St. Paul’s Cathedral in London finishes 15-year restoration

St. Paul's Cathedral, LondonAfter fifteen years and £40 million ($65 million), a massive restoration of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London is finally finished.

The timing is perfect because it coincides with the 300th anniversary of the cathedral’s original completion.

Much of the restoration was actually a cleaning to get years of accumulated soot and grime off the structure. This dirt is acidic and can damage the fine white stone, as has happened at many historical buildings. Architectural details and interior decoration were repaired and restored to their original luster.

Located at the end of the Millennium Bridge on the north bank of the Thames, St. Paul’s is one of London’s greatest landmarks. A church has stood here since 604 AD, a time when much of England was still pagan, and this spot has remained spiritually important for Londoners ever since. A later version of the church burnt down in the Great Fire of 1666. Christopher Wren, the leading English architect of his day, was commissioned to rebuild it and made it his masterpiece.

A complete visit takes at least two hours, preferably three. One highlight is the Golden Gallery atop the dome, reached by climbing 530 steps. I think the view from here is the best in London. While the London Eye is taller, St. Paul’s is in the middle of the historic heart of London and so the view from here is more interesting.

The crypt holds the remains of many famous people such as William Blake, John Constable, and of course Christopher Wren. In his later years he used to sit in St. Paul’s and admire his masterpiece. His grave is marked by a simple plaque that reads in Latin, “Beneath lies buried the founder of this church and city, Christopher Wren, who lived more than 90 years, not for himself but for the public good. Reader, if you seek his monument, look around you,”

To celebrate the remodel, St. Paul’s is hosting a photo competition. Take a shot of the exterior of the shiny new/old building and you could see your work displayed in one of London’s most visited buildings.

[Image courtesy user Diliff via Wikimedia Commons]