St Paul's Cathedral, praised as an ecclesiastical masterpiece, is the seat of the Bishop of London. It is one of London's most stunning sights due to its rich historical past and majestic design. The church has hosted major events ranging from art installations to state funerals and royal weddings. It also contains the world's largest dome, which stands at 366 feet in height.
The dome, which rises 365 feet to the cross at its pinnacle and dominates views of the city, is the most noteworthy exterior feature. The structure has two ashlar levels over a basement and is encircled by a railing above the upper cornice. In 1718, the balustrade was erected against Wren's wishes. Wren was also faced with the task of adding towers into the design like at St Peter's Basilica. Wren drew inspiration from a classical portico at Val-de-Grâce and incorporated it with two floors and paired columns. The towers stand outside the aisles' breadth, however, they serve as a screen for two chapels directly behind them. The original Wren-designed fencing was demolished in the 1870s.
The main space of St Paul’s Cathedral with the nave and the aisles is under the dome. Eight arches span across the nave, aisles, choir and transepts, between each a pendentive that supports the large dome. Wren designed wide arches with coffered vaults to create the divide between the principal areas that lead to the dome and the apse of the choir. The North Choir and the South Choir are the transepts that run north and south of the dome. The dome is erected on a tall drum encircled by pilasters and pierced with windows in threes, separated by eight gilded niches containing sculptures and duplicating peristyle patterns from the exterior. At the time of its completion, St Paul’s Cathedral was ornamented with stone and wood sculptures, most prominently that of Grinling Gibbons, Thornhill’s paintings in the dome, and Jean Tijou’s magnificent metalwork.
The Whispering Gallery is the cathedral’s standout attraction. The Whispering Gallery is a circular promenade 30 m above the ground that hugs the dome’s base and provides a dizzying view of the cathedral floor far below. The unique design of this gallery can carry the tiniest of sounds anywhere within. Whisper along the curved wall and someone will be able to hear you from elsewhere along the same wall, even on the opposite side!
The Stone Gallery, which is encircled by a balustraded balcony, rises above the peristyle of the dome. On this level, you can find alternating pilasters and rectangular windows situated slightly below the cornice, giving it a light appearance. You need to climb 376 steps to get to this level, but the view of the city and the cathedral floor from the Stone Gallery makes it worth the toil.
The Golden Gallery is located at the top of the cathedral and is accessible via 528 steps from the cathedral level. This is the smallest alley, which encircles the outer dome’s highest point. The views from here are breathtaking, with the River Thames, the Tate Modern, The Shard, and the Globe Theatre among the numerous London landmarks visible.
The golden ball and lantern, which sits high above the cathedral dome and is six feet in circumference and can hold ten people, is not open to the public. However, the sight itself adds a bit of grandeur to this world-famous London attraction. The lantern stands at the highest point of the structure providing a mesmerizing view of the city. The ball and cross are about 23 feet tall and weigh about 7 tons.
A. After the spire collapse and the Great Fire of 1666, St Paul's Cathedral was in a terrible state. Sir Christopher Wren proposed to rebuild the cathedral and replace the cathedral spire with a beautiful dome like at St Peter's Basilica.
A. Sir Christopher Wren, a famous English architect drew inspiration from Michelangelo's dome at St Peter's Basilica and improved upon its design to build a magnificent dome at St Paul's Cathedral. This dome rises in two levels, a larger outer dome to give it a large and majestic appearance on the outside and a smaller dome within that supports the larger dome and sits atop the cathedral nave.
A. There are 528 steps in total inside the St Paul's Cathedral dome.
A. Yes, you can climb the steps inside St Paul's Cathedral dome. However, make sure that you are certain that you can climb all the 528 steps to get to the top before you start climbing. The entry and exit routes for the dome are separate and you will not be able to return from the same direction if you change your mind mid-way.
A. Some steps within the St Paul's Cathedral dome are quite narrow or spiral. Make sure that you're wearing flat and comfortable footwear.
A. Yes, you will have to book tickets if you want to climb the St Paul's Cathedral dome. Book tickets online