St Paul’s Cathedral, London.

On top of the world…

In which we learn very little about St Paul’s, but thoroughly enjoy the views…

I went up to London last week with the Number One Daughter. We decided it was time to visit St Paul’s Cathedral.

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Well, we started off with the best of intentions – we tuned in to our audio-guides and dutifully followed the route it described. But oh dear me, it was so dull. (Whoever wrote that script didn’t have teenage girls in mind for the audience – or middle-aged history junkies for that matter – although if you suffer from insomnia, do give it a go…).

So you can imagine after half an hour, we were beginning to lose the will to carry on. But then, suddenly – who knows, perhaps an act of divine intervention – we spotted the sign for the galleries.

Now bell-ringers will always want to see how far up a tower they can get – and we’re both ringers, so naturally we followed the sign.

First we reached the Whispering Gallery inside the dome, looking down into the cathedral – very impressive of course. Then, we carried on to the Stone Gallery – this one is outside – look at the picture above and the Stone Gallery is at the bottom of the dome section before it descends vertically. Or click on this link here which shows you a cross-section of the dome construction.

The official website describes the views as breathtaking – I totally agree.

Well, you know what’s coming next don’t you. Yep, we went up to the Golden Gallery (that’s the one at the top, just below the square lantern) – 528 steps from the bottom apparently, although to be honest, we didn’t count.

Normally on historic visits, we think about the events or people connected with a location, but St Paul’s sits on what you might call the history epicentre of England. So much history has happened on that spot, or within the views from the dome, that you could fill a library with it. So instead, here are a few of the pictures we took from the galleries – let your own imaginations add the historical context of your choice.

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Looking across at the River Thames and the new footbridge which brings you right up to St Paul’s. But can you see The Globe over on the other side? I tried to imagine what London looked like when Shakespeare was alive…

IMAG3663Paternoster Square was flattened during the Blitz, now redeveloped and home to the London Stock Exchange and big names in banking – more information here.

IMAG3639The bells of St Paul’s are housed in these towers – you have to be very good at ringing to be invited to ring here (no never, since you ask…).

IMAG3648The city skyline has changed so much over the last twenty years, for me it makes connecting with the past very difficult. Dotted in there are post-1666 churches and the Monument, but you have to search very hard to find them. Oh and I hadn’t realised that Isengard was in south London, did you?…

IMAG3643Even the river has had to conform to human directions, but I suppose it is one feature that our ancestors would have recognised.

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Fascinating really – all those buildings, each with its own history – its own story – mind-blowing.

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It isn’t cheap visiting St Paul’s, but I’ll probably try it again because I really don’t feel we connected with the building and its history – but I think I’ll do my homework and take my own guide next time.

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