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AN IMAGINARY STROLL initiated by Stephen Browning’s On the Trail of Sherlock Holmes led me past the Cathedral Church of St Paul the Apostle. Who would have guessed it would have prompted tidbits ranging from Sir Christopher Wren’s catenary-shape dome to the latest happenings of this 325-year-old London landmark.
Suffragette Attacks. Here let’s take the long view on “latest” dating back a little more than 100 years ago and Britain’s Suffragette Movement. As described in Wikipedia, this was part of “the suffragette bombing and arson campaign between 1912 and 1914, in which suffragettes from the Women’s Social and Political Union… carried out a series of politically motivated bombings and arson nationwide. Churches were explicitly targeted by the suffragettes as they believed the Church of England was complicit in reinforcing opposition to women’s suffrage.”
“The first attack on St. Paul’s,” Wikipedia recounts, “occurred on 8 May 1913, at the start of a sermon. A bomb was heard ticking and discovered as people were entering the cathedral…. Had it exploded, the bomb likely would have destroyed the historic bishop’s throne and other parts of the cathedral. The remains of the device, which was made partly out of a mustard tin, are now on display at the City of London Police Museum.”
The Blitz. An iconic photograph was taken by Herbert Mason from the roof of a building in Tudor Street during a Nazi air raid of London.
Earlier that year, Wikipedia relates, “a time-delayed bomb that had struck the cathedral was successfully defused and removed by a bomb disposal detachment of Royal Engineers under the command of Temporary Lieutenant Robert Davies. Had this bomb detonated, it would have totally destroyed the cathedral; it left a 100-foot (30 m) crater when later remotely detonated in a secure location.”
Royal Nups. On 29 July 1981, the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer was held at the cathedral. The couple selected St Paul’s over Westminster Abbey, the traditional site of royal weddings, because the cathedral offered more seating.
Everyday Liturgical Matters. St Paul’s has four or five Church of England services each day, including Matins, Eucharist and Evening Prayer or Choral Evensong. Attendance is free for worshippers.
There’s a tourist entry fee of £21 for adults (Summer 2022, cheaper if booked online). No charge for worshippers attending scheduled services.
Though Salisbury Cathedral is taller, St Paul’s is the largest church in England, and being in London the latter hosts many special occasions. Among these were the Diamond Jubilee of the late Queen Elizabeth, as well as her 80th and 90th birthday celebrations.
The Cathedral Choir. Wikipedia notes that “The earliest records of the choir date from 1127. The present choir consists of up to 30 boy choristers, eight probationers and the vicars choral, 12 professional singers. In February 2017 the cathedral announced the appointment of the first female vicar choral, Carris Jones (a mezzo-soprano), to take up the role in September 2017. In 2022, it was announced that girls would be admitted to a cathedral choir in 2025.
Her Grace the Bishop. St Paul’s is the seat of the Bishop of London, as described by Wikipedia “the ordinary of the Church of England‘s Diocese of London in the Province of Canterbury.”
The Bishop of London is Sarah Mullally, whose appointment was announced in December 2017 and whose enthronement took place in May 2018.
Wikipedia notes, “While studying for A levels she decided to become a nurse rather than a doctor because she wanted to apply a holistic approach to patient care. Her choice of career was also motivated by her Christian faith, which she has held since the age of 16.” She is the first woman to hold the position of Bishop of London. Her biography notes she is a novice potter.
What interesting people and events emerge from a stroll with a consulting detective and his able chronicler. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2022
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Another interesting fact about St. Paul’s is the Whispering Gallery in the dome, where you can face the wall and whisper something that can be heard on the opposite of the dome.
In Edmonton we have a government conference centre located on the top floor of the former Lieutenant Governor’s residence that has a dome style ceiling. One politician discovered how well whispers travelled in that room by making a comment to his neighbour about a young aid across the room and she heard every word!
I’ve been in that room on a tour and it really does work.
As I recall there’s a New York restaurant (Grand Central Oyster Bar?) with similar acoustic properties.
A quick bit of Internet sleuthing confirms the location and whispering gallery. (https://remorandom.com/blog/grand-central-station-oyster-bar)