Friends enjoy a private tour of St Paul’s Cathedral
Published: Thursday, February 4, 2016
On Wednesday 3rd February 2016, the National Churches Trust was delighted to welcome Friends and Supporters for Evensong and a private guided tour of St Paul’s Cathedral.
St Paul's is the seat of the Bishop of London and the mother church of the Diocese of London. Its dedication to Paul the Apostle dates back to the original church on this site, founded in AD 604. The Cathedral is one of the most famous and most recognisable sights of London. Its dome, framed by the spires of Sir Christopher Wren's City churches, dominated the skyline for 300 years. At 365 feet (111 m) high, it was the tallest building in London from 1710 to 1962.
Tea and Evensong
Guests were welcomed to the Chapter House of St Paul's Cathedral by Canon Tricia Hillas, Canon Pastor in Residence and Claire Walker, Chief Executive of the National Churches Trust and then enjoyed afternoon tea. They then proceeded to Evensong, and were seated in the Quire Stalls, situated right in the heart of Wren's magnificent baroque Cathedral.
St Paul's benefits from a fine choral tradition. The Cathedral Choir consists of 30 boy treble Choristers, eight probationers and 12 Vicars Choral - all professional adult singers who sing alto, tenors and bass. A slightly reduced choir delighted guests with their singing, which included the Introit, 'O Nata Lux' by Thomas Tallis, the Magnificat and Nunc Dimitis taken from Byrd's 'Second Service' and the Anthem 'This is the record of John', by Orlando Gibbons.
After Evensong, St Paul's Cathedral closed to the public and guests of the National Churches Trust were then treated to a private tour of the Cathedral, visiting sights not normally accessible to the public, including the Library and Geometric Staircase, a precipitous self-supporting spiral staircase, as featured in the Harry Potter films and the Madness of King George, among others..
The Library, under the care of the appropriately named Joseph Wisdom, is situated at triforium level behind the south-west tower in a chamber designed for it by Wren. The library's strengths include theology, church history and patristics and it also contains a bust of a youthful looking Sir Christopher Wren
A particular treat was the chance to see Wren's model of his design of the Cathedral. Made to scale of 1:25, this model represents the design of great magnificence and beauty, according to which, Charles II appointed Wren, by warrant of 12th November 1673, and directed him to build the Cathedral. It was designed to be walked through at eye-level to suggest the experience of the real interior.
Although it shares broadly the same appearance as the finished building, there are significant differences between this presentation model and the Cathedral as built. Some of the most notable changes were: the extension of the quire, changes to the West front and the introduction of the bell towers in place of a bell cupola half way down the nave. During the tour, guests were told that in 2013 David Bowie asked to be shown the model whilst on a private visit to St Paul's.
Special thanks to guides Janet Payne, Yvonne Jackman and Simon Carter who brought to life the history and architecture of St Paul's Cathedral and also to Roger Walkinton, Deputy Director of Development and Secretary to the Friends of St Paul's, who was responsible for arranging the event.