Monday, July 5, 2010

St. Paul's Cathedral

Today we visited the St. Paul's Cathedral Library and were given a guided tour by the Cathedral's charming librarian, Joseph Wisdom. We climbed partway up the stairs to the Whispering Gallery, but branched off to head towards the Library. On the way there we were able to view the Cathedral from what is known as the "BBC View," where BBC television cameras film services. We viewed the lapidarium of medieval stones and then headed into a side room to view the Great Model. The Model was constructed for Christopher Wren in 1673 at a cost of £670, about the cost of an average London house at the time. Wren envisioned this as what St. Paul's would look like. However, the design was rejected as it too closely resembled St. Peter's. Another design was eventually approved and the Cathedral was completed in 1697, 32 years after the Great Fire of London in 1666.

Under Mr. Wisdom's direction we entered the fantastic Cathedral Library. The Library is available for anyone who can make good use of it and had an interesting old book smell. The books are housed on two stories. The center of the library is open and a walkway winds around the upper story. Unfortunately, we were not able to go up as only two people are allowed up at a time due to structural problems.

The original collection was almost entirely destroyed in the Great Fire. Henry Compton (1632-1713), Bishop of London, donated 2,000 books to help rebuild the collection. Currently, the Library only collects works on Wren and the building of the Cathedral, the history of the Church in England, and "alumni" material. To manage and preserve the collection the Library employs a Senior Conservator, an Architectural Archivist, and a Collections Manager. Interestingly, until the mid-20th century, the librarians were in Holy Orders.

After the tour we were free to roam the Cathedral. Although I did not visit the Whispering Gallery, I wandered around the beautiful interior and visited the crypt, which is home to over 200 memorials.

Photos courtesy of the St.Paul's website.


  1. What no picture of the staircase?

  2. The staircase was scary! We did not get to go on it.