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.
St Paul’s in the time of Magna Carta - a place staunchly opposed to King John
15 June 2015
As the nation marks the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta - one of the most important documents in history - Collections Manager Simon
Carter looks at the significant role St Paul's played in opposition to King John.
At the beginning of the thirteenth century St Paul's Cathedral was a thriving ecclesiastical hub at the heart of City life. The building, begun in
1087, had suffered set-backs but was nevertheless a magnificent Romanesque structure with a significant precinct.
As London was the greatest material base of power in England at the time, it was also the greatest potential source of opposition and St Paul’s
played an important role in the strife which led up to, and followed on from, the sealing of Magna Carta. The Cathedral was the most public of the
political spaces in the City; it not only provided a stage for the some of the dramatic events but directly influenced proceedings through the
activities of the clergy.
Before he became Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Beckett had been a Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral; his parents were buried in the churchyard and his
example as an ecclesiastic prepared to defy the monarch was celebrated in St Paul’s after his martyrdom in 1170. This historic link is reflected in
a statue of Beckett which can be found in St Paul’s churchyard today.
There was one key figure at St Paul’s responsible for continuing Beckett’s tradition in the time of King John - a Canon called Gervase of Howbridge
- one of the most determined clerical supporters of the baronial movement. Close links between the barons and the high ranks of the English clergy
were common, but Gervase was particularly active in his opposition to the King.
In 1212 King John led a campaign to Wales which offered an opportunity for a plot, largely in response to the financial exactions the King had
imposed in 1205. Gervase was implicated in this plot with his neighbour in the City of London, Robert Fitzwalter. When the plot was exposed before
it could be enacted both were outlawed and fled into exile.
As hostility to King John grew, Gervase was able to return to the Cathedral in 1213 and he was subsequently made Dean. He orchestrated a great
assembly in St Paul’s at which complaints against the King were made and, at a second council at St Paul’s in the same year, King John was forced
to publicly resign the English crown to Pope Innocent III.
The negotiations for Magna Carta began.
Neither side stood behind their commitments outlined in Magna Carta, and the charter was annulled. During the civil war which followed the failure
of the Magna Carta, Prince Louis of France came to England to aid the barons. He was welcomed with a great procession along Cheapside from the
Tower of London to the Cathedral.
The Histoie des ducs names Gervase as responsible for counselling the Canons of the Cathedral to take the course of supporting Prince Louis. He
also preached to Londoners from Paul’s Cross outside the Cathedral, exhorting them to support Louis. This is the earliest evidence for activity at
Paul’s Cross, the extraordinary outdoor pulpit, once located in the north churchyard, where, at the height of its popularity, up to six thousand
Londoners would collect to hear sermons and receive news.
Grateful for the support he received, Louis insisted that Gervase be included in the terms of the peace treaty which followed in 1217 - he was
prepared to see Gervase stripped of his ecclesiastical benefices but only if he was equally compensated with secular rents.