A little off base: Iconic London beauty
LONDON — With the tower atop its dome reaching 355 feet into the air and dominating a portion of this city’s skyline, St. Paul’s Cathedral is one of those must-see sights in a place chock-full of them.
St. Paul’s history stretches back more than 1,400 years. It has has been built five separate times, ending in its current form in 1710.
The cathedral is not just an attraction for religious reasons: Its grandeur, intricate chapels and massive dome make it an archtectural wonder well worth a look by anyone.
In addition, there is a great 360-degree view of the city for those who venture up 434 steps to the Golden Gallery, an outside balcony 280 feet above the ground.
All of these sightseeing delights in one place come with a price — and a rather high one at that. It costs an adult 9.50 pounds and a child 3.50 pounds to enter the cathedral’s doors.
Once inside, it becomes apparent why the price is so high.
The first part of the cathedral visitors come across is the nave, a tall corridor with memorials in honor of British dignitaries, including an elaborate crypt for the Duke of Wellington.
Toward the pulpit, the nave opens up to the dome, one of the largest of any cathedral in the world, a brochure stated.
Every side leading up to the inside of the dome is covered with beautiful murals of religious scenes in shimmering golden paint.
The paintings inside the dome are not as colorful but still impressive. They give an optical illusion the way they bend in with the dome’s curves. It was easy to get a cramped neck from constantly gazing up at all the paintings.
Farther down the corridor is the quire, an area made out of wood-carved structures where the choir conducts business. This area is closed off to visitors by tall golden-painted iron gates, but is still visible through openings in the bars.
A small chapel, dedicated to U.S. servicemen who were based in the United Kingdom and died in World War II, is at the end of corridor. In the chapel, there is a tablet listing the names of the deceased U.S. troops. The tablet was unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II in the presence of then-Vice President Richard Nixon in 1958.
Nearby is a staircase leading up to the Whispering Gallery, a circular balcony 100 feet above the cathedral floor. It’s said that if someone whispers against a wall in the gallery, it can be heard on the other side. On a recent weekday, a few people were able to make it work while others were not so lucky.
Up 120 more steps in another staircase is the Stone Gallery, a large balcony with obstructed views of the city.
For a much better observation point, head up an additional 150 steps to the Golden Gallery. The steep ascent to this gallery may leave the calf muscles burning and you gasping for breath, but the reward is impeccable — an open-air panoramic view of western Europe’s largest city.
Getting thereLocation: The cathedral is between Queen Victoria Street and Newgate Street, close to the River Thames. The nearest Underground station is St. Paul’s along the Central Line.
Hours: Open to sightseers from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Saturday.
Cost: Amission is 9.50 pounds for adults, 3.50 pounds for children (7-16 years).
Web site: For more information, go to www.stpauls.co.uk.