During World War II, newsreel footage reaching America showed St. Paul's Cathedral standing virtually alone among the rubble of the City, its dome lit by fires caused by bombings all around it. That the cathedral survived at all is a miracle, since it was badly hit twice during the early years of the bombardment of London. But St. Paul's is accustomed to calamity, having been burned down three times and destroyed by invading Norsemen. The old St. Paul's was razed during the Great Fire of 1666, making way for a new structure designed by Sir Christopher Wren and built between 1675 and 1710. The cathedral is architectural genius Wren's ultimate masterpiece.
The classical dome of St. Paul's dominates the City's square mile. The golden cross surmounting it is 110m (361 ft.) above the ground; the golden ball on which the cross rests measures 2m (6 1/2 ft.) in diameter, though it looks like a marble from below. In the interior of the dome is the Whispering Gallery, an acoustic marvel in which the faintest whisper can be heard clearly on the opposite side. Sit on one side, have your traveling companions sit on the other, and whisper away. You can climb to the top of the dome for a 360-degree view of London. A second steep climb leads from the Whispering Gallery to the Stone Gallery, which opens onto a panoramic view of London. Another 153 steps take you to the Inner Golden Gallery, situated at the top of the inner dome. Here an even more panoramic view of London unfolds.
- © Frommer's 2013
- Very Highly Recommended 2010