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St Paul’s Cathedral

London’s historic St Paul’s Cathedral was completed in the early 18th century, when the present building was officially opened by Parliament. However, there has been a cathedral on the site since the seventh century, although the earlier buildings were destroyed by fire.

Today, the ornate cathedral – scene of the wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 – is a major visitor attraction, with around 2.14 million tourists visiting each year.

 

 

History

The first mention of a cathedral on the site at Ludgate Hill (the highest point of the city) was in 604 AD, when it was dedicated to Paul the Apostle, who taught the gospel of Jesus Christ in the first century. The first bishop was Mellitus, who was tasked with converting the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity.

Sadly, the original cathedral was burned to the ground, along with much of London, in a terrible fire in 1087. A new cathedral was built but unfortunately it met the same fate as its predecessor, when it was destroyed by the Great Fire of London in 1666.

The current cathedral was designed by Sir Christopher Wren, one of the most famous English architects in history, who began designing the new structure in 1669. The 37-year-old Wiltshire-born architect was put in charge of rebuilding 52 churches in the city of London after the fire.

The present cathedral was declared open on Christmas Day 1711, with the total construction having cost £1.09 million. It has survived two world wars, including the Blitz during World War II. Although it was hit by two bombs, one in October 1940 and a second in April 1941, it somehow escaped devastation.

 

Royal wedding

One of the biggest events held at St Paul’s in recent history was the wedding of Charles and Diana on 29th July 1981. The bride was resplendent in a wedding dress designed by David Emanuel. The ivory silk taffeta and antique lace dress, valued at £151,000, featured a 25ft train and a 153-yard veil.

It was one of the most famous wedding dresses in the world and had been the most closely-guarded secret in the history of royal weddings. Diana’s show-stopping bouquet, created by London-based florist, Longman’s, was also one of the most remarkable in history, featuring cascading white gardenias, freesias, orchids and lily of the valley in a design that was 42-inches long and weighed two kilos.

The royal wedding was watched by an estimated global television audience of 750 million viewers, while events were held around the Commonwealth to mark the occasion.

It was the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s untimely death on 31st August this year. The princess died at the age of 36 in a tragic car accident in Paris on 31st August 1997 and people have been paying tribute to the royal dubbed the people’s princess. Her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, have visited the mass of floral tributes left at Kensington Palace to mark the solemn occasion.

 

St Paul’s today

The cathedral is a busy, functioning church, holding up to five services a day, including Matins and Evening Prayer. It also hosts special services for the corporations, institutions and guilds of the City of London.

Doors open for sightseeing at 8.30am and it also has a regular programme of organ recitals and other musical performances. The enthronement of the Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, whose appointment was announced in December 2017, took place at St Paul’s in May 2018.

St. Paul’s Cathedral is a magnificent feat of architecture and a real jewel on the London skyline.

If you’re planning to visit St Paul’s Cathedral, why not hire a minibus from H&H Van Hire? It’s a great way for groups to travel. Everyone can arrive together, and you can split the costs between you. Please contact us for details of our nine, 14 and 17-seater minibuses.

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