If you are heading towards St Paul's this weekend, then here's a few historical bits and pics. I was there recently on a very chilly day indeed but the sun was out and it was just lovely. Basil was curled up at home as I was also heading to the Tate and he's not so interested in modern art.
You simply can't miss St Paul's, it's enormous. It took 35 years to build and was completed in 1710, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, after the Great Fire of London in 1666 swept through the area. The previous cathedral was exploded by the ferocity of the fire which reached 1700 centigrade and it was totally demolished. Amazingly, amid the ruins, Wren was handed a piece of stone from the rubble by one of the workmen, inscribed 'Resurgam' meaning 'I shall rise again'. It certainly did and stands proud and tall in the London landscape.
Wren had wanted his great Dome to be topped by an 8 foot high pineapple and not the cross which is there now! A pineapple was an extremely expensive item in the 1700's but Wren's reason for the request was likely to be linked to his adherence Freemasonry and pineapples were an ancient symbol of spiritual enlightenment.
Interred in 1723, the prolific architect was the first to be laid to rest in his own masterpiece. The epitaph inscribed on his crypt reads 'Lector, si monumentum requiris' which is latin for 'if you seek his monument, look around'.
Nearby St Paul's, on the North Side of Queen Victoria Street is St Andrew by the Wardrobe. Such a curious and wonderful name but it is simply because of this; St Andrews church, also designed by Christopher Wren (see in the photo below at the end of the alleyway) was at one time situated near the Royal wardrobe. This was a building in which had been kept the thousands of clothes worn by the monarchs over the years; Queen Elizabeth I alone had 1500 dresses! Sadly, the wardrobe was also destroyed by the Great Fire of London in 1666. What a loss.
I had a rather wonderful encounter on this trip. I had read many years ago about a famous fig tree which had survived in the garden of St Andrews house, just across from St Andrews Church and I was stood wondering if it was true. A charming lady leaned out the window at that very moment and I asked her about the tree ‘Come and see it’ she said! Her husband was also home and it turns out he’s the Archdeacon of London. They were utterly delightful and we chatted a little about their work in the community, the garden and the house and of course the fig tree. I had a photo with it...
Also in the Rectory, in the kitchen, on the fireplace, there is a plaque which marks the first meeting of the Church Missionary Society in the 1790's. Present at that meeting was John Newton, once a slave ship captain until his conversion when he became a vicar and wrote 'Amazing grace'. Such a privilege to have seen behind the doors of this lovely old house and meet such a warm and welcoming couple, the Archdeacon and his wife.
It was then off to the Tate Modern which is just a short walk from St Andrew by the Wardrobe and across the Millennium Bridge. When you cross to the Tate on the other side, remember to look back and you can still see St Paul's rising above the London landscape in all it's majesty.