Tomorrow the cameras are going to be trained on London for Margaret Thatcher’s funeral, and one building in particular will be in the limelight; St Paul’s, London’s cathedral, known especially for its iconic dome.
I suspect attention will be more on those in the congregation than the building, but maybe some of those watching will come to London later this year, and if so, I hope as well as admiring the great mass of the building, they will take the time to look at some of the details.
Cherubs are a feature of Wren’s churches. You notice them once, and then you’ll see them everywhere. The dome is such an potent sight in London. During the Second World War, St Paul’s became a symbol of the capital’s survival. Recognising this, Winston Churchill famously said that at all costs, St Paul’s must be saved. It was, thanks to the St Paul’s Watch. You can see their memorial just inside the west doors; a group of postmen, office workers, cathedral employees, clergy and at least two poets who patrolled the building day and night, quenching fires, sleeping in the crypt with the rescued monuments. One of those monuments was to John Donne, former Dean of the cathedral. His monument has scorch marks on it from the Great Fire of London that destroyed the previous cathedral in 1666. The phoenix on the south transept represents London rising again from the ashes.
There is no monument to Christopher Wren inside the cathderal. Instead, in the crypt, you will find, by Wren’s tomb, the words Lector, si monumentum requiris, circumspice – Reader, if you seek his monument, look around you. Heed this advice next time you are at St Paul’s, because it is so much more than a dome. And it will most certainly feature on C the City when it has its premier in October.