August 30   1 comment

The 30th was our last full day in London, and we spent it at St Paul’s Cathedral.  We got there at lunchtime, so started out by having lunch in their crypt cafe.  Then, fortified, we proceeded to the cathedral floor.

Photography is not allowed inside St Paul’s. Only on the outside bits – the galleries of the dome – can you take pictures – which explains why I have so few pictures to share with you today. But for more, see the St Paul’s website:

http://www.stpauls.co.uk/Cathedral-History/Explore-the-Cathedral-Floor

The design character and interior (well, and exterior, for that matter) of  St Paul’s is very, very different from Salisbury Cathedral, the other major cathedral we’ve seen on this trip. St Paul’s is much, much larger and the dimensional space inside is defined by cylindrical, or barrel, shapes and of course, dome shapes.  Salisbury Cathedral is defined by arches and spire shapes. The classical influence (read: Greek/Roman) at St Paul’s is marked. And in fact, the statues inside, overwhelmingly of fallen military heroes, echo the roman portrait sculptures we saw at the British Museum and at the V &A.

These were more touching than I imagined, as many of the inscriptions told of the deeds done and even at what battle and by what means the hero was slain. They actually did use the word ‘slain’ on more than one monument – interesting choice of words  – as if the opponents were murderers, rather than equal foes on field of battle. War is incredibly stupid, no matter how you look at it, and the spin doctors of each age do their part to lay the gilding on thick.

On the cathedral floor level, the thing I loved most  were the ceilings above the Quire – richly tiled in mosaic, the effect was marvelous. The use of gold was particularly effective, though I was surprised at how ‘Popish’ the cathedral appeared. But this was not a reformation church, after all.

And while we were there, a choir came in and became rehearsing – the acoustics in the nave are marvelous. This was a small masterworks choir of maybe 24 singers, and they were excellent. I could have sat there for hours listening, it was very beautiful. And listening to them stop and start the rehearsal to fix and polish various sections made me want to join a choir again -it reminded me of how much I loved that experience.

In the Crypt we saw Wren’s tomb, as well as William Blake’s, and those of many other illustrious citizens. One in particular – I wish I had jotted down his name – struck me  – it was a monument to a doctor, who had dedicated his life to science and the alleviation of suffering. I was heartened to see him included, and his deeds set down for posterity in a monument.

We climbed a spiral staircase of double-wide, shallow oak stair treads to the Whispering Gallery, which is inside the dome. We tried to communicate from across the dome by whispering, but there were so many other people trying to do the same that it was a bit difficult to sort out which whisper was which.

From there, we proceeded up, through a series of narrower stone staircases, to the Stone Gallery on the outside of the dome. This Gallery is quite wide, but the balustrade is also quite high and it makes the view a bit difficult.

Lis on the Stone Gallery

So then, we went all the way up to the Golden Gallery, which is the highest point on the dome that one can visit unless you have an in with the Bishop or the Mayor of London. This is accessed via a series of hair-raising iron spiral staircases of which the treads are narrow and steep, and it’s unnervingly easy to see how high up and exposed you are inside the dome. (Aside: there are about a million locked doors which are accessed via these little staircases – I assume they’re access doors for maintenance of various parts of the cathedral – but so, so, so very intriguing! I would love nothing more than to get an insider’s tour of this place!)

Lis, caution on the Golden Gallery

Eventually we emerged onto the Golden Gallery, the highest point on the outside of the dome that we could get to, which is quite narrow and gives glorious views of London. Lisbeth was a bit frightened of this whole last trek, so we didn’t spend much time on this level – plus it was a bit crowded – so after having a bit of a look around, we went back down (passing another series of mysterious doors, all different this time, as the way up and the way down are so very narrow that they must necessarily be strictly one-way routes.)

Here is a photo that shows where the Stone and Golden Galleries appear on the dome exterior.

Top arrow: Golden Gallery. Bottom arrow: Stone Gallery.

Eventually we headed back to our apartment via double-decker red bus, to rest and pack and get ready for departure to Burghley on the 31st.

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Posted August 31, 2011 by Evelyn in Uncategorized

One response to “August 30

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  1. Lovely! I remember visiting St. Paul’s a long time ago. Wish I had kept a journal! Hope you have a safe trip to Burghley.

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