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A view fit for a king at St Paul’s Cathedral

Partnership with Google’s Cultural Institute opens up hidden treasures

A view enjoyed by King Charles II is one of several stunning online vistas now available to people worldwide by a new partnership between St Paul’s Cathedral and the Google Cultural Institute. 

See St Paul's Cathedral at the Google Cultural Institute.

Amazing detail inside the Great Model, made by St Paul’s architect Christopher Wren is among views and items from the Cathedral Collections now accessible online in a few clicks.

The Google Cultural Institute brings the world’s cultural treasures to the fingertips of internet users and builds tools that allow the cultural sector to share more of its world collections. St Paul's new partnership with the Cultural Institute means the Cathedral’s world renowned art and architecture and some of its hidden treasures are now accessible to people around the world.

Step inside the Great Model 

Street View now opens up the Whispering Gallery, as well as views of the spectacular London skyline which spread from the Galleries on the outside of the dome, for people unable to climb the stairs to enjoy the famous sights.

A digital exhibit with over 100 assets captured as part of the St Paul’s project on the Cultural Institute website includes super high resolution imagery in and around the cathedral and Street View footage to bring users closer to its treasures.  Experts from St Paul’s Collections Department have curated the digital exhibit, providing context to the images and footage taken.

Hear BBC Radio 4 Making History on the mosaics and the new project

Collection Department Head Simon Carter said: This exciting innovation enables everybody to explore inside the model, to marvel at the harmony of Christopher’s Wren’s design and share the view of the interior which helped convince Charles II to appoint him architect.

'Wren invested great time and effort in creating his enormous presentation model to win the commission to design a new Cathedral for London. In recent years, access to the interior has been restricted to protect the delicate paintwork and surfaces within.

‘The Cultural Institute website will help us to share the many significant objects and archive material that we have in store – and to use that material to shed light on some of the inspiring stories; remarkable achievements; ingenuity, faith and human endeavour which made and continue to make St Paul’s a unique phenomenon’.

Revd Canon Mark Oakley, St Paul’s Chancellor and Chapter member with responsibility for the Cathedral’s visual arts, said: ‘Cathedrals are not always built and decorated in such a way that we get the ‘close-up’ look.

‘They tend to point to the transcendence of God by their shaping of space, architecture and colour. However, when we have access to the detail of a cathedral’s art we can also see the divine in the particular and unique, as well as being amazed at the skills of human imagination and creativity.

‘The Street View project does exactly this for St Paul’s. This is another attempt to try and make St Paul’s less a fortress of faith than a resource for the soul and to do this for everyone, whatever their physical ability, both now and in the future.’

Piotr Adamczyk, Program Manager at Google Cultural Institute said: “This new partnership with St Paul’s Cathedral has opened the doors to one of Britain’s most iconic locations. Through innovative gigapixel technologies, people around the world will be able to see its hidden treasures and amazing views, in extraordinary detail.”

Dr Heike Zech, Senior Curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum and author of Mosaics of St Paul’s Cathedral, said: ‘Google’s Gigapixel project is in a way a case of history repeating itself: in Victorian times the mosaics were created by arranging thousands of minuscule glass pieces to form the picture. These small pieces of glass are called tesserae, and work in exactly the same way as digital pixels. The more pieces you have, the more detailed and life-like is the finished picture. In that sense the mosaics of St Paul’s are “gigamosaics”. 

‘Now, thanks to the Gigapixel project and the extraordinary images that were created through it, we can finally zoom in better than with binocular in hand in the Cathedral and see these vibrant and wonderful images pixel by pixel, respectively tessera by tessera. 

‘I can say for myself that as a result, I keep discovering ever new delights and detail.’

Specially curated exhibitions for the partnership also include Glories in Gold and Glass showing St Paul’s mosaics in a level of detail unobtainable with the naked eye. Gigapixel technology has enabled new academic research into the iconography and style of this extraordinary scheme – and sparked social media controversy into the species depicted.

About St Paul’s Collections: 

People, ideas, oratory, music and faith have made St Paul’s an extraordinary place for over 1,400 years. The richness of the past and present life of the cathedral is recorded, and can be interpreted through, The Collections. This remarkable group of objects, books, manuscripts and archive material provides many ways to engage with the fascinating and complex life and work of the cathedral. 

About the Google Cultural Institute:

The Google Cultural Institute and its partners are putting the world’s cultural treasures at the fingertips of Internet users and are building tools that allow the cultural sector to share more of its diverse heritage online. The Google Cultural Institute has partnered with more than 1000 institutions from 70 countries, giving a platform to over 200 thousand artworks and a total of 6 million photos, videos, manuscripts and other documents of art, culture and history.

Read more here.

The Google Cultural Institute created The Lab in Paris as a place where tech and creative communities come together to share ideas and discover new ways to experience art and culture. At the Lab, experts, creatives, curators, artists, designers and educators craft new bridges between tech and culture.