In the walkway that circles the inside of Christopher Wren’s great dome whispered words can be heard clearly directly across 137 feet. The trick of acoustics is an artifact of the perfection of the dome, which was completed in 1710.
The current cathedral is thought to be the fourth cathedral on that spot, replacing the third incarnation which was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. Wren, who had already been planning on retrofitting the existing cathedral, took on the monumental task of creating a new central cathedral. Astonishingly, he was also responsible for the rebuilding of an additional 50 parish churches during the same period.
His design was modern and quite different than the earlier cathedral design, incorporating a massive dome designed in homage to St Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
The first stone was laid in 1677, and it opened in 1697, just 32 years after the fire - a lighting quick build, in cathedral terms. The dome was completed after opening, and the building was declared complete in 1710. It is the largest cathedral in England, and considered Wren’s masterpiece.
Wren became the first of many prominent people interred in St. Paul’s after his death in 1723. His epitaph reads “Lector, si monumentum requiris, circumspice”, Latin for “Reader, if you seek his monument, look around you”.
St. Paul’s was struck by, but survived bombing raids in WWII, and remains an active church.
The Whispering Gallery is one of three galleries accessible in the cathedral. It is located at the top of 259 steps, 99 feet above the floor of the cathedral, which is decorated with a compass rose.
Know Before You Go
After a fatal fall from the Whispering Gallery on April 1, 2019, the cathedral has closed access to this level of the building and expects it to remain closed through December 2019. The Stone and Golden Galleries above the Whispering Gallery remain open. A total of 528 steps will be needed to reach them. The height of the cathedral is 365 feet, one foot for every day of the year.