In Photos: St Paul’s Summer Lates
Each year St Paul’s Cathedral opens its doors on select Summer dates to allow – no – encourage photography.
having visited Sumer Lates a couple of years ago, this time I was ready and armed with a wide angled lens rather than just an iPhone so I hope you enjoy the photos!
Tip: you can get a fantastic view of the North transept and dome from Queens Head Passage near Paternoster Square!
To Start, a fun fact
See that ball at the top of St Paul’s Cathedral?
That’s the one, just under the cross.
In the 1960s it was possible to climb a vertical ladder and actually stand inside the golden ball, peering through slits out onto London *gulp*.
It’s at a height of just shy of 365ft and apparently you could fit around 20 people inside it! Sadly with ‘ealth and safety today, you can only get as far as the railings.
Let’s Head Inside…
If you enter through the right hand side security, on your immediate right (even before they check tickets) is the Dean’s Stair.
You might recognise it as the entrance to Dumbledore’s office in the Harry Potter films, but in real life it was built in 1705. Appearing to float, the 88 Portland stone steps rise for 50 ft and aren’t built into the masonry. Each step is specifically shaped to bear the weight of the next!
Not that you need much encouragement…
Wren’s original plan for the interior dome was mosaics, but in the end James Thornhill was commissioned to paint a monochrome series of the life of St Paul.
Mosaics do make an appearance though, on the eight spandrels (triangular parts) which were finished in late 1800s.
If you can drag your eyes away from the ceiling, the wood carvings deserve attention too. They were completed by Grinling Gibbons, Wren’s go-to-man for sculptural decoration, in the 1690s.
Quire means the same as choir, but often is used in the architectural sense rather than the singing young boys sense. I like using it to seem architecturally fancy.
You can’t actually stand inside the quire, (it’s reserved for the choir), but you can admire the jaw-dropping mosaics.
They’re a lot more recent – completed by William Blake Richard in 1896 – and were a reaction to the common consensus at the time that St Paul’s needed brightening up. When Queen Victoria eventually said that it was “dull, cold, dreary and dingy”, the cathedral took note.
The East End
This is another relative newbie. After a WWII bomb destroyed a large part of the East end, the High Alter was finished in 1958.
The canopy, made of marble and carved oak, was based on sketches by Wren that never got completed.
Of the hundreds of monuments in St Paul’s I just wanted to share my favourite.
John Donne (1573-1631) was known for his sensual poetry and womanising. Not someone you’d expect to see in this holy place.
After a stint as an MP in 1602 he started seeking Royal patronage from James I from 1603, but after some anti-catholic work James wouldn’t reinstate him in court and persuaded him to join the church instead. from his ordainment in 1615, he became Dean of St Paul’s in 1621!
As you might have spotted by the dates, this effigy dates from before the Great Fire and was carved by Nicholas Stone the Elder in 1631. In dramatic fashion the whole tomb fell through the floor of the burning cathedral around the 4th September 1666 and managed to survive the fire.
Beside the memorial there’s also a charred piece of stone from Donne’s original plinth.
Don’t miss the Crypt
If tombs are you bag, then you need to explore the crypt, full of Britain’s great and good, including Lord Nelson, Duke of Wellington and JMW turner.
Only have time for one? Make it Christopher Wren’s understated tomb;
Paraphrasing the Latin inscription, it reads:
“Reader, if you seek his monument, look around.”
Summer Lates has now ended but you can visit the Cathedral all year round Monday – Saturday (including a steep climb to see the view from the dome!) Head to their website for timings and pricing here.
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