According to the writings of St.Bede an English Monk who lived between 673-735, who wrote the works: “Ecclesiastical History of the English People,” in Latin, we learn much of its early history.
Pope Gregory I sent Mellitus, a member of the Gregorian mission to England in June AD601, in a response to an appeal from Augustine the first Archbishop of Canterbury. His mission was to convert the Anglo-Saxons from their native paganism to Christianity.
Archaelogical evidence tells us there was a late-Roman Episcopalsee in Lundenwic better known to us now as London, and this became the chosen city of the first Saxon cathedral built by Mellitus in AD604. He who would become the first Bishop of London, and the third Archbishop of Canterbury, and was buried in St.Augustine’s Abbey in Canterbury on 24thApril AD624.
The early cathedral had been made in a rudimental styled chapel, and constructed out of wood, which was the common building material at the time.
It is a consensus of opinion that the building may have been destroyed after he left the city and took up the post of Archbishop of Canterbury, by his pagan successors.
The cathedral was rebuilt in AD886, and completely destroyed by fire in AD 962.
A new cathedral was built in 962, and it housed the body of King Ethelred I, the Saxon King who died in 871. Sadly the building was destroyed by fire, along with the whole city in 1087.
The rebuild of St.Pauls commenced by the Normans after the fire in 1087, and took over 200 years to complete, but the fire of 1136 destroyed much of the building.
They never learnt their mistakes from previous builds, for they constructed the roof out of wood, which would ultimately doom the building to disaster.
In 1240 the church was consecrated, and by 1256 an enlargement programme had been started, it was consecrated in 1300 and completed in 1314.
It was to become the third-longest church in all Europe at 585 feet, 100 feet wide, 290 feet across the transepts and crossing with a spire some 489 feet bursting towards the skyline.
Henry VIII came to the throne on 21stApril 1509, but it was his zest for a male heir and son to the English Throne, which started the conflict with the Pope. Eventually by Act of Parliament, he made himself head of the Church of England.
The Royal coffer’s needed money, and High Church officials, had become rich figureheads in Henry’s eyes.
For it was in 1538, Henry took his most forceful step against the power and wealth of the church. “The Dissolution of the Monasteries,” which led to the destruction of interior ornamentation, the cloisters, crypts, chapels and shrines. Much of the building materials of St.Paul’s was used in the construction of Somerset House.
In 1561, lightning destroyed the spire of St.Paul’s; Protestants and Roman Catholics believed it was a sign of God’s displeasure.
Inigo Jones, an English classical architect of the time, added the west front in the 1630’s. During the Civil War, the building suffered much… Then St.Paul’s was gutted by fire, during the “Great Fire of London in 1666.”
While the building might have been saved, a major construction would be required, and it was at this point, they decided to build a new St.Paul’s Cathedral. The task was assigned to Sir Christopher Wren on 30thJuly 1669.
It was not until June 1675, that the first stone was laid. He had submitted five designs, and the accepted design resembled that of St.Peter’s Basilica in Rome, with saucer domes inspired by the works of Francois Mansart’s Val-de-Grace, as he had seen in Paris.
In 1666, a spark from Farryner’s bakery had caused the “Great Fire of London,” and it was not until December 1697, that the newly built St.Paul’s cathedral, opened its doors for use.
The Right Reverend Henry Compton, Bishop of London, preached the first sermon to echo through the walls, of this grand new cathedral. He based his sermon on Psalm 122; “I was glad when they said unto me: Let us go into the house of the Lord.”
The final stone, placed on the lantern, took place in October 1708, and Parliament declared it officially completed on 25thDecember 1711. Additional work carried on, for the next few years, which included roof statues in the 1720’s.
The Cathedral is built of Portland stone, sat on the soft London earth in a Renaissance style, that represents Wren’s vision of an English Baroque building. It rises 365 feet high, dominating both the historical and modern city of London.
Located off the Nave are the chapels:
The Chapel of All Souls
The Chapel of St.Dunstan
The Chapel of St,Michael
The Chapel of St.George
The inner dome, rises 108.4 metres and holds three circular galleries:
The Whispering Gallery
The Stone Gallery
The Golden Gallery
The clock mechanism was built in 1893 by Smith’s of Derby, and similar in design to that used in Big Ben.
The north-west tower houses thirteen bells, whilst the south-west houses four bells, including the Great Paul bell weighing in at 16.5 tons cast in 1881 by Taylor’s bell foundry of Loughborough.
The organ currently dates back to 1694, when it was commissioned during the reign of William III and Mary, and is the third largest organ in use in Great Britain. It containes 7,266 pipes with 5 manuals, 189 ranks of pipes, and 108 stops enclosed in a case built by Grinling Gibbons.
London was targeted night after night during World War Two, as thousands of bombs were dropped on her, and much was destroyed but St.Paul’s managed to survive, little scathed by the events.
On 12thSeptember 1940 a time-delayed bomb struck her, and was successfully defused. Another bomb hit her her on 10thOctober 1940, causing minor damage. Then on 29thDecember 1940, the cathedral came close to being be destroyed, when an incendiary bomb got lodged into the dome, but fell onto the Stone Gallery and was put out before it could do any damage.
The cathedral crypt holds some two hundred plus memorials, and the first person to be interred was Sir Christopher Wren in 1723. The words written above his tomb: Reader, if you seek his monument, look around you.
Most of the memorials found within the walls of St.Paul’s Cathedral, commemorate British military personnel. There are special monuments for: Lord Nelson, Duke of Wellington, T.E.Lawrence, and Florence Nightingale.
The Cathedral has seen many famous funerals: Horatio Nelson, Duke of Wellington and Sir Winston Churchill.
There is an American Memorial Chapel in the Apse (at the eastern end), for the 28,000 Americans who were stationed in England during World War Two, and lost their lives in battle.
A Roll of Honour sits before the Chapel’s altar. Three windows within the chapel are centred on the theme of service and sacrifice, with the US armed forces insignia around the edges.