27 August, 2006

St Pauls Cathedral, London

Since 604AD this is the fourth Cathedral to occupy this spot overlooking the City of London. It was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and built between 1675 and 1710 after the previous building had been destroyed in the Great Fire of London (1666). There are many existing London churches built to designs by Wren who had started his career as a mathematician and scientist and finished it as an astronomer. The most fascinating thing about this buiding is the dome, which weighs 65,000 tons and presented an engineering problem for Wren because a dome will exert tremendous outward as well as downward pressure. The 'secret' of how it stays in place is a huge chain around the outside of the dome (covered in Portland stone, the building material of the cathedral) which grips the dome to restrain outward movement.

Inside view of the dome.

The Whispering Gallery - the most famous of the galleries and the only one on the inside, has been described as one of the most amazing acoustical oddities in the world, because if you talk in a loud whisper facing the wall on one side you can be heard clearly on the diagonally opposite side.

St Paul’s is the cathedral of the Diocese of London and is the nations spirtual focal point. The funeral services of Nelson, Wellington and Churchill were held there as was the celebration of Queen Victoria's Jubilee, Charle's and Diana's Wedding and the memorial service for 9/11.

Sir Christopher Wren is also buried there, in a very plain grave. On the wall at the head of his tomb is a plain inscription, in Latin, arranged by his son. It translates as If you seek his monument, look around you. Wren himself had not wanted a memorial at all.


Blogger Rob said...

There is a bust of Wren in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Also he designed the Sheldonian Theatre where Oxford degree ceremonies take place.
Amazing achievement...makes one feel quite inferior!

Sunday, August 27, 2006  
Blogger Bazza said...

After I had written this post I wondered whether it should have been one of my 'Heroes' series but I had approached it from the point of view of the building itself and the Wren stuff sort of overtook the post.
I think the Radcliffe Camera building, which is part of the Bodleian Library in Oxford is very beautiful but I believe it's later than Wren.

Monday, August 28, 2006  
Blogger jim said...

Giant chain, you say? Incredible, but practical I guess, what ever happened to 'flying butresses', lol? Wren was very good, interesting the acoustics, I wonder if Wren was aware of it? And what he might have thought of it? I think that is a whole science unto itself now, for various public bldgs and uses.

These bldgs are 'imposing' spaces and 'sculpture' when surrounding a small human, such magnificence on earth.

I admire the guy for just wanting to rest in peace, no big deal, no chains to bind him in the future.

Monday, August 28, 2006  
Blogger Bazza said...

Jim: Flying butresses, of course, were commonly used on medieval buildings but St Pauls is the only neo-classical cathedral in Britain and they were used to prevent the outward movement of supporting walls. They would have looked a bit weird against a high dome! The chain was a piece of engineering brilliance.
St Pauls is certainly imposing and new buliding in the surrounding area has been controlled to allow certain views to remain intact but, inevitabally some encroachment has occurred.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006  
Blogger dumbdodi said...

I have been to the cathedral but during one of my hurry-burry tourist visits. Thanks for all the info.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006  

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