Finally inside St. Paul’s

I have this philosophy that I should never see absolutely everything there is to see in a place. Setting aside that it would be impossible to actually do that (except, maybe, in Winnemucca), this philosophy means that there’s always a reason to come back

One of the “obvious” things that I’ve never done in all the times I’ve been to London, and now having lived hear for nearly two years, is going inside St. Paul’s Cathedral. The Christopher Wren masterpiece was built after its medieval predecessor was destroyed in the Great Fire and is arguably one of the most iconic buildings in the city. But it’s expensive, which meant it was out of reach in my poor student days, and a little too “touristy” for someone who lives just up the road.

But I decided that I’d be sad if I moved back to the US without ever having visited, and since it would only take a couple of hours, it was a perfect activity for the last weekend in February (and the third of my tedious “tax prep” weekends).

I don’t have many photos to share, since photography is banned on the inside (I did sneak one, though). It’s a large and beautiful building, but to be honest, the interior is not nearly as remarkable as the exterior. Most of it is fairly plain, in keeping with a Protestant aesthetic, and after the excesses (and sheer size) of St. Peter’s in Rome, feels a little boring.

My favorite part of the interior was above the quire, where the Victorians had (controversially) overlaid the ceiling with Byzantine-style mosaics that shimmered in the half-light and reminded me of the Hagiah Sofia in Istanbul and St. Mark’s in Venice.

Also the music. The church organist was practicing for Evensong, so the space was filled with beautiful organ music. I moved on pretty quickly from the architecture and just sat for a while listening to the music. Maybe that was part of what Wren was going for all along…

Before leaving I ran up the gazillions of spiral stairs to the roof for a view of the setting sun over London. I was struck again how London is a lovely city at the street level, but not all that interesting from above or afar. Kind of the opposite of places like New York and Sydney.

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