Posted on June 4, 2018
I'm lucky enough to say that I've been to St. Paul's Cathedral in London. And it doesn't look like this:
What I didn't realize, as I read that St. Paul's steeple burned down on this date in 1561, was that there was a St. Paul's Cathedral built in London over the course of centuries from 1087 to 1314....an entirely different St. Paul's than the one I had visited, which was built on the same spot as "Old St. Paul's Cathedral."
This is the one I visited:
Old St. Paul's was actually the fourth Christian church built on that site (so the St. Paul's that exists now is the fifth!), and when it was built it was considered one of the longest churches in the world, with one of the tallest spires in the world.
Do you know what lightning tends to strike? The highest point. So it's not terribly surprising that lightning sometimes strikes church spires. In this case, the lightning caused the spire to catch fire and crash through the nave roof. It was hot enough that the cathedral bells melted and "poured down like lava."
What do you do when part of a building is destroyed? You fix it, of course. Queen Elizabeth was England's ruler at that time, and she contributed money toward the repairs, but apparently the re-roofing job was not done very well, and the spire wasn't rebuilt at all. Just 50 years later, the new roof was looking dangerous.
|It doesn't look nearly as nice without the spire, does it?|
At that point King James I was in charge. He appointed architect Inigo Jones to restore the building, but I gather that Jones didn't fix all of the problems. Instead, his main
|The English Civil War|
was the noble, pro-king
who were often called
And then the Civil War broke out. I am not (of course) talking about the American Civil War, but rather the English one (1642 - 1651). During the war, the nave was used as a sort of horse barn, many old documents were lost or destroyed, and the ruler after the war, Oliver Cromwell, was rumored to be planning to give the Old St. Paul's to the Jewish community, to be used as a synagogue.
But...Cromwell died, the monarchy was restored, and Sir Christopher Wren was appointed to restore the cathedral as well. He was supposed to make the cathedral safe again AND to make it match better with Jones's portico, but Wren said that the whole cathedral should be demolished and a new cathedral built. He pointed out that the original building wasn't built all that well and that the repairs were very poorly done.
Many people - clergy and London citizens alike - disagreed with the idea of demolishing the Old St. Paul's and starting from scratch, but then the Great Fire of London broke out, in 1666, and way more of the church burned than in that spire fire a century before.
So...Wren got his way. The old cathedral was demolished, Wren had a free hand to design the cathedral from the ground up, and he created a masterpiece...
Londoners found St. Paul's to be a beacon of hope as the Nazi blitz went on and on...