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St. Pauls Cathedral

Well it’s stonking, isn’t it?

‘Nuff said, my work here is done….

The basic facts are easy and fairly well known.  The original St. Pauls Cathedral died a horrid death during the Great Fire of London in 1666, along with most of the city and several million rats, a large number of which were carrying Black Death so good riddance really.  The brand spanking new St. Pauls Cathedral which we all know and love was built by Christopher Wren as part of his plan to remodel London post-fire into a glorious new, shiny city.  Unfortunately all Christopher Wren’s good intentions were rather undermined by the determination of the people of London to get on with things regardless of whether the city looked good or worked well around them while they did so, and thus only a few icons of Wren’s metropolis were actually ever built.  St. Pauls Cathedral, I think we can all agree, is a pretty stonking symbol of what might have been.

Although it is still very much a house of God – something I, as an athiest tourist find a little disconcerting, to be honest – there is a £17 entry fee to anyone not intended to say friendly things at the Creator, except for a few rare days of the year.  One of these days – that of the Lord Mayor’s Show – was the day I went for precisely this reason, with my favourite stage manager and script supervisor, to have a nose round the interior.  The crypt famously houses a whole host of bigwigs, of whom Horatio Nelson has got the first class ticket booth, no question.  Rather less well known is that the crypt was also the place where my Great Uncle Reg (I kid you not) spent a large part of the London Blitz hiding out playing cards.  He, along with four other artists serving with the fire service, had been conscripted into fire watch duty from the top of St. Pauls, on the rather naive belief that, as artists, they’d care passionately about the fate of the historical landmarks around them.  However, as the bombs fell and large parts of the city burnt, it seemed that art lost out to the wonders of a well-insulated, underground, reinforced bunker beneath a cathedral…

Miraculously, and perhaps despite my Uncle Reg rather than thanks to him, St. Pauls survived the Blitz unscathed and has, in recent years, been cleaned, revealing that its soot-grey stones are in fact bright white marble.  Tourists now surround its dome, which still commands a fairly respectable view of the city, while more tourists go into the Whispering Gallery just inside the dome where, so the stories go, you can put your ear to the walls on one side of the gallery, and someone can whisper into the stones on the other side, and you will hear them speak as if they were stood right next to you.

Two minutes walk from the Millennium Bridge, and ten minutes from London Bridge, Blackfrairs, Holborn, Clerkenwell and Bank, the cathedral itself is now something of an island in a sea of one-way traffic systems.  It’s also still a camping ground for the Occupy London protestors, who are camped out (very neatly now) in front of its steps.  This is not the entry in which I discuss this particular movement, except to say that there’s a lot to protest about at the moment and I’m quite chuffed someone is doing it, even if I question some of the tactics involved…

In other trivia, St. Pauls Cathedral was the centrepiece for the final showdown of the first Horatio Lyle novel, in which the laws of physics were used and then really rather abused to, I think, spectacular effect.  For anyone out there who doesn’t know what I’m talking about… go read…

The photos below are nearly all taken by Gina Pratsis, my favourite script supervisor, except for the exterior shot, which is mine!