St Paul’s Cathedral

On December 2, 1697, St Paul’s Cathedral was consecrated for use. The first regular service was held on the following Sunday. As I was recently in London and visited this edifice again, this seemed like a good day to commemorate.

St Paul’s sits on Ludgate Hill at the highest point of the City of London. There has been a church on that site since 604, and it has always been dedicated to the Apostle Paul. The two previous structures burnt down, one in 1087, and the other in the Great Fire of London, 1666.

Sir Christopher Wren was given the task of designing a newer, more modern building in 1669. Wren’s design combined Neoclassical, Gothic, and Baroque elements in an attempt to symbolize the ideals of both the English Restoration and 17th-century scientific philosophy.

The cathedral survived the Blitz although struck by bombs on October 10, 1940, and April 17, 1941. A much more serious time-delay bomb was removed on September 12, 1940, at great risk. Civilian defense brigades, including the St. Paul’s Fire Watch, protected the structure, patrolling each night. One of the best-known images of London during the war was a photograph of St Paul’s showing the cathedral shrouded in smoke. The fact that it continued to stand became a symbol of the British people. I’ve included the photo below.

Some of the famous people buried in St Paul’s are the writer John Donne, the painter Sir Joshua Reynolds, Admiral Horatio Nelson, the Duke of Wellington, and Christopher Wren himself. Above his resting place is his epitaph translated says, “Reader, if you seek a monument, look about you.”

I love St Paul’s. Partly, it is a wonderful building to see – very impressive, both the sanctuary and the crypt below. But I also have fond memories of the Crypt Café. They make wonderful soup, and the ambiance is perfect.

Quotes about cathedrals
[Note: I have heard the below story from more than one place. I don’t know who said it originally, but I love it. It goes on for several paragraphs.] On a foggy autumn day, nearly 800 years ago a traveler happened upon a large group of workers adjacent to the River Avon. Despite being tardy for an important rendezvous, curiosity convinced the traveler that he should inquire about their work.

With a slight detour, he moved toward the first of the three tradesmen and said: “my dear fellow what is it that you are doing?” The man continued his work and grumbled, “I am cutting stones.”

Realizing that the mason did not wish to engage in a conversation the traveler moved toward the second of the three and repeated the question. To the traveler’s delight, this time the man stopped his work, ever so briefly, and stated that he was a stonecutter. He then added, “I came to Salisbury from the north to work but as soon as I earn ten quid I will return home.” The traveler thanked the second mason, wished him a safe journey home and began to head to the third of the trio.

When he reached the third worker, he once again asked the original question. This time the worker paused, glanced at the traveler until they made eye contact and then looked skyward drawing the traveler’s eyes upward. The third mason replied, “I am a mason and I am building a cathedral.”

I love church buildings, particularly cathedrals, and I like living in spaces that remind me of music or evoke that creative energy.
~ Laura Mvula

Of all man’s works of art, a cathedral is greatest.
~ Henry Ward Beecher

I would not like to live in a world without cathedrals. I need their beauty and grandeur. I need their imperious silence.
~ Pascal Mercier

I never weary of great churches. It is my favorite kind of mountain scenery. Mankind was never so happily inspired as when it made a cathedral.
~ Robert Louis Stevenson

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