of transportation. Bike parking is free at St Paul’s.