St. Paul's Cathedral

St Paul's Cathedral is one of the most famous buildings in the world, and it is also one of the greatest survivors!

There was once a Roman temple on the site, dedicated to the goddess Diana. Since then there have been four different Christian buildings. The first Christian church was built by the Saxon King, Ethelbert of Kent. Being made of wood it didn't stand a chance and was eventually burnt down. It was rebuilt in stone but that didn't work either as it was destroyed in a Viking invasion. When the Saxons used wood again on the third church, it was doomed to be destroyed by fire again!

When old St Paul's was built in the time of William the Conqueror, stone from Northern France was used and it was much taller and wider than it is today. During the reign of King Henry VIII, financial problems meant there wasn't enough money for the cathedral's upkeep. Parts of it were destroyed and a market place was set up inside selling, bread, meat, fish and beer!

The first public lottery was held at St Paul's by the West Door. But instead of the profits going to the cathedral they went to the country's harbours. Elizabeth I granted money to the cathedral for repairs and an architect was appointed. Inigo Jones cleared out the shops and market place ready for repairs. However it fell in to decay again when soldiers used it as barracks during the Civil War.

Christopher Wren, the cathedral's final architect, was asked to restore it. Before he could make much progress, parts of it were destroyed by the Great Fire of London, which started in a baker's shop in Pudding Lane and raged for five days, destroying many of the buildings in the City.

Christopher Wren started once more with a magnificent vision of St Paul's and the rest of the City. He laid the foundation stone for the cathedral in 1675. Thirty-five years later he set the final stone in place. When he died he was buried in his own magnificent building.

The clock tower on the West Side houses the bell known as Great Paul. At three metres in diameter, it is the heaviest swinging bell in the country. Of course there is the famous dome and the cross on top is 365 feet from the ground. It is the second largest cathedral dome in the world. Only St Paul's in Rome is bigger.

One feature you will find interesting is the Whispering Gallery, where you can whisper at one wall, and then hear what you whispered on the opposite wall 107 feet away!