About St. Paul’s | St Paul’s Cathedral London

Located on Ludgate Hill, London‘s highest point for more than 1,400 years, St Paul’s Cathedral is one of the world’s tallest and most magnificent structures. This religious monument is notable for its architecture, which features Neoclassical English Baroque-style elements designed by Sir Christopher Wren following the Great Fire of London in 1666.

St Paul’s_ @(John Kellerman)

A leading feature of the cathedral is its lead-covered dome, one of the tallest in the world. To reach the top of this unique three-dome structure, you must climb 1161 steps, but the stunning 360-degree views of London and the Thames make an effort worthwhile. 

Timeline of St. Paul’s 

The Origin (604-1087) 

Despite the withdrawal of the Roman administration in 410, Christian belief persisted. A church was built here nearly 200 years later, in 604. The initial structures lasted only a short time due to frequent fires and Viking attacks. It was later destroyed by Vikings when a second structure was built in its place in 962. 

Bishop Maurice, William the Conqueror’s Chaplain, began work on a newer, strong structure that would become St. Paul’s Cathedral’s third structure. This structure has survived for nearly 600 years, making it the longest-standing Christian residence on the site today.

Timeline of Restoration: St. Paul's Cathedral, London - Sheet1
Rising from ashes_@(Thomas Sereda)

Feudal Era (1087-1559) | St Paul’s Cathedral London

The Normans began the construction of a fourth St. Paul’s Cathedral in 1087, traditionally known as “Old St. Paul’s.” Another fire broke out in 1135, halting construction until the cathedral was finally dedicated in 1240. The cathedral was one of the largest structures in the British Isles, with a spire taller than the dome of the current cathedral.

The cathedral was also a focal point for a variety of public activities, such as trade, ball games, and sporting events. In 1512, the Cathedral School was re-established. All of these events took place in the largest building in medieval England, which was taller, longer, and wider than the current structure in its place.

Timeline of Restoration: St. Paul's Cathedral, London - Sheet3
St Paul’s at dawn_ @(World monuments fund)

Reformation & Revolution (1560-1666)

The structure began to deteriorate in the second half of the 16th century. In 1561, lightning struck and destroyed the spire. They decided not to rebuild the cathedral because the city was recovering from a trade depression. Inigo Jones added a west front in the 1630s, and further repair work was halted when the Civil War broke out in 1642. During the war, parliamentary forces mistreated and defaced the building. The churchyard buildings were demolished during the Commonwealth.

Sir Christopher Wren proposed plans to repair the cathedral in August 1666. It was decided that a new structure would be built in Old St. Paul’s place after the Great Fire of London destroyed it a week earlier.

Timeline of Restoration: St. Paul's Cathedral, London - Sheet5
Splendid interiors_ @(Peter Takacs)

Rising Again (1666-1711)

After the Great Fire in 1666, Sir Christopher Wren was officially assigned the task of building a new structure. Taking inspiration from St. Peter’s Basilica, he wanted to incorporate a dome in place of the tower, along with other unconventional features. 

The cathedral’s design took several years, primarily because many of his ideas were rejected by cathedral commissioners. The building was eventually rebuilt, resulting in a cathedral that is still the second-largest in Britain and has one of the world’s finest domes. The cathedral was officially finished on Christmas Day in 1711, but construction continued for several years afterward.

Memorials (1712-1795) | St Paul’s Cathedral London 

To say the least, the transition from Roman Catholicism was tumultuous, owing to the new cathedral’s construction during the Civil War, when there was heightened sensitivity to Protestantism.

Sir James Thornhill was tasked with selecting a decorative scheme for the dome’s interior after a competition. He was also commissioned to create eight scenes from the life of St. Paul. The paintings took two years to complete, during which time he had to work precariously more than 50 meters above the ground. Sculptures honouring artists, writers, clergy, military figures, and scientists were placed on the floor and walls toward the end of the 18th century.

Timeline of Restoration: St. Paul's Cathedral, London - Sheet7
St Paul’s interior_ @(Benedek)

Industrial Age (1800-1905)

In the nineteenth century, St. Paul underwent some physical changes.

Queen Victoria lamented that St. Paul’s was “dreary, dingy, and indevotional.” FC Penrose’s re-organization of the queue was one of the most significant changes. It allowed a much larger number of people to attend services and for worship to be held beneath the dome, nave, and quire.

Victorian philanthropy also contributed to the revitalisation of St. Paul’s. William Weldon Champneys assisted in developing schools, a Sunday school, and providing food for the disabled. The Amen Court Guild was concerned with the welfare of the warehousemen and clerks who worked near the cathedral.

Strengthening the Dome (1906-1960) | St Paul’s Cathedral London

Concerns about the cathedral’s structural stability have been raised since the early twentieth century. In 1924, the Corporation of London issued a dangerous structure notice. The cathedral was closed for repairs from 1925 to 1930. During this time, the dome and piers were strengthened under the supervision of Walter Godfrey Allen.

St. Paul’s Cathedral was the target of two bombing attacks in 1912 and 1914, which caused extensive damage to the structure. During the Blitz, the first bomb destroyed the high altar, and the second left a hole above the crypt. The strengthening interventions completed prior to 1930 were primarily responsible for the cathedral’s survival despite the two attacks.

Grand Entryway_ @(Fenelio)

International Emblem (1960-present)

St. Paul’s Cathedral welcomed world leaders, politicians, thinkers, and the general public after the war damage and structural issues were repaired, to create a better society. Charles, Prince of Wales, married Lady Daina Spencer at St. Paul’s Cathedral. The Golden and Diamond Jubilee Thanksgiving services for Queen Elizabeth II were also held at St. Paul’s Cathedral. In 2013, the cathedral also hosted a state funeral for former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.


Surabhi is an Indian-born Interior designer. She is fond of heritage revitalizing and reusing. A complete nerd when it comes to anime, books and visual novels. Her keen wish in writing about unspoken ideas that can contribute to architecture and design is now realised through RTF.