I wrote this nine years ago, and while prepping my piece on Notre-Dame de Paris, re-read it. The fact that St. Paul’s, like Notre Dame, had scaffolding up for restoration when it burned is just a little creepy. The two churches share some interesting parallels, but unfortunately, Old St. Paul’s did not survive its fire to rise again in the same form.
Last week I caught a show on the building of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. The building is so iconic (and such an interesting feat of engineering) that few people remember what came before.
Old St. Paul’s was one of the largest Gothic cathedrals in Europe, with an enormous nave known as “Paul’s Walk”, beautiful stained glass and the tallest spire in Europe.
It was not just a pretty building, but became the centre of London life–its nave was used for business, for learning the latest news, and later, during its decline, for all manner of buying and selling. London’s booksellers were located nearby on Pater Noster street. But, like many churches, the Reformation was not kind to it. By the 16th century it had begun its long decline, and was actually sacked by a mob. Horses were even bought and sold there at one point. In 1561 the spire…
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