“There is nothing more beautiful than light”. So said Sir Christopher Wren, the architect whose genius created what is, without doubt, the City of London’s crowning glory – St Paul’s Cathedral.
On our tour of his masterpiece, you’re going to see for yourself just how true his sentiment still is today, as your guide – a man who has been visiting and appreciating St Paul’s Cathedral for almost 40 years – takes you into every, nook, corner and cranny of this magnificent building.
This is more than just a standard tour, because your guide’s avowed intent will be to get you to focus on St Paul’s Cathedral and to help you develop a deep understanding of and appreciation for. Indeed, throughout the tour you will notice aspects of its interior that, although quite clearly in plain view, are often missed by visitors who just give them a cursory glance on their whistle-stop tours.
A whistle-stop tour this most certainly is not.
Rather, it is your opportunity to take in and savour the enchantment and magic of a truly stunning and glorious building.
Beginning outside the West front of St Paul’s, your guide will lead you on a visual exploration of its exterior. At first glance you might not think there is a great deal to see from the outside of the building.
But your guide will rapidly change your mind. You will gaze up at the magnificent friezes, crafted by Sir Francis Bird, that tell the story of St Paul, the patron saint of the City of London.
Moving inside, your guide will take you to a quiet alcove, where you will gaze eastwards to take in a breathtaking view of the nave of St Paul’s as you begin to appreciate how Sir Christopher Wren and his craftsmen, successfully teased a genuine work of architectural from cold stone.
The Cathedral has recently undergone a massive cleaning operation that has left its walls gleaming, much as they did when it was first completed in the early years of the 17th Century. But one section of the old and time-stained walls was left so that future generations would be able to see for themselves just what a mammoth task the restoration posed.
We then make our way slowly through the Cathedral pausing to admire the monuments to some of the great figures who are buried, memorialised (and sometimes both) inside St Paul’s. The Duke of Wellington, General Gordon, and the artists Lord Leighton and William Holman Hunt, whose masterpiece The Light of the World you will see and admire.
The comes one of the most awe-inspiring moments of the tour, the chance to sit beneath the grandeur of the dome and crane you neck to take in the profusion of light and colour that soars over you. Many people stop and look at the interior of the dome, but not many of them actually see it. But fear not, for your guide will ensure that, by the time you stand up again, not one message, story or figure will have escaped your gaze.
Onward then, passing the High Altar and moving respectfully through the poignant American Chapel, which remembers US servicemen who gave their lives to defeat the threat of Nazi tyranny in the Second World War. Having spent a few moments in quiet contemplation to remember their sacrifice, we continue past the monuments to John Donne, which actually survived the 1666 Great Fire of London (indeed you can still see the scorch marks) and to Admiral Horatio, Lord Nelson, victor and victim of the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
The tour then descends into the crypt of St Paul’s, where many of those whose monuments we have admired so far are buried. Chief amongst those buried down here is Sir Christopher Wren himself. Having contemplated the simplicity of his grave we move on to view the more elaborate and ornate tombs of two of this country’s greatest heroes – The Duke of Wellington and Lord Nelson.
You will hear all about their escapades and learn how a grateful Europe turned out to honour the memory of two men whose leadership, gallantry and bravery ensured the defeat of Napoleon on both land and sea.
Having told their stories, the tour will end with the opportunity to enjoy a well-earned cup of tea in the Crypt Café before leaving this magnificent Cathedral to its memories and its shadows.
So, if you want to gain a genuine understanding of and an appreciation for one of London’s most stunning and magnificent buildings, join your qualified Blue Badge Guide for a tour that will deliver on both counts.