London offers so many historic and iconic attractions. With so many to choose from, why should you visit St. Paul’s Cathedral? Well, based on my experience, and at least 10 more solid reasons, I’m going to tell you why…
1. You can’t miss it!
St. Paul’s Cathedral is one of the most famous and recognizable sights of London. It’s dome has dominated the London skyline for hundreds of years. In fact, it was the tallest building in London until 1967. At 365 feet high, the cathedral’s dome is among the highest in the world — just another reason why you should visit St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.
2. The Cathedral has shared London’s history
Some form of St. Paul’s Cathedral has existed since AD 604. As such, it has played a valuable role in the history of London. If the stones of the Cathedral could speak, there would be so many tales to tell! Here are a few examples:
- Within the Cathedral library is one of only three surviving copies of William Tynsdale’s bible. That is significant because many of his bibles were burnt at St. Paul’s in the 1500’s.
- In 1913, extreme suffragettes planted a bomb underneath the Bishop’s chair in the Cathedral. Fortunately, it was found and removed before it could be detonated.
- A 500-page book listing the names of 28,000 Americans, who were stationed in the UK and died during World War II, is displayed in the American Memorial Chapel. This chapel acknowledges the UK’s indebtedness to the Americans who sacrificed their lives for freedom.
- In 2012, when London hosted the Olympics and Paralympics, the Victory parade passed by the Cathedral. The Torch Relay came to the steps of St. Paul’s. A sermon given at the Cathedral in 1908 inspired Pierre de Coubertin to write into the Olympic Creed these words: ‘The most important thing…is not to win but to take part’.
3. St. Paul’s Cathedral never dies
It has been built, then damaged or destroyed, and then rebuilt again — many times. One version of the cathedral was even completely destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. The current cathedral, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, was consecrated in 1697. The cathedral has even survived World War II bombings. One time-delayed bomb that landed on the cathedral roof was removed, at great risk. Had it exploded, it would have destroyed the entire cathedral, as it left a 100-ft crater in the field where it was detonated.
4. It was the first cathedral built after the English Reformation
When you travel through the United Kingdom, and especially as you explore churches, there is always the question of denomination. Any study of their history will reveal a constant tension between the Protestant churches and the Catholic Church. At any point in history, one of them was the “enemy”, and it changed often. St. Paul’s Cathedral was the first cathedral built after Henry VIII removed the Church of England from the jurisdiction of the Pope. It is an Anglican church under the direction of the Crown.
5. Famous weddings, services, and funerals
Probably the most famous wedding held at St. Paul’s Cathedral is that of Prince Charles and Princess Diana in 1981. King Henry VII’s son, Prince Arthur, married Princess Catherine here in 1501, serving to unite England and Spain.
In 1964, Martin Luther King gave a sermon here, now known as The Three Dimensions to a Complete Life, to a packed crowd of over 3,000 people. St. Paul’s Cathedral has been the location for Jubilee celebrations for Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II, peace services at the end of World Wars I and II, and the launch of the Festival of Britain.
Many funeral services of historic figures have been held here, including Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher.
6. Speaking of funerals…
St. Paul’s Cathedral is the final resting place for some of the nation’s greatest heroes. The first person to be laid to rest in the crypt is Sir Christopher Wren, the designer of the Cathedral. His epitaph reads, “Reader, if you seek his monument, look around you.”
Under the main floor of St. Paul’s is a huge crypt; you can walk among the elaborate memorial graves as well as the more simple slabs on the floor that mark where people are buried. The most ornate vaults are actually for war heroes Horatio Nelson and Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington.
7. The Cathedral is beautifully adorned
Whether you are looking at the entire Cathedral as a whole, or focusing on specific details, the beauty of St. Paul’s is undeniable. The patience and skill with which ornate embellishment was created for the Cathedral is nothing short of amazing. Can you imagine what it required to carve these altar supports? Or to gild so much of the ornamentation with gold?
And just look at the carved wood in these choir stalls!
The scale of the grandeur of St. Paul’s Cathedral is truly spectacular. You can’t walk into the Cathedral without mouthing the word, “Wow!” It also invokes a feeling of deep reverence.
8. Views from the Cathedral are spectacular
You can actually climb the 528 steps to the top of the dome and enjoy 360-degree views of the city of London and the buildings below. It’s a dizzying view and one not to be missed! But if you are not up for the climb. you can watch this video and get an idea of what you can see:
9. You’ll love the art at St. Paul’s Cathedral
From sculptures to portraits and paintings, mosaics to stained glass, the art in St. Paul’s Cathedral is exquisite!
10. You might recognize it from the movies!
Yes, St. Paul’s Cathedral has been a setting for many movies, with the most well-known probably being ‘Mary Poppins’ and her song, “Feed the Birds”, filmed on the steps of St. Paul’s.
Others include Great Expectations, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Who, Lawrence of Arabia, Thor: The Dark World, and many documentaries as well.
I said there were at least 10 reasons why you should visit St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. That means there are probably plenty more! And the fact that nearly 2 million visitors took the time to see it last year speaks volumes. So you shouldn’t just take my word for it!
As you begin planning your visit to St. Paul’s, be sure to check out their website, where you will find information about tours, prices, or attending the Evensong service. I do hope you have the opportunity to visit London and include a visit to St. Paul’s Cathedral — it is a magnificent edifice, worthy of your exploration and respect.
As is common in the travel industry, I was invited to tour St. Paul’s Cathedral so that I could share my experience with you. I am very grateful to the Communications Team for their assistance.