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.
A collection of 226 drawings produced by Sir Christopher Wren and his draughtsmen, recording the design and construction of the present Cathedral.
There are 217 drawings for St Paul’s and nine drawings of other buildings unconnected with the Cathedral, all of which are held at the London
Metropolitan Archives. In addition to this there are 67 drawings held in the Wren Collection at All Souls College, Oxford, and a single plan at Sir
John Soane’s Museum in London.
The collection is believed to represent only a small part of what had been originally produced, for it contains very few executed designs and just
one full-sized profile for construction, but it includes designs for the Great Model, 1673; designs from the first phase, 1675–1685; upper
elevations and west end, c.1685–1694; designs for fittings for the Choir and Morning Prayer Chapel, c.1693–1697; designs for the dome, c.1687–1708;
designs for the western towers, c.1685–1710; and designs for the churchyard and paving, c.1690–1713.
It was once thought that Wren finalised the whole design up to the roofline of the Cathedral before work began on the foundations in June 1675, but
recent research on the activities of Wren’s draughtsmen in relation to the main phases of construction has established that he revised the design
stage by stage as work moved from one part of the building to the next.
In the first phase, up to 1685, Wren planned the Cathedral with equal-length nave and choir arms and single-storey aisle walls. Soon after the
accession of James II in 1685, when the Cathedral’s funding was increased, he enlarged the west end and added upper aisle walls (known as ‘screen
walls’) to create an all-round two-storey elevation beneath a more richly modelled dome, wider and higher than the one he had designed at the start
of work. The ‘Revised design’ of c.1685-1687 (as it is now known) was partly inspired by what Wren then knew, from drawings and engravings, of
Jules Hardouin-Mansart’s domed church of Les Invalides in Paris, begun in 1677.
Between about 1690 and 1695, Wren progressively revised the dome to give the drum a 32-column peristyle and a sloping inner wall; and in about
1702, when construction was halfway up the peristyle, he added a concealed brick cone to support a tall stone lantern above a timber and lead-clad
outer dome. Finally, in 1703-04, he revised the lanterns of the western towers to give them a more Baroque form, in contrast with the plainer
treatment he had adopted for the outer dome, the covering of which was finished in 1710.
The entire design process depended on close collaboration between Wren and his draughtsmen. Often working in pairs, they produced finished or
alternative schemes for his approval and made large-scale working drawings for construction. Amongst them were the master-masons Edward Pearce and
Edward Strong, the surveyors Edward Woodroofe and William Dickinson, the engraver Simon Gribelin, the sculptors Grinling Gibbons and Caius Gabriel
Cibber, and the future architect Nicholas Hawksmoor, the last being Wren’s most gifted and prolific draughtsman and the only one paid for such work
in the building accounts.