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
Education is a core part of the Cathedral's work, delivered through a variety of events by St Paul's Forum, St Paul's Institute and the
Schools & Families department.
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.
The Light of the World
Oil on canvas
"I am the Light of the World; he who follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the Light of life". St John’s Gospel records Christ's
proclamation which inspired Holman Hunt to paint this world famous image. This is the third version of the allegory painted by the artist. The
first, of 1853, resides in Keeble College Oxford and the second, painted shortly afterwards, can be seen in the Manchester Art Gallery. The St
Paul’s canvas was painted over fifty years later, with the assistance of Edward Robert Hughes, and it is thought to be the culmination of
This “sermon in a frame” became the most travelled art work in history. On completion in 1904 it toured the globe visiting most of the major
towns and cities in: Canada, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. It has been seen by millions of people and is one of the best known works of
its period. Purchased from Holman-Hunt by the industrialist Charles Booth it was donated to St Paul’s and dedicated at a service in June 1908. The
choir sang psalm 119 which includes the verse : “Thy word is a lantern unto my feet and a light unto my path”. Today the painting forms an
altarpiece in the Cathedral’s Middlesex Chapel, where it serves as an object of devotion and contemplation. Conveying the message : The
saviour of the world is alive and will dwell in the hearts of those who admit him.
There are two lights shown in the picture. The lantern is the light of conscience and the light around the head of Christ is the light of
salvation. The door represents the human soul, which cannot be opened for the outside. There is no handle on the door, and the rusty nails and
hinges overgrown with ivy denote that the door has never been opened and that the figure of Christ is asking permission to enter. The morning star
appears near Christ, the dawn of a new day, and the autumn weeds and fallen fruit represent the autumn of life. The writing beneath the picture, is
taken from Revelation 3 ‘Behold I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice and open the door I will come in to him and will sup
with him and he with me.’
The orchard of apple trees evokes several biblical references. The tree of knowledge in the garden of Eden was, according to legend, an apple tree
and in some Christian traditions the wood of that tree was miraculously saved to construct the cross on which Christ was crucified. The fallen
apples could symbolise the fall of man, original sin, and sometimes in Italian art can refer to redemption. Neil McGregor, Director of the British
Museum, has noted that in the painting Christ not only knocks at the door; he is himself the door.
The extraordinary Renaissance style frame which surrounds and supports the painting is the work of two female artists: Hilda Herbert and a Miss
Smith. Hilda studied at the National Art Training School in South Kensington and was friends with Holman-Hunt’s daughter, Gladys, and together they
had made a cassone (or Italian marriage chest) using much the same materials as are used in the frame: wood; gesso ( a
mixture of chalk, glue and white pigment) and gilding. Hilda wrote that the frame was ‘a work of months of patience, not only because it was a very
long job, and though Holman-Hunt knew what he wanted, his sight was not good, his sketches were too vague for words: no – not for words, but for
Holman Hunt and the Pre-Raphaelite Vision, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto 2008
Seeing Salvation: The Image of Christ, The National Gallery, London 2000