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St. Pauls Cathedral was opened

On the 2nd December, 1697, the new St. Paul’s Cathedral was opened for worship in London, England.

StpaulscathedralTDITA cathedral of some kind, dedicated to London’s patron saint (St. Paul) has existed in Ludgate Hill in London since way back in 604AD. But disaster after disaster would bring St. Paul’s church buildings to ruins, before Sir Christopher Wren’s architectural marvel (completed in full in 1710) would survive into the 21st century.

The first St. Paul’s was a wooden church erected in 604AD, which was destroyed by fire seventy years later, and then rebuilt by 685AD. The Vikings then destroyed this building in 962AD. Again, the church was rebuilt (this time in stone) but was destroyed by fire in 1087. Then construction on what we now know as Old St. Paul’s began, and would continue for another 200 years. When completed, it was the tallest church in Europe, standing at 489 feet (149 metres) tall.

Old St. Paul’s would stand for another 300 years, but not without further hardship. In 1549, a mob attacked the cathedral’s interior, alters, and tombs. The spire was later struck by lightening, and as people lost respect for the Church, Old St. Pauls and many other churches became run down. Eventually it became a place of trade instead of worship. During the English Civil War, soldiers took hold of Old St. Paul’s to use as barracks, and they sold off pieces of the cathedral itself.

When the monarchy was restored in 1660, King Charles II removed the merchants, and requested that Christopher Wren prepare plans for the building’s repair. Wren had only just begun to get started when the Great Fire of London struck in 1666, which destroyed two thirds of the great city of London. Plans for reconstruction of the city got underway within days. Wren produced a beautiful plan for the city (including a new cathedral), but unfortunately Londoners began rebuilding the city before his plans could take effect. Instead, King Charles II called upon Wren to rebuild London’s churches, the greatest of which, was St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Old St. Paul’s received provisional repairs, but the structure of the building was not secure. In desperation, Wren was asked to design a new building in 1668, and the Old St. Pauls cathedral was demolished. The following year, Wren produced his first design, but the church rejected it as they felt it was too modern. Wren’s second design of a large dome and Greek Cross was also rejected by the Church, because it was felt to be too Catholic.

Then in 1675, Wren presented the Church with the design they had wanted. It was a traditional English design, with a much smaller dome, and a steeple. This design was approved with a royal warrant, with the curious proviso that allowed Wren to make “variations, rather ornamental than essential”. Wren expoited this to no end, secretly adding in drastic changes to make the design more like his second drawings. During construction, the new cathedral was quite literally “under wraps”. So much so, that by the time anyone had figured out what Wren was actually doing, it was too late to do anything about it.

Most of the cathedral was built with Portland stone. Wren insisted on the finest materials, and enlisted the help of master craftsmen. Wren was very active, and inspected the progress every week.

The first completed section of St. Paul’s cathedral was the Quire, which was opened on the 2nd December, 1697. At this stage, the dome had not yet been completed. Fearing that the progress had been too slow, Parliament decided to hold back half of Wren’s salary until the cathedral was finally completed in 1710. The total cost of the new St. Paul’s had scaled to £738,845 (a modern equivalent of around £50 million).

At the end of the construction, Wren was met with strong criticism, and his plans were often disregarded. However, he still came to visit the cathedral regularly until his death in 1723 at the age of 91. He became the first person to be buried in St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Unfortunately, St. Paul’s lost most of it’s ceremonial gold and silver through a robbery in 1810.

Then with the outbreak of WW2, the St. Paul’s firewatch was reformed, just in time for the German ‘Blitzkrieg’ attack across major cities in the UK. Thankfully, St. Paul’s did not suffer any major damage, but the surrounding buildings were destroyed. When the war was finally over in 1945, St. Pauls held services that were attended by approximately 35,000 people.

St. Paul’s Cathedral is a heritage site that is internationally recognised. Thousands of people come to visit St. Paul’s every year to worship, find peace, and appreciate this magnificent piece of architecture, as well as it’s beautiful interior.