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While incarcerated for attempted murder and trying to rig an election, Dr Robert “Sideshow Bob” Underdunk Terwilliger spent hours carefully crafting a miniature model of Westminster Abbey inside a glass bottle.
Everyday he would painstakingly place each piece of the abbey together with a pair of tweezers. As he attempted to set the clock face to Greenwich Mean Time, all of his efforts were destroyed by the blaring sounds of a nearby television. He gasped “my dear Abbey” as his hand knocked the bottle to send the structure crashing down.
His anger turned to the television which then sparked a series of events which would see the one-time sidekick of children’s entertainer Krusty the Clown threaten the fictional US city of Springfield with a nuclear bomb if they refused to abolish television. His plan ultimately failed as the bomb crumbled when he tried detonate due to it being from 1959.
While Bob’s intentions were misguided, he shares a passion with thousands of people across the globe – the stunning architecture of London. Alongside the glorious Westminster Abbey, the English capital is home to the iconic Big Ben, Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace, all purveyors of some amazing architecture.
One in particular that is an absolute must on the to-do list for anyone visiting London is St Paul’s Cathedral. This magnificent Anglican cathedral can trace its history back to AD 604 and has become a major tourist attraction situated right in the heart of the City of London.
It is the handy work of architect Sir Christopher Wren and has been the venue for the funerals of Lord Nelson, the Duke of Wellington, Sir Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher. It has also been the scene of Jubilee celebrations for Queen Victoria and the marriage of Charles, Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer.
Planning a visit to St Paul’s during your time in London? Well here is the lowdown about everything you will need to know when coming to this iconic landmark.
History of St Paul’s Cathedral
Standing in the bustling City of London, it is hard to imagine a time when this part of the capital was not filled with businessmen and women hurrying about their day, swaithes of traffic and the multitude of tourists. St Paul’s Cathedral stands as testament to an era gone by and retains that sense of heritage in a modern metropolis.
The Anglican parish can trace its history way back to AD 604 where it was dedicated to Paul the Apostle. The building itself was designed by architect Sir Christopher Wren and built between 1675 and 1720, displaying the traditional English Baroque style. It remains the seat of the Bishop of London and is the mother church for the Dioceses of London.
It is at least the fourth incarnation of this church after its predecessor was destroyed during the Great Fire of London. It was also the first cathedral to be built following the English Reformations in the 16th century by Henry VIII. The king removed the Church of England from the Pope and the Crown took control of the church.
Over the years, St Paul’s has become a symbol for London, and the UK’s resilience in the face of adversity. Since the turn of the 20th century, St Paul’s has endured and was a target during the Nazis bombing campaign on London during World War II. It was hit by two significant bomb strikes during The Blitz.
Despite the testing times, St Paul’s has been the home of major celebrations with numerous weddings being held there. Queen Elizabeth II also marked both her Golden and Diamond Jubilees with Thanksgiving services at the cathedral.
In modern times, people from all over visit the cathedral on an annual basis.
Opening times and ticket prices
Like with all of London’s major tourist attractions, St Paul’s Cathedral has a number of peak and off-peak times. Obviously weekends and school holidays are going to be much more popular and see an influx of visitors. So you should look to plan your visit for midweek, bear in mind that the cathedral is only open for worship on Sundays.
Between Monday and Saturday, St Paul’s opens its door at 08:30 BST for sightseeing with the galleries opening to visitors at 09:30. The last entry is 16:00 with the galleries closing at 16:15 and sightseeing shutting 15 minutes after that.
Unlike some attractions in the capital, ticket prices at St Paul’s are not affected by peak and off-peak parts of the year.
If you decide to purchase your ticket online you will be eligible for a fast-track entry. Add Gift Aid to your admission and you will be entitled to 12 months free admission to the cathedral.
How do I get to St Paul’s Cathedral?
For all its grandeur and English Baroque charm, St Paul’s is one of the most accessible attractions in London. Sitting in the City of London, surrounded by a number of the financial powerhouses that populate this corner of the capital, it is within walking distance of numerous train, Underground and bus routes.
Various modes of transport
Underground stations near St Paul’s
The cathedral is served by four Underground stations with the closest being St Paul’s which is served by the Central line. Both Mansion House and Blackfriars are served by District and Circle lines and are a five and seven-minute walk, respectively, from the cathedral. Further away is Bank which is served by Central, Northern, Waterloo & City line and DLR.
Train Station near St Paul’s
Arriving by train? There are four stations within walking distance of St Paul’s – City Thameslink, Blackfriars, Cannon Street and Liverpool Street. City Thameslink is the closest at just a three-minute walk with Liverpool Street being a 15-minute stroll away.
Bus Station Near St Paul’s
There are regular bus services heading towards the cathedral with routes 4, 11, 15, 23, 25, 26, 100, 242 all stopping at St Paul’s.
Driving in London can be a nightmare and with the plethora of public transport links is not really necessary. However, if you are driving to St Paul’s then you need to be aware of the congestion charge around the City of London. While on-street parking is very restricted, there is a public car park on Queen Victoria Street, a short walk away from the cathedral.
Christmas at St Paul’s Cathedral
London at Christmas can be a magical and encapsulating place. While the weather will undoubtedly be cold and wet, there is a certain charm to the English capital when it comes to the festive period. The shops will be decked out in all the dressings of the holiday while there are a number of special events going throughout the city.
If you are staying in London over Christmas, there is no better place to celebrate it in the spiritual surrounding of St Paul’s. The cathedral has a number of services on throughout Christmas to celebrate the birth of Jesus. From carols to midnight mass, St Paul’s provides a truly authentic Christmas experience.
Throughout the month of December there are a number of concerts building up to the big day. They have become increasingly popular over the years and resulted in a series of concerts being put on during the festive period of 2014. It all kicks off with an Advent Procession at the beginning of the month and builds from there.
Last year saw the Barnardo’s Carol Concert, Maggie’s Christmas Carol Concert, Age UK Love Christmas Carol Concert and Ceremony of Carols Benjamin Britten all being held at St Paul’s in the build-up to the 25th.
The days around Christmas are truly special, and also very popular. On the 23rd and Christmas Eve there are special Christmas carol services before the Midnight Eucharist, the Communion is served outside of the cathedral. While many queue to experience the service in the cathedral, you can also view it on a big screen in nearby Paternoster Square.
It is a truly magical experience when Christopher Wren’s great dome is filled with the sound of Christmas carols, all it needs now is a glass of sherry, a mince pie and a smattering of snow to put you truly in the Christmassy mood.
St Paul’s Cathedral should be an absolute must on your to-do list when you visit London. It provides a relaxing break away from the busy streets of the City and can allow you to really embrace your spiritual side and stroll around a huge part of London’s past and present. It holds so much heritage and the architecture is truly awe inspiring.
It is a place that even melt the heart of someone like Sideshow Bob who was hellbent on gaining revenge on everyone that had wronged him in the past. The easy access of the cathedral makes its an absolute no-brainer to visit and there is so much to do around it that you can make a full day of it.
Why not have a day out at the cathedral and then spend the evening in one of the many bars and restaurants that populate the City? You could even catch a film in the multitude of multiplex and art house cinemas dotted around the area and then you are only a couple of minutes away on the Tube from your luxury hotel.