London’s landscape is dotted with beautiful structures and historic sites. For centuries the city has been a melting pot of art and design and the streets and squares have provided a fresh canvas for the world’s best architects to create buildings that have become part of London’s charm. They have also helped build the city into what it is today.
Just a short trip on the Tube will take you from the Park Grand Lancaster Gate to the iconic St Paul’s Cathedral, which is one of London’s most prized structures. Since it was built, St Paul’s has been a place of worship and pilgrimage for Christians all over the world. Even those who don’t follow Christianity still venture to this beautiful site to admire the stunning design. We’ve put together this quick guide so you can learn more about the building’s history and how it has become part of London’s architectural fabric.
On the site where the current St Paul’s Cathedral sits once stood a Roman temple dedicated to Diana. After the fall of the empire and the introduction of Christianity, there were multiple iterations of churches dedicated to the patron St Paul. In AD 604 a cathedral was built, only to be destroyed by fire. Later that century its replacement was destroyed by Viking invaders. Even the third time wasn’t a charm as the cathedral built in 1087 also burned down after an accidental fire. It wasn’t until 1240 that the Normans managed to complete the building and construct what is known today as Old St Paul’s.
For a long time, the cathedral was admired by leaders from all over Europe and stood proudly as the tallest building in London. Eventually, it became dilapidated from a lack of care and fell into disrepair. After being used for centuries as a place of worship, a barracks during the Civil War and a place of trade, the building was burned down once again in the Great Fire of London.
In 1669 the famous architect, Sir Christopher Wren was assigned the task of designing the new St Paul’s Cathedral on the same site. After his plans were officially approved in 1675, construction on the new building was carried out until its completion in 1710.
The overall design of the cathedral by Wren was inspired by earlier work by architects such as Inigo Jones. Wren maintained that the layout was intended to reflect the architectural traditions of authentic medieval cathedrals. The most recognisable part of the building is the iconic dome that sits in the centre of the building, which was inspired by Michelangelo’s dome at St Peter’s Basilica.
The mighty twin-towered structure stands at 365 feet tall and stretches to 518 feet wide, making it one of the biggest places of worship in the country. The gorgeous white exterior is made primarily from Portland stone and stands out as a beacon of cultural creativity in a sea of grey buildings. Today the structure still stands at the same site in St Paul’s Churchyard in the heart of London.