What Is St. Paul's Cathedral?

Lauren Romano

St. Paul's Cathedral is located in London, England, and took 35 years to complete. It's faced many disasters, primarily fires, but has always been rebuilt. The cathedral is comprised of the Nave, two transepts, two towers, seven chapels, a dome, monuments, a crypt, memorials, and a library. It's been the site of many significant events including the weddings and funerals of historical figures. Visitors can take a tour six days a week, but only during certain times and after paying an admission fee.

Winston Churchill's funeral was held at St. Paul's Cathedral.
Winston Churchill's funeral was held at St. Paul's Cathedral.

The architect of St. Paul's Cathedral was Christopher Wren, whose first and second set of plans for the design didn't pan out. After the third received approval, the cathedral was built between 1675 and 1710, but Parliament deemed it formally completed in 1711. The Anglican cathedral is the seat of the Bishop of London.

St. Paul's Cathedral is located in London.
St. Paul's Cathedral is located in London.

This cathedral is actually the fifth one standing in that spot. The first one was built in 604, but was burned in 962 and rebuilt by 963. It was rebuilt again in 1087 due to fire. There was later another fire, and once again the church was rebuilt, but was destroyed in The Great Fire of London in 1666. Building of the current cathedral started in 1675 and the finished work of art still stands today.

St. Paul's Cathedral is in the shape of a cross, with the long main section called the Nave and the two short sections called transepts. There are seven chapels in the cathedral: The American Memorial Chapel, the OBE Chapel, Knights Bachelor Chapel, Chapel of St. Michael & St. George, Middlesex Chapel, Chapel of St. Dunstan, and the Chapel of All Souls. Cathedral Library, also known as the Library of Dean and Chapter, can only be used by appointment. The Crypt is the burial place of many important historical figures, including Christopher Wren, and houses many memorials and monuments. The entire dome is actually in three parts — the outer dome, a support cone below it, and the inner dome — the latter of which is covered with murals.

Many weddings and funerals, as well as other events, have taken place at St. Paul's Cathedral. Among the famous funerals are the one in 1806 for Lord Nelson and the one in 1965 for Sir Winston Churchill. Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer were married there in 1981. On 11 September 2001, crowds gathered to mourn after the terrorist attacks in the United States.

Visitors can learn more about the cathedral through a variety of ways including by exploring the crypt or climbing the dome. There is also a restaurant and a cafe. St. Paul's Cathedral is open six days a week, but visitors are required to pay an admission fee.

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