St Paul’s Cathedral has been here for over 1,400 years. It has been built and rebuilt five times, and always its main purpose has been as a
place of worship and prayer.
St Paul's, with its world-famous dome, is an iconic feature of the London skyline. Step inside and you can enjoy the Cathedral's awe-inspiring
interior, and uncover fascinating stories about its history.
Learning & Faith
Lifelong learning is a core part of the our work, delivered through a variety of events by St Paul's Institute, and the
Cathedral's Adult Learning and Schools & Family Learning departments.
History & Collections
For more than 1,400 years, a Cathedral dedicated to St Paul has stood at the highest point in the City. The present Cathedral is the
masterpiece of Britain's most famous architect Sir Christopher Wren.
Behind the scenes, the cost of caring for St Paul's and continuing to deliver our central ministry and work is enormous and the generosity of
our supporters is critical.
Widely considered to be one of the world’s most beautiful buildings and a powerful symbol of the splendour of London, St Paul’s Cathedral is a
breathtaking events venue.
Herbert Mason, chief photographer at the Daily Mail, was fire-watching on the roof of his
office in Fleet Street during the Blitz when he captured this famous image. The extraordinary scene shows the dome and bell towers of St Paul's
surrounded by a maelstrom of billowing smoke generated by the burning city. Published under the headline of ‘War’s Greatest Picture’ on 31 December
1940, it has since become a symbol of hope and survival of the City of London during the Blitz.
The Blitz took place between 7 September 1940 and 21 May 1941. It was a period of the
sustained bombing of the whole of the United Kingdom, the most devastating period for the City of London occurred between 29 and 30 December 1940.
For almost twelve hours the German Luftwaffe attacked the City with incendiary bombs and high explosives causing a fire storm that became known as
the ‘Second Great Fire of London’. St Paul’s was not exempt from the raid and in total twenty-eight incendiary bombs fell on the Cathedral and its
precincts. With the iconic building in serious danger of being destroyed, Prime Minister Winston Churchill issued a message stating that “St Paul’s
must be saved at all costs”.
In addition to the work of the firefighters who tackled the fires at street level, the
preservation of St Paul's was ensured by a group of Cathedral volunteers known as the St Paul’s Watch. The Watch had originally been assembled
during the First World War to protect the building from Zeppelin attacks, but were reinstated in 1939 to protect the Cathedral from predicted
raids. The duties of the Watch were to keep guard over the cathedral and report gunfire, incendiaries or any damage to the building to the London
Fire Brigade, and to tackle any blazes that were started by incendiaries. They were a socially diverse and multinational group noted for their
commitment and camaraderie. They took great personal risks to enable services to continue daily during the war and it is thanks to them that the
cathedral survived to stand for many years to come.
The Cathedral Collections department is lucky to retain a number of records and items
related to the work of the Watch, including original log books and planning documents, personal papers and correspondence, press photographs, and
ephemera such as drawings and Christmas cards. After their last meeting on 8 May 1945 it was suggested that they should reform into a new group to
continue their friendship and love of the cathedral, which would eventually form the basis of the Friends of St Paul’s Cathedral. Without this love
and dedication for their Cathedral, it is likely that St Paul’s would not have survived the ‘Second Great Fire of London’.
To see items in The Collections related to St Paul's in wartime click here
Discover more about St Paul's history on your visit