Since the time of its consecration St. Paul Cathedral has been the Metropolitan Cathedral of London, in fact, the main cathedral of England. The cathedral is in the center of London, on the former site of people`s meeting as far back as pagan times. At the Roman period there was a temple of Diana.
The first Christian temple was built on the site of today cathedral in 604 by the missionary Mellitus, who was sent by the Pope to preach Christianity in England. St. Paul was the patron of London and it was just in his honor that the temple was built in England.
In the course of the following centuries the cathedral had been repeatedly destroyed by fires or barbarians, however, each time there were rebuilt a new building of the temple on this site. St. Paul`s Cathedral, founded in 1067 and consecrated in 1240, was one of the greatest temples in Europe. It was much larger than today`s building of the cathedral. With the spire of 150 meters, it was the tallest construction in Europe (today`s spire reaches the height of 111 meters). However, this huge cathedral was burnt down during the fire of 1666, and the spire was hit by a lightning stroke as far back as 1561.
10 years later Christopher Rennes was entrusted with the task to reconstruct the cathedral. Construction commission several times turned down his projects. The English needed a cathedral, which would fully reflect the magnificence of the empire, as well as the spirit of the Church of England. The cathedral had to compete with Rome itself.
It just happened this way, even though during the construction Rennes didn’t strictly followed the design, and the cathedral was somehow similar to St. Peter`s Basilica. It has been believed that the dome of the cathedral strongly resembled that of St. Peter`s Basilica. Today this isn’t as important. The cathedral was consecrated in 1710 and since that time it has remained intact, even at the time of the strongest bombing of London during World War II.
For centuries the great people of England have been buried in the crypt of the cathedral. There are over two hundred tombs, including those of Admiral Nelson, Duke Wellington, Lawrence of Arabia and many other prominent people. You should single out the tomb of John Donne, dean of the cathedral, who was famous for his sermons. There are no graves of kings, as all of them were buried in Westminster Abbey.
The famous Whispering Gallery is under the dome of the cathedral. They believe that if you say something on one side of the gallery, your words can be heard on the other side of the gallery, at the distance of some 32 meters. If you have strength and desire, you should ascend to the Stone Gallery, just under the dome of the cathedral. It gives a wonderful panorama of the historical center of London. Still higher, at the top of the dome, Golden Gallery is located, but, alas, tourists can`t enter it.
The main west facade is decorated with a huge 30-meter portico. There was depicted the story of Saul`s conversion, the moment when the Lord was turning to him with the words «Saul, why are you sending me away?» Bell towers are near the portico. The largest bell in England - «Big Paul» - is in the right-hand tower (it weighs 16 tonnes).