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Monday, March 20, 2017

Literary Experience in London 2017: Rowan Yeni on St. Paul's Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral is an Anglican cathedral and an iconic London landmark dating back to 604 AD. St Paul’s was founded by Saint Mellitus, a monk who arrived in Britain with Saint Augustine, in 604 AD on a mission from the pope. The present Cathedral is considered the treasure of one of Britain's most famous architects, Sir Christopher Wren, and is thought to be at least the fourth building to have stood on the site. It was constructed from 1675 to 1710 after its predecessor was destroyed in the Great Fire of London, and the first services were held in 1697. This was the first Cathedral to be built after the English Reformation in the sixteenth century and is today the seat of the Bishop of London and the mother church of the Diocese of London.

St. Paul's (image by Rowan Yeni)
On our visit to the cathedral, we were first struck by the sheer size of the building. The structure is massive taking up a whole city block and a massive dome rising u and dominating the skyline on London. Upon entering the inside was just as impressive as the exterior. Sky high, magnificently painted ceilings, ornately carved archways, and a stunning golden alter all add to the grandeur of the brilliant cathedral floor. After a brief moment of admiration, we quickly made our way to the stairs to get an up close view of the iconic dome.

St. Paul's dome (image by Rowan Yeni)
We made our way up a spiral staircase until we reached the whispering gallery, the first level of the dome. From this platform, we were able to see the beautiful paintings covering the enormous dome. As we walked around the balcony we were able to experience the whispering the gallery is named after as other visitors whispered into the walls and we heard them from the opposite side. One student likened this to the whispers heard by Hogwarts students in the Chamber of Secrets, an apt reference for the eerie whispers of disembodied voices. From here we walked up another staircase to the first outdoor platform of the dome, the Stone Gallery. From the outside of the dome, we had an amazing view of London and enjoyed bing able to spot places we recognized and watch the city bustle beneath us. After taking in the sights we made our way back inside to climb up a final, seemingly endless, spiral staircase to the final level of the dome, the Golden Gallery. This platform was much smaller and considerably more crowded but had a breathtaking bird’s-eye view of the city.

City view (image by Marisa Sully)

While we thoroughly enjoyed our visit we were confused as to why St. Paul’s charges for admission. As one Villanova student remarked, “I feel like a church should be free, it doesn’t seem right for a church to take our money just for a visit.” As a group we largely agreed and after our visit decided to look into it as we’ve encountered this in many churches around Europe during our travels. After returning home Lisa found an interesting article about a man who objected to paying a fee to see St. Paul’s. This man’s experience echoed our concerns and gave some interesting insight into the consequences of churches requiring entrance fees for people wishing to tour religious spaces. 

Visit the Literary Experience in London 2017 blog here.