St Paul’s Of Old London
At midnight on Christmas Eve, I found myself standing inside St Paul’s Cathedral among the the company of several hundred other souls. The vast interior space of the cathedral is a world unto itself when you are within it, as much landscape as architecture, yet when the great clock struck twelve overhead, my thoughts were transported to the rain falling upon the empty streets in the dark city beyond. Perhaps I was thinking of some of these lantern slides created a century ago by the London & Middlesex Archaeological Society for lectures at the Bishopsgate Institute?
Until 1962, St Paul’s was the tallest building in London and, in my perception of the city, it will always stand head and shoulders above everything else. Even before I saw it for myself, I already knew the shape of the monstrous dome from innumerable printed images and looming skyline appearances in films. Defying all competition, the great cranium of the dome contains a spiritual force that no other building in London can match.
A true wonder of architecture, St Paul’s never fails to induce awe when you return to it because the reality of its scale always surpasses your expectation – as if the mind itself cannot fully contain the memory of a building of such ambition and scale. No-one can deny the sense of order, with every detail sublimated to Sir Christopher Wren’s grand conception, yet the building defies you.
Although every aspect has its proportion and purpose, the elaborate intricacy expresses something beyond reason or logic. You are within the skull of a sleeping giant, dreaming the history of London, with its glittering panoply and dark episodes. The success of this building is to render everything else marginal, because when you are inside it you feel you are at the centre of the world.
Glass slides courtesy Bishopsgate Institute
You may also like to take a look at