Behind the Scenes at St Paul’s Cathedral

St Paul’s Cathedral is one of my favourite places to take people on tours. Not only is a spectacular-looking (both inside and out) but its vastness means there’s always so much more to discover.

It’s filled with impressive sights and artwork on the ground floor and historic monuments in the crypt alongside a revolving temporary display (and cafe!) But also you can scale it, climbing 528 steps to have a look out on a glorious view of London.

So, of course, I jumped at the chance when I had the opportunity to go on a Triforium tour of St Paul’s Cathedral, getting behind the scenes where members of the public can’t usually go.

Behind the Scenes St Paul's Cathedral

Triforium Tour of St Paul’s Cathedral

Triforium simply means a space above the arches of a church. To get to the triforium in St Paul’s Cathedral you have a rather spectacular staircase to climb…

Behind the Scenes St Paul's Cathedral

The Dean’s Stairs (sometimes called the geometric stair) was built by Christopher Wren in 1705. Its 88 stone steps appear to float, rising for 50ft.

Only a small fraction embedded in the wall, each step is perfectly shaped to balance the step before and after itself, with no other means of support.

Once you’re up to the triforium level you get a different, behind the scenes, look at the Cathedral floor.

Behind the Scenes St Paul's Cathedral

Sometimes referred to as ‘The BBC View’, this is the birds eye angle that cameras and reporters have for National events like funerals and weddings.

Glancing to the right you can also spot a number of thin, silver trumpets.

Behind the Scenes St Paul's Cathedral
Referred to as the Royal Trumpets of the Grand Organ, these were installed for The Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977 and are blown whenever Her Majesty enters.

There’s also a smaller organ, used to aid the choir when they stand here. Due to the distance from the main organ, there’s often delays with notes  reverberating around the architecture and so without this organ the choir wouldn’t sound as delightful!

Hidden Treasure Behind the Scenes

They say one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. Well up in the spare attic spaces of St Paul’s Cathedral you find a pleasing amount of important clutter.

This is the top of the huge font which stands inside the main entrance on the Cathedral floor. Carved by Francis Bird in 1726-1727 at a cost of £350, it’s affectionately referred to as the Bird Bath.

Behind the Scenes St Paul's Cathedral

There’s also a spare pulpit, a monument to Captain Robert Fitzgerald (1817-1853) and Punjab Frontier Force.

Behind the Scenes St Paul's Cathedral

Along the base you can read the dedication to Indian regiments; “12 Bombay Native Infantry Command and 5 Punjaub Calvary” It was designed by Francis Cranmer Penrose in 1861, who also designed the Duke of Wellington’s tomb that can be seen in the crypt.

There’s also a collection of broken bits of stones. On the face of it not that interesting. However…

Behind the Scenes St Paul's Cathedral

They are a record of the stone remains from the Great Fire of London in 1666, carefully arranged by architectural style.

But the greatest of all the objects in the triforium storage spaces is a spectacular piece of wooden craftsmanship.

The Great Model

Occupying a room of its own, Christopher Wren’s Great Model is extraordinary.

Behind the Scenes St Paul's Cathedral

Made between 1673-4 out of oak and plaster at a scale of 1:25, this was designed to be a perfect model of the Cathedral in case some disaster should happen to Wren.

Designed to be able to walk through at giant’s eye-level, it’s impossible to get a sense of the scale of this unless I include myself for illustration purposes!

Behind the Scenes St Paul's Cathedral

Ok, so I’m only 4ft 10″ but you get the idea…

Behind the Scenes St Paul's Cathedral

The interior also boasts superb attention to detail and you can even go inside the model, Christopher Wren apparently taking King Charles II on a cramped tour to explain how his Cathedral would look!

Behind the Scenes St Paul's Cathedral

It cost £600 (the same as a decent London house at the time) and was painted a stone colour with gilded details.

It was truly amazing to see it in real life and you can experience it virtually from the outside here and even stand inside it virtually here!

Get Behind the Scenes at St Paul’s Cathedral

Triforium tours cost an extra £8 on top of the admission price to St Paul’s Cathedral (£18 for adults) and run on select dates available listed here.

You might also enjoy my other post about details of St Paul’s Cathedral you can view with general admission tickets. Read it here.

To enquire about booking a private guided tour of the Cathedral you can get in touch for more information. My email address is at the very bottom of this page.

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9 Comments

  • Stewart Francis

    Reply

    Wonderful ‘virtual tour’, Katie, as usual. I liked [for instance] the space rocket hidden in the carvings in the American chapel, and the tip about the view from Queen’s Head Passage – amongst other gems.

    Separately, I enjoyed looking up, from Piccadilly, at the ex-Norwich Union sculptures at high-roof level. A good example how, by your visual observations, you enrich everyday experiences for pedestrians in London!

    January 15, 2020 at 10:59 am
  • Stewart Francis

    Reply

    You’re welcome, Katie. The least I can do in return for your stunning, weekly, virtual/actual walk-around jaunts!

    January 15, 2020 at 11:57 am
  • David Farrell

    Reply

    Hi Katie, absolutely loved your shot of the Dean’s Stairs: you really have an eye for a great photo!
    I think there is something exceptionally beautiful about a spiral staircase…

    January 15, 2020 at 7:30 pm
  • Arjan Geveke

    Reply

    ‘No dome’, the patrons of the rebuilding of St Paul’s allegedly said after its wooden predecessor was lost in the Great Fire.

    January 15, 2020 at 7:50 pm
  • Wendy Johnson

    Reply

    I love the 360 degree tour of the model. What a great thing! Thanks for sharing this with us.

    January 17, 2020 at 12:29 am

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