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CHAPTER THE SEVENTH.
ST. PAUL'S CATHEDRAL. WESTMINSTER ABBEY.
THE cathedral church of the Bishops of London is not only by far the finest building in the Italian style in London, but the finest in Britain. The public are admitted free by the north door from eleven to three daily, and during summer from the conclusion of afternoon service until dusk. No person is allowed to remain in the nave after service has commenced. Divine service is celebrated daily at eight A.m. in the morning chapel ; at a quarter before ten A.m., and at a quarter before three P.M., in the choir. On Sundays, during the winter half year, there is an evening service at seven, under the dome, where 3000 persons can be accommodated. To see certain parts of the building, the following charges are made :
To the Whispering, Stone, and Golden Galleries, 6d. ; to the Library, Great Bell, Geometrical Staircase, and Model Room, 6d. ; to the Crypt, where are the tombs of Nelson and Wellington, 6d. ; to the Clock, 2d.; and to the Ball, 1s. 6d.
It is much to be regretted that no complete general view of St. Paul's is obtainable, in consequence of the nearness of the surrounding houses ; but no view is more striking than that from Blackfriars' Bridge, although the whole of the lower part of the cathedral is concealed.
HISTORY OF THE SITE.—Ethelbert, King of Kent, built the first church at this place in 610. This was destroyed by fire in 1087, but another edifice, “ Old St. Paul's," was shortly afterwards commenced. This was much damaged by a fire in 1137; it was greatly injured by lightning in 1444; in 1561 it was again damaged by fire ; it became much dilapidated, and a considerable sum had been expended in repairing it, when the great
fire of 1666 utterly destroyed it. The structure was in the Gothic style, and its plan was a Latin cross. It was 690 feet long, 130 feet broad, and the spire, springing from a tower, rose to the height of 520 feet. Near the north-east end stood Powles' Cross, so often referred to in our early literature, and a pulpit where sermons were preached, and the pope's mandates—whether blessing or cursing-read aloud to the people. The middle aisle was termed Paul's Walk, from its being much frequented by idlers as well as by money-lenders and dealers in commodities. A scene in one of Ben Jonson's plays is laid “in the middle aisle of Paul's." One old writer compared the noise made by talkers and the walkers to “a kind of still roar or loud whisper.” Desecrated within, it was no better treated without. A carpenter and a wine-dealer took possession of part of the vaults, trunkmakers of the cloisters ; buildings were planted against the outer walls, one being used as a play-house, and in another the owner made a hole in a buttress and baked his bread therein.
THE PRESENT CATHEDRAL.—The great fire of 1666, which has been referred to many times in this volume, destroyed 13,000 houses and 87 parish churches, reducing St. Paul's to a heap of ruins. These ruins remained pretty much as they had been left by the fire for nearly eight years. Charles II.'s Government having taken the matter in hand, intrusted the work of rebuilding to Sir Christopher Wren, whose first design was rejected. The second was approved of, and the first stone was laid on the 21st June 1675 by the architect, assisted by the freemasons of his lodge, which lodge still preserves the trowel and mallet used on the occasion. In 1697 the choir was opened, and in 1710 the architect's son placed the last stone on the top of the lantern, so that the building occupied 35 years. What rarely happens, in the case of a large edifice like this, it was completed in the architect's lifetime ; and, what is still more singular, the same persons held the offices of Bishop and Master Mason at the commencement and at the completion of the edifice. During the progress of the works, Wren received £200 a year, and for this (said the Duchess of Marlborough) he was content to be dragged up in a basket three or four times a week. The sum expended, £747,954, was made up by a grant of £10,000 by the crown, £5000 a year raised by a duty on coals, and by subscriptions. The stone was brought from the Portland quarries.
EXTERIOR.—Commonly classed, says a critic, as the second of Christian temples, this cathedral is really the first in completeness, unity of design, and solidity of construction ; only the fifth in extent or capacity (being excelled by St. Peter's, Florence, Milan, and Amiens); and about the last in richness and variety of ornaments. The ground-plan shews that the general form is that of a Latin cross. Its length is 500 feet, the width of the nave and choir 125 feet, the length of the transept 250 feet, the height of the north and south sides 100 feet. From the intersection of the transept with the main building springs a majestic dome, the glory of the edifice, upon which is a lantern carrying a gilt corper ball and cross, the top of which is 356 feet above the floor of the church, or 365 feet above the ground. The grand front is ou the west, facing Ludgate Hill. It is approached by a double flight of steps from an area enclosed by iron palisading, within which is a statue of Queen Anne, erected in 1712. The portico is in two divisions ; the lower one consists of twelve Corinthian columns, coupled ; the upper one of eight. On the pediment is a basso-relievo of the Conversion of St. Paul. At the apex of the pediment is placed a statue of St. Paul, and at the sides statues of St. Peter, each fifteen feet high. At each side of the portico is a bell tower, with a pyramidal summit, and these, with their open lanterns covered by domes, rise to the height of 220 feet. At the angles are statues of the Evangelists. The south tower contains the clock and the great bell, ten feet in diameter, which is only tolled at the death of one of the royal family, or of the Bishop, Dean, or a Lord Mayor, dying during his year of office. Its weight is about 12,000 lbs.; its clapper weighs 180 lbs. The west front, including the towers, is 180 feet wide. Above the doors is a marble group of Paul preaching to the Bereans.
The “elevation” is composed of two orders ; the lower, Corinthian, has windows with semicircular headings; the upper, Composite, has niches corresponding to the windows below. In each storey the entablature is supported by coupled pilasters. The balustrade, nine feet high, on the top of the north and south walls, was not designed by Wren, and was strongly objected to by him. Each arm of the transept is entered by an external semicircular Corinthian portico, reached by a lofty flight of steps. At the east end of the choir there is a circular projection or apse. The cypher W. and M., between palm branches, and surmounted by a crown, indicates that this part was completed in the reign of William and Mary. The heavy iron railing which encloses a plot of 2 acres and 16 perches, weighs upwards of 200 tons. It was made at Lamberhurst in .Kent, and cost £11,200.
INTERIOR.—Entering the north arm of the transept we may make our way at once to the space under the cupola, whence the four unequal arms of the Latin cross radiate. The keystones of the arches were carved by Cibber. It will be noticed that the usual four piers at the crossing have been omitted, and that the weight of the dome is supported by eight surrounding piers, exactly as in Ely Cathedral. The cupola has an internal diameter of 108 feet. The cornice above the arches, and the rails of the Whispering Gallery, have been gilded. Above are seen Thornhill's paintings. Its height may perhaps disappoint the visitor, but he will be surprised to learn that it is the innermost of three shells. Like the outermost, it is merely ornamental, the weight of the lantern, ball, and cross, being borne by the intermediate conical shell. It rises to the height of 228 feet above the pavement, which is composed of pieces of light and dark marbles, radiating somewhat like a mariner's compass. In the middle a brass plate shews where Nelson's remains lie in the crypt beneath. In three of the angles are vestries, used by the Deans, the Canons, and the Lord Mayor ; and in the fourth is a circular staircase, which leads up to the Whispering Gallery. In the south arm of the transept will be seen an organ which was built by Mr. Hill for the Panopticon or Alhambra Palace in Leicester Square, and having been purchased for St. Paul's, has been lately placed here. The choir has three arches on each side, with a clerestory above. The old organ in the case, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, has been placed under the middle arch on the north side. The arch next the apse on each side has been left open to the aisle behind ; the other two have the stalls before them. Here is much of Grinling Gibbons' fine carving in wood ; the Archbishop's throne on the south side, near the altar, marked by the figures of a mitre and pelican; the Bishop of London's throne ; the Lord Mayor's seat on the north, distinguished by the city arms; the Dean's stall, indicated by an open Bible ; the stalls of the four canons and prebendaries. The seats in front of the stalls are for the twelve minor canons, the six vicars choral, and the choristers. The communion table is in the apsidal chancel. Wren's design for the decoration of this part of