1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/St Paul's Cathedral

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ST PAUL'S CATHEDRAL, the cathedral church of the diocese of London, England, standing in the heart of the City, at the head of Ludgate Hill. (For plan, &c., see Architecture: Renaissance in England.) The name of a bishop of London, Restitutus, is recorded in 314, but his individuality and even his existence are somewhat doubtful, and nothing is known of the existence of a church until Bede's notice that early in the 7th century one was built here by Æthelberht of Kent at the instance of the missionary Mellitus, who became bishop. Tradition placed upon the site a Roman temple of Diana. The church was dedicated to St Paul, and, after passing through many vicissitudes, was removed in 1083, when Bishop Maurice, with the countenance of William the Conqueror, undertook the erection of a new cathedral. The building was not pressed forward with vigour, and in 1135 much of it was damaged by fire. The tower was completed in 1221; an Early English choir followed shortly after, and was enlarged after 1255 when Bishop Fulk brought great energy to bear upon the repair and elaboration of the building. At the close of the century the cathedral was regarded as finished; but a new spire was built early in the 14th century. Much of the Norman work, particularly in the nave, had been left untouched by the Early English builders (who in other parts merely encased it), and the cathedral was a magnificent monument of these styles, and of the early Decorated. Perpendicular additions were not extensive, and the cathedral remained with little alteration until 1561, when lightning struck the spire and fired the church. The spire was never rebuilt. In the time of James I. the fabric had so far decayed that the king was prevailed upon to make a personal examination of it, and Inigo Tones was entrusted with the work of restoration. In accordance with the architectural tendencies of his time he added a classical portico to the west front, and made similar alterations to the transepts. Again, however, in 1666 the bad state of the fabric necessitated extensive repair, and Dr (afterwards Sir) Christopher Wren furnished a scheme including a central dome. All his plans were complete in August of that year, but in September the great fire of London almost destroyed the building, and rendered what was left unsafe and beyond restoration.

Estimates of the dimensions of the old cathedral differ, Stow making the extreme length 690 ft., but modern investigations give 596 ft. The internal height of the choir was 101 ft., and that of the nave, which was of twelve bays, 93 ft., and the extreme breadth of the building was 104 ft. The summit of the wonderful spire was 489 ft. above the ground. The present building is wider than the old, and its orientation is more northerly, but its northern, eastern and southern extremities approximately correspond with those of old St Paul's, the west front of which, however, with its flanking towers, lay nearly 100 ft. west of Wren's front. It should be noticed that the eastern part of the old cathedral incorporated the original parish church of St Faith after 1255, when part of the new crypt was allotted to the parish in return. Moreover, the ancient church of St Gregory by St Paul actually adjoined the cathedral on the south-west. In the angle west of the south transept lay a cloister, in the midst of which was the octagonal chapter house, dating from 1332. To the north-east of the cathedral stood Paul's Cross, in an open space devoted to public meetings; it included a pulpit, and here religious disputations were held and papal bulls promulgated. In 1643 it was removed, but a new cross, erected under the will of H. C. Richards, K.C., M.P., was unveiled in 1910.

The formal provision for the rebuilding of the cathedral was made in 1668, and the foundation stone was laid in 1675. The first service was held in it in 1697, and the last stone was set in place in 1710. The cost is curiously estimated, but was probably about £850,000, the greater part of which was defrayed by a duty on sea-borne coal. The material is Portland stone. Wren had to face many difficulties. He naturally insisted on the style of the Renaissance, and his first design was for a building in the form of a Greek cross, but the general desire was that at least the ground-plan of the old English cathedrals should be followed, and the form of a Latin cross was forced upon him. He offered various further designs, and one was accepted, but Wren set the broadest construction upon the permission granted him to alter its ornamental details, and luckily so. The extreme length of the building is 513 ft., the breadth across the transepts 248 ft., of the nave 122 ft., of the west front 179 ft. The length of the nave is 223 ft., and of the choir 168 ft., leaving 122 ft. beneath the dome at the crossing. The cross at the top of the lantern above the dome is 363 ft. above the ground.

The cathedral is approached on the west from an open pavement, on which stands a statue of Queen Anne. There is also an inscription marking the spot on which Queen Victoria returned thanks on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee (1897). A broad flight of steps leads up to the west front, of two orders, flanked by towers. In the north tower is a chime of bells; in the south the clock, with the old great bell (1716), tolled on the death of certain high personages, and the new great bell, placed in 1882, weighing about 17 tons. The nave is of four bays, with aisles, and chapels of one bay width immediately east of the western towers. The transepts are of two bays, and are entered by north and south porches approached by circular flights of steps. On the pediment of the south porch is sculptured a phoenix with the inscription Resurgam (I shall rise again), in allusion to a famous episode. Wren, planning his site and desiring to mark in the ground the point of the centre of his dome, bade a workman bring a piece of stone for the purpose. He picked up at hazard a fragment of an ancient tombstone bearing this single word, which Wren adopted as a motto. The choir of four bays terminates in an apse, but the rich and loft modern reredos stands forward, and the apse is thus divided off from the body of the church and forms the Jesus chapel. The choir stalls are a fine example of the work of Grinling Gibbons. The dome is supported by the four vast piers in the angles of the cross, within which are small chambers, and by eight inner piers. The spandrels between the arches which stand upon these piers are ornamented with mosaics,

from the designs of G. F. Watts and others, executed by Salviati.

Wren had looked forward to a comprehensive scheme of decoration in mosaic. The later extension of this work was entrusted to Sir W. B. Richmond. Above the arches is a circular gallery known as the Whispering Gallery from the fact that a whisper can be easily heard from one side to the other. Above this there are pilasters, with square-headed windows, in three out of every four intervening spaces; and above again, the domed ceiling, ornamented in monochrome by Sir James Thornhill immediately after its completion; but the paintings have suffered from the action of the atmosphere and are hardly to be distinguished from below. The inner wall of the dome begins to slope inward from the level of the Whispering Gallery, but this is masked outside by a colonnade, extending up to a point a little above the top of the internal pilasters. From this point upward the dome is of triple construction, consisting of (1) the inner dome of brick, pierced at the top to render the lantern visible from below; (2) a brick cone, the principal member of the structure, bearing the lantern; (3) the dome visible from without, of lead on a wooden frame. The golden gallery at the base of the lantern (top of the outer dome) is about 65 ft. above the top of the inner dome.

The monuments in St Paul’s are numerous, though not to be compared with those in Westminster Abbey. The most notable is that in the nave to the duke of Wellington (d. 1852) by Alfred Stevens. In the crypt, which extends beneath the entire building, are many tombs and memorials—that of Nelson in the centre beneath the dome, those of many famous artists in the so-called Painters' Corner, and in the south choir aisle that of Wren himself, whose grave is marked only by a plain slab, with the well-known inscription ending Si monumentum requiris, circumspice (“If thou seekest a monument, look about thee”). Above the south-west chapel in the nave is the chapter library, with many interesting printed books, MSS. and drawings relating to the cathedral. For St Paul’s School, established by John Colet, dean, and formerly adjacent to the cathedral, see the article on Hammersmith, whither it was subsequently removed.

Authorities.—Parentalia or Memoirs (of Sir Christopher Wren), completed by his son Christopher, now published by his Grandson, Stephen Wren (London, 1758); Sir William Dugdale, History of St Paul’s (1818); Dean Milman, Annals of St Paul’s (1868); William Longman, The Three Cathedrals dedicated to St Paul (1873); Documents illustrating the History of St Paul’s (Camden Society, 1880); Rev. W. Sparrow-Simpson, Chapters in the History of Old St Paul’s (1881); Gleanings from Old St Paul’s (1889); and St Paul’s and Old City Life (1894); Rev. A. Dimock. St Paul’s (in Bell’s “ Cathedral " series, 1901); Rev. Canon Benham, Old St Paul’s (1902). In this last work and elsewhere are shown the valuable drawings of Wenceslaus Hollar, showing the old cathedral immediately before the great fire.