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.
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…
The Dean’s Stairs (sometimes called the geometric stair) was designed by Christopher Wren in 1705 and built by William Kempster. 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.
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.
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.
There’s also a spare pulpit, a monument to Captain Robert Fitzgerald (1817-1853) and Punjab Frontier Force.
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…
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.
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!
Ok, so I’m only 4ft 10″ but you get the idea…
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!
It cost £600 (the same as a decent London house at the time) and was painted a stone colour with gilded details.
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.