St. Paul's cathedral -- one of London's most famous landmarks -- celebrates its three-hundredth anniversary?
St. Paul's cathedral -- one of London's most famous landmarks -- celebrates its three-hundredth anniversary this year. On 21 July, the Lord Mayor of London and the Dean of the Cathedral will attend a special service in St. Paul's commemorating the laying of the building's foundation stone ... in 1675.
The present cathedral -- with its internationally-known domed outline -- is the last of a succession of churches and places of worship built on the Ludgate Hill site in the heart of London.
Buried somewhere deep below the present building's foundations lie the remains of a Roman temple dedicated to the goddess of hunting, Diana. The first Christian church as constructed in 604 -- more than 1300 years ago -- and followed by a series of larger and increasingly impressive edifices, all of which were either destroyed by the fires which periodically swept medieval London, or were looted of valuables by peasant and soldier.
The last St. Paul's before the present building was destroyed in the Great Fire of London of 1666. Its naves had been used as meeting places for criminals during the time of Elizabeth I and later to stable horses during the Civil War.
The Great Fire swept away more than two-thirds of the old wooden structures of London, necessitating large-scale reconstruction. The task of rebuilding St. Paul's was entrusted to Britain's greatest seventeenth century architect, Sir Christopher Wren. The cathedral has become universally acclaimed as his masterpiece.
Although the foundation stone was laid in 1675 under the auspices of King Charles II, the cathedral took 36 years to complete. The building itself comprises about 480,000 square feet of solid stone (40,000 square metres), and its circumference measures over one-third of a mile (539 metres). Its highly-decorated interior features beautifully gilded and decorated ceilings, priceless stained-glass windows, the unequalled craftsmanship of master-woodcarver Grinling Gibbons and wrought-ironwork by French artist Jean Tijou.
The present cathedral originally cost GBP740,000 pounds sterling (1,700,000 U.S. dollars).. but craftsmen today estimate that to restore the building to its prime condition could cost up to four times that amount. A recent appeal raised over 2.6 million pounds sterling (5.9 million U.S. dollars), and major work has begun on the cathedral's west front, now cross-hatched with scaffolding.
Experts attribute the building's structural deterioration to centuries of wind, rain and London smog, coupled with the effects of traffic and atmospheric vibration caused by intensive bombing during the Second World War. St. Paul's seeming inviolability during the Blitz of London in the early 1940s made the cathedral a much-loved symbol of survival for British people.
But the cathedral is mort than an example of craftsmanship and design. It is a living symbol of the Christian church, and a centre of worship in Britain. It houses the tombs of many of Britain's most famous statesmen and heroes ... including former Prime Minister and wartime leader Sir Winston Churchill, buried in the cathedral's crypt in 1965.
Sir Christopher Wren himself is berried in St. Paul's. His grave contrasts sharply with the huge and ornate tombs of military and naval heroes. It bears only a simple stone with the inscription "If you seek my monument look around you" Wren's monument, his masterpiece and one of the greatest examples of English Baroque architecture is -- with help -- surviving the ravages of time and war to remain one of the most beautiful and impressive treasure-houses of Britain's heritage."
SYNOPSIS: During the Second World War, the cathedral became a much-loved symbol of Britain's indestructibility. Night after night it withstood the intensive bombing of the Blitz.
But St. Paul's is more than a symbol ... it's a centre of Christian worship ... and the last resting-place for heroes ... like sir Winston Churchill. The interior of the church itself is a memorial to Wren and his master-craftsmen .. such as woodcarver Grinling Gibbons and iron-fashioner Jean Tijou. The beautifully-ornate and highly-gilded ceilings depict biblical scenes, while the priceless stained-glass windows fill the church with a quiet, diffused light. Wren's genius produced the designs for the intricate art-work of the interior as well as the distinctive Baroque-style exterior of St. Paul's.
Wren is buried in the cathedral he designed. The stone marking his grave bears the simple inscription "If you seek my monument look around you". None could match the beauty of St. Paul's.
But that beauty has been marred by the ravages of time and the elements. The cathedral's west front is now cross-hatched with scaffolding as craftsmen repair eroded stonework.
A recent appeal raised two point six million pounds towards the restoration ... which could take up to thirty years to complete.