London's Top 10 : St Paul's Cathedral (part 1)

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This is the great masterpiece of Sir Christopher Wren, who rebuilt the City’s churches after the Great Fire of 1666. Completed in 1708, it was England’s first purpose-built Protestant cathedral, and has many similarities with St Peter’s in Rome, notably in its enormous ornate dome. It has the largest swinging bell in Europe, Great Paul, which strikes every day at 1pm. The hour bell, Great Tom, strikes the hour and marks the death of royalty and senior churchmen. The cathedral has a reputation for music, and draws its choristers from St Paul’s Cathedral School.

  • St Paul’s Cathedral, Ludgate Hill EC4

  • 020 7236 4128


  • Cathedral: Open 8:30am–4pm Mon–Sat

  • Galleries: 9:30am–4pm Mon–Sat

  • Admission: adults £11; children 7–16 £3.50 (under-6s free); seniors £10; students £8.50; family £25.50; group rates available, call for details

  • Guided tours at 10.45am, 11:15am, 1:30pm, 2pm (fee charged, call for details)

St Paul’s History

The first known church dedicated to St Paul was built on this site in AD 604. Made of wood, it burned down in 675 and a subsequent church was destroyed by Viking invaders in 962. The third church was built in stone. Following another fire in 1087, it was rebuilt under the Normans as a much larger cathedral, with stone walls and a wooden roof. This was completed in 1300. In 1666 Christopher Wren’s plans to restore the building had just been accepted when the Great Fire of London burned the old cathedral to the ground.

Cathedral Floorplan

St Paul’s semi-circular South Porch

Food and drink in the Crypt Café.

The most popular service is the choral evensong (usually at 5pm daily) when you can hear the choir.

Guided tours and audio guides are available.

Top 10 Features
  1. West Front and Towers

    The imposing West Front is dominated by two huge towers. The pineapples at their tops are symbols of peace and prosperity. The Great West Door is 9 m (29 ft) high and is used only for ceremonial occasions.

  2. Dome

    One of the largest domes in the world, it is 111 m (365 ft) high and weighs 65,000 tonnes. The Golden Gallery at the top, and the larger Stone Gallery, both have great views.

  3. Whispering Gallery

    Inside the dome is the famous Whispering Gallery. Words whispered against the wall can be heard on the opposite side of the gallery.

  4. Quire

    The beautiful stalls and organ case in the Quire are by Grinling Gibbons. Handel and Mendelssohn both played the organ, which dates from 1695.

  5. OBE Chapel

    At the eastern end of the crypt is a chapel devoted to men and women who received the Order of the British Empire, a military and civil honour established in 1917, and the first to include women.

  6. High Altar

    The magnificent High Altar is made from Italian marble, and the canopy is from a sketch by Wren. The large candlesticks are copies of a 16th-century pair made for Cardinal Wolsey.

  7. The Light of the World

    This painting by the Pre-Raphaelite artist Holman Hunt dates from c.1900. It shows Christ knocking on a door that opens from inside, meaning that God can enter our lives only if we invite Him in.

  8. Tijou Gates

    The French master metal worker Jean Tijou designed these ornate wrought iron gates in the North Quire Aisle, along with the Whispering Gallery balcony and other cathedral metalwork.

  9. Mosaics

    Colourful mosaic ceilings were installed in the Quire and Ambulatory in the 19th century. They are made with irregular cubes of glass, set at angles so that they sparkle.

  10. Moore’s Mother and Child

    The sculptor Henry Moore is commemorated in the crypt. This piece is one of a growing number of independent works of art that have been introduced into St Paul’s since the 1960s.

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