St. Paul's survives Nazi German bombing in World War II.
"Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it,
because it shall be revealed by fire, and the fire shall try every man's work
of what sort it is." (St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 3:13)
Photo Credit: U.S. National Archives, 306-NT-3173V
In 1668, Christopher Wren was commissioned to produce a new design for St. Paul's after the old cathedral burned down in the Great Fire of London in 1666. A cathedral had stood on the site since 604. The Norman cathedral which had burned down had taken more than two hundred years to build. Wren was determined to build a wonderful replacement, but in 1669, his first design was rejected, and in 1673 his second plan and Great Model were abandoned. Meanwhile he was rebuilding churches all over London, but he could not seem to get St Paul's right.
In 1675 his third design was finally approved, and built. When the great dome was finished, Wren, now in his seventies, was pulled up in a basket so he could inspect progress.
The 'dome' is actually three domes. "Between the domed ceiling seen from the interior," writes Edward Rutherfurd in London, "and the metalled exterior roof which rises fifty feet higher, there was, not exactly a dome, but a massive brick cone, almost like a kiln." That cone supports the lantern on top and holds everything else in place as well. Around the base of the dome is a great double chain and all the way up the inner cone are bands of stone and iron chains "which hold everything tight, like the metal hoops round a barrel."
Perhaps it is not so surprising that St. Paul's survived the Blitz.
The measurements of the dome are so precise and the air so still that the Royal Society, of which Wren was a founding member, planned to test Newton's theory of gravity here.
The first service was held on December 2, 1697 in the Quire, the part of the building where construction began, and where Grinling Gibbons' extraordinary wood carvings can be seen – "a sea of carving. . .Spreading leaves and sinuous vines, flowers, trumpets, cherubic heads, festoons of fruit. . ." Several tons of oak were used. (London)
According to a recent poll, St. Paul's is the best-loved building in the UK.