Learn about one of London's most iconic landmarks with these facts about St. Paul's Cathedral
From state funerals to exciting art installations, St. Paul's Cathedral embraces tradition and innovation and remains a popular site for tourists. So, as one of the star attractions on The London Pass, here are a few facts about St. Paul's Cathedral to help you prepare for your visit.
St Paul's Cathedral is the fourth church to stand on the site
Dating all the way back to 604 AD, the land that St Paul's Cathedral stands upon has been consecrated ground for a very long time, with three different predecessors. The Great Fire of London in 1666 saw the Cathedral's previous iteration destroyed. Sir Christopher Wren, an architect instrumental in rebuilding the city, designed the version that exists today.
The dome is one of the largest in the world
Joining the likes of the Roman Pantheon, St Paul's Cathedral boasts one of the biggest domes in the world at 366 feet high. Scale hundreds of steps to the top and bask in the architecture - don't forget to spend some time in its famous Whispering Gallery on the way up.
The Whispering Gallery transmits the quietest whisper across the dome
Due to the specific design of the cathedral's dome, sound carries incredibly well across the Whispering Gallery - a walkway thirty metres up. Try it for yourself with a friend and see how quietly you can whisper to one another from the opposite sides.
Martin Luther King once gave a sermon at St Paul's Cathedral
In 1964, Martin Luther King was invited to speak by Canon John Collins. The congregation totalled over three thousand, all packed into the Cathedral. Aside from being an activist, Martin Luther King was also a Baptist minister and he spoke about three different approaches to life in a sermon now known as The Three Dimensions to a Complete Life.
St Paul's art collection spans different art periods, all the way up to the present day
Besides being a work of art in itself, St Paul's is home to many gorgeous pieces ranging different time periods. Henry Moore's Madonna and Child sculpture and the Victorian mosaics trailing the walls are accompanied by modern works such as Gerry Judah's thought-provoking white crosses and Ian Hamilton Finlay's neon piece L'étoile dans son étable de lumiere.
Sir Christopher Wren, the Cathedral's architect, was the first to be buried in its tombs
Interred in 1723, the prolific British architect was laid to rest in his own masterpiece. He was the first of numerous key figures to have the honour. The epitaph inscribed on his crypt reads: Lector, si monumentum requiris - which is Latin for 'If you seek his monument, look around'.
Many British famous figures are honoured in the Cathedral
A burial, memorial or funeral in St. Paul's still remains the highest national honour. Many artists, writers, politicians, humanitarians and more have been granted this prestige. The list includes John Donne, Florence Nightingale, William Blake and Sir Alexander Fleming, who all have celebratory monuments. Prime ministers Winston Churchill and more recently Margaret Thatcher have had funeral services held here. St Paul's naturally receives comparisons to Westminster Abbey in the burials area with both boasting famous historical names, though both attractions have their differences overall.
St Paul's Cathedral has captured the imagination of artists and filmmakers worldwide
No credible list of facts about St.Paul's Cathedral would be complete without talking about its inspiration on the masses. Depicted in artworks by famed artists such as Canaletto, Daubigny, Signac and Derain, St Paul's Cathedral has been a source of artistic inspiration since its construction. The Cathedral has also been featured in movies. Lawrence of Arabia, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Sherlock Holmes and Thor: The Dark World show the monument in all its glory. There's no better proof that it's an instantly recognisable icon of British heritage.
Suffragettes planned to blow up the Bishop's throne in St Paul back in 1913
In an attempt to raise awareness for equal voting rights, suffragettes planted a battery-powered bomb underneath the bishop's throne. Luckily for the Cathedral, the faulty bomb failed to go off. But sadly for women, there was no female vote until 1918. Voting equality took even longer to push through, and was only introduced in 1928.
St Paul's Cathedral hosts rotating art installations
The likes of Yoko Ono, Rebecca Horn, Anthony Gormley and more have had their works featured in St Paul's Cathedral. From a scientific collaboration with Swarovski in 2011-2012 to strings of ropes mimicking rays of light, there's a list of current and previous installations on their site here.
Not quite done with facts about St. Paul's Cathedral? Why not find out more about its architect, Sir Christopher Wren.
Or if you have always been curious about who is buried at Westminster Abbey, read our informative post about the famous dignitaries who call it home.