Saint Paul’s Cathedral

Bob Borson —  October 10, 2011 — 17 Comments

St. Paul’s is the cathedral of the Diocese of London and has been located on the same site since 604 AD. I say that because the version I visited during my trip to London at the end of this last September is the fifth version of the cathedral, the fourth having been destroyed in the Great Fire of London (1666). This current version was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and constructed over a 35 year period between 1675 and 1710.

The history of Saint Paul’s Cathedral is really interesting but I am not going to recreate it here – I’m not that good a writer. For the short version, there is an excellent  and concisely written history of all 5 of the proposed cathedrals Wren designed on wiki – in the meantime, I’ll just stick with the photo’s from my trip.

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St. Paul's Cathedral

“Architecture aims at Eternity.” Sir Christopher Wren

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St. Paul's Cathedral.

St. Paul's Cathedral.

Our hotel was quite literally across the street from Saint Paul’s and I walked past it several times every day. Unfortunately, most of the views are looking up at the dome rather than backing up to a distance where you could take in the entire church from a single vantage point. (but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy myself…)

St. Paul's Cathedral.

St. Paul's Cathedral

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St. Paul's Cathedral.

St. Paul's Cathedral.

St. Paul's Cathedral.

St. Paul's Cathedral

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St. Paul's Cathedral.

There is also an incredible amount of detail and fenestration – it’s very easy to get caught up in seeing the church without actually seeing what is there to be seen. This was the second time I have spent time at St. Paul’s and I’ll admit that I didn’t spend that much time looking at the carvings located around the building, tucked up under soffits, capitals and cornices.

St. Paul's Cathedral.

St. Paul's Cathedral

One of the nights I was there I set out just past midnight to see if I could get some vacant pictures of the church – you know us architects, we don’t like people in our pictures. The bad news for me was that the lights used on the building get turned off just past midnight and just as I was about to start shooting – click – no lights. I had to resort to using long exposures but I didn’t bring a tripod along. As a result most pictures are either fuzzy or look like this one – straight up because I had to set my camera down on the ground. You can see some stars in the picture above…

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St. Paul's Cathedral.

St. Paul's Cathedral.

St. Paul's Cathedral.

St. Paul's Cathedral

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St. Paul's Cathedral

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St. Paul's Cathedral.

St. Paul's Cathedral.

St. Paul's Cathedral

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St. Paul's Cathedral

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I’m not sure how much of this ornamentation is original to the building – some of the detail is in really great shape. Around the back was a service yard where some of the stone fenestration was set aside for what appeared to be repair work. In sharp contrast to other areas on the building, the long-term wear and erosion was easy to see.

St. Paul's Cathedral

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I don’t have any pictures from the interior because they are particular about people taking them – which I can understand to a point. If there’s service going on, no pictures … but when there isn’t service, just don’t allow flash photography. I did think that I could maybe get away with just hanging my camera from my neck and roughly aim and take some pictures but the docents (or guards) are clearly wise to that level of commando tactic because I didn’t make it 10 feet before I was told to replace the lens cover on my camera.

I did buy a book to read on Saint Paul’s from the gift shop – an area located below the church. Before I go back next time (and there will be a next time) I will have read the book and will be able to appreciate the church in a different manner. Part of my motivation can be explained by me being an architect. The rest is because my daughter will be with me and I know she will have questions for me to answer.

Cheers

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  • Vpq

    when i saw this i was like, “yes!!! he’s in minnesota! finally!” and the I saw the word london
    these are neat pictures by the way

  • Mae

    Gorgeous shots, as always, Bob. I so wish I knew more about architecture so I could more fully appreciate this structure. Love your angles, composition and your focus on the details

  • http://mjvala.tumblr.com Mike Vala

    Great photographs!  

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Thanks Mike!

  • Mike Gorrell

    Great post with some great pictures. Just wondering, what kind of camera do you use?

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Nikon D90 and the lens I used on these shots was a AF-S Nikkor 18-105mm 1:3.5-5.6G lens

  • Elise

    Beautiful. You really captured the beauty of the architecture in those photos. So nice to see again.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Elise,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment – I appreciate it.

  • http://www.coffeewithanarchitect.com Jody Brown

    I love Christopher Wren in a way that makes all of us uncomfortable. Just thought you should know that. Carry on

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      right

      carrying on

  • http://twitter.com/Alexandrafunfit Alexandra Williams

    Love the photos. I think I’ll come along with you and Kate and ask all kind of penetrating questions about fenestration.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      well… someone got to run and get the drinks and since you are the most fit amongst us, that responsibility would have to fall to you.

      You up for the challenge?

  • http://twitter.com/Splintergirl Amy Good

    Amazing piece of architecture!  I love the fenestrations and carvings and just the finite detail.  I’ve seen the inside on a televised program once and it was breathtaking.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Amy,

      it’s really hard to wrap your head around all the detail on the building – it’s staggering. I had about 45 minutes to walk around and capture these images although I could have spent months documenting what there is to see.

      Cheers

  • shbewkes

    Just beautiful Bob!! Loved seeing the cathedral with you and Paul – a special morning!!

  • Daniel

    excellent photography Bob – did you know you can also get some great shots from the roof terrace on top of ‘one new change’ – http://www.onenewchange.com/11the-roof-terrace.aspx – perhaps next time?

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      I didn’t know that! In addition, I had one opportunity to spend time at the cathedral and unfortunately I couldn’t climb the dome as it was closed when I was there.

      A little frustrating but at least it gives me something extra to anticipate for my next trip the London! Thanks for the info on the ‘one new change’ terrace’!

      Cheers,
      Bob