St. Paul's, London
( Originally Published 1915 )
The largest and most modern of the English cathedrals, was erected under the supervision of one architect, one master-mason, and one bishop, who lived to see it built, between 1675 and 1710. Sir Christopher Wren laid the foundation of the existing building June 21, 1675. It is built on the site of a former structure, one of the grandest of medieval churches, which was burned in the great fire in 1666.
Wren's trials were various and great, and in some things he erred, yet he proved to be, as a man and an architect, one of the noblest produced by his country, and his triumph after long struggles was such as few men secure.
The position of St. Paul's is noble and appropriate, and has sufficient elevation to give due prominence to the chief church of a mighty city, from the very heart of which the vast form arises amid the people in their daily life. It is the great landmark of London.
The exterior, the first thing to strike the eye of the traveler as he approaches from a distance, shows, throughout, two orders in two lofty stories, two high western towers or cupolas, and the immense mass of the dome, the drum of which is girdled by a colonnade.
St. Paul's is built in the form of a cross and bears a strong resemblance to St. Peter's at Rome. Its length from west to east is five hundred feet. The exterior is of two orders, the lower story Corinthian, and the upper story Composite. The lower story front, with its long and wide flight of steps, is very impressive as we come down the crowded Strand on the top of a 'bus. We notice the columns of the porch, while at right and left the wall is broken by pilasters and blind windows of the Renaissance pattern, but not very much ornamented. The second story presents similar features, but notice the central part surmounted by a pediment, the gable filled with sculpture. The dome is the crowning feature. Compare it with St. Peter's and the one at Florence. The height of the dome of the Pantheon is the same as its diameter, that of St. Peter's is twice its diameter, that of St. Paul's one and a half times its diameter.
The interior shows the effect of space of strong masses, and of broad plain surfaces divided by elaborate architectural ornament. The interior coloring is a whitish gray, relieved by lavish gilding on rich raised work in the high-arched ceiling. The monuments form worthy rivals to those in any church in the world military heroes, painters, engineers, and scientific men.
The view from the golden gallery, a broad stone walk around the outside of the base of the cupola, is unique, extending as it does across the most enormous stretch of human habitations to be seen on earth.
The services held daily and three times on Sunday are impressive. There are special services for notable occasions. One of the most striking of them, held in June, is the annual meeting of the charity children of London who, to the number 3,500, are grouped in seats that rise in long slopes from the pavement to the arches above the aisles. The whites and scarlets of the girls' dresses are strongly contrasted with the black of the boys' clothing. Finally the many thousands on the floor unite with the children in the full service. " One can seldom feel such a thrill," says Hunnewell, " as is given by the simplicity and power of the children's singing with its precision, tone and freshness joined with that of the great congregation."
STORY AND ANECDOTE
When St. Paul's was building, one of the board of directors insisted that it should have a spire. Wren drew a plan with a gorgeous spire on top of the dome, but never meant that it should be built. It still remains on paper.
Macaulay's imagination pictures a future time when some traveler from New Zealand should stand upon a The Renaissance broken arch of London bridge and in the midst of a vast solitude sketch the ruins of St. Paul's. In the year of the great plague in London, three hundred beds were placed in the church.
In, the year 1600, the wonderful dancing horse, named Morocco, shod with silver shoes walked up one of the towers of St. Paul's.
It is the only Renaissance cathedral in England, and is the only cathedral in England that has a dome.
It is said that the cost of St. Paul's, about four million dollars, was paid by a tax on all the coal brought into London.
Upon the grave of Christopher Wren is the inscription, " Reader, if you would see my monument, look around you." In beginning the work Wren accidentally drew the dome and its dimensions upon a gravestone inscribed " Resurgam " I shall rise again. This circumstance is commemorated in the cathedral itself by a stone over the pediment of the southern portal upon which is sculptured a Phoenix rising from the flames with the motto " Resurgam."