St. Paul's Cathedral--a stunning piece of architecture, art and place of worship. The only thing I knew about it prior to visiting London was that the architect, Sir Christopher Wren, was still very much revered during the Regency, which is the time period in which my romances are set. Oh, wait! I also knew that the Bird Lady in Mary Poppins sat in front of it to Feed the Birds. (Dad wants his children to put their tuppence into the bank. Mary Poppins encourages them to give it to the Bird Lady, which they do. Mayhem ensues, lessons are learned and tears are shed.) One may not feed the birds at St. Paul's these days, a stricture I think wise. Also, one may not take photos of the inside of the building. Sad but true. However, there is enough on the outside of the building to drool over for a lifetime, or, at the very least, one long-ish blog post.
But first, we had to get there. Which we did. Via our coach. Thankfully, I was able to read that the man on the horse is meant to depict Wellington (my biggest clue was the word Wellington on the monument) who is a Regency-era military hero whose house I blogged about a few weeks ago. I also got the road sign (Cornhill) and was able to look it up to learn that this is Bank Junction. Therefore, it is safe to assume that most of these buildings are banks. One of them might have even been the bank in the movie Mary Poppins. (That puts me in mind of another very good song from that movie, but I digress.)
As you can see, London is a very busy metropolis that even Clark Kent could get lost in. (The bank--I'm assuming here--on the right has a row of gold letters at the top that my personal enlargement reveals to be Anno Elizabethae R XIII Condu . .something or other. I am fairly certain it refers to Elizabeth the I but how her year is 8, I couldn't guess.)
The above spire is another Christopher Wren creation. I am confident in saying that he is my favorite architect of all time. Not just for his talent but for his vision, his cheek, his guts, his nerve, his audacity (more on that later). He rebuilt 52 churches (he had lots of help) after the Great Fire of London in 1666. His style is not Georgian (an architectural era that I love) or Victorian (hard to decide which I love better) but English Baroque--a style I absolutely adore without having known it. (In my mind it was always just "fancy".)
This was my first glimpse of St. Paul's (other than the few I had had earlier that morning) as we drove by on the coach. I didn't know what it was until I compared photos. Either way, the above is one of my favorite photos of all time. Just put a pink rosebush in there and I would have it made into wallpaper for my living room. (Ha! Have you seen my living room? No, of course you have not. Take my word for it, there is no place to put this where it would be visible and enjoyable.)
This is what I *thought* was my first glimpse of St. Paul's (other than those earlier that morning). This is also a great shot of my beautiful daughter (I realize that everyones' back is turned but she's easy to spot--she's the beautiful one) taking a great shot of St. Paul's. Notice how close together everything is. The Victorians were prolific builders and they just built all around it. However, St. Paul's is still the highest building in the London skyline--365 feet. Well--it used to be until recently. (That darn Shard . . .)
Getting closer to the lovely blue dome.
Heading under the gate . . .Not sure who these statues depict. Probably someones intelligent and Greek.
So much to look at . . no wonder it took 38-45 years to build (depending on whom you ask).
Under the gate . .
Oh. I just remembered about explaining about the audacity of the man--Christopher Wren. His first plans of the rebuilt church (which was a rebuilt church of a rebuilt church--there has been a church on this spot since the Dawn of Time) (which is just me being too lazy to look up the actual year-ish) were deemed "too Catholic". England had been a Protestant nation for about 100 years at this point and, by golly, the English liked it. Anything too "Popish" would not do. (BTW, I am not Popish, nor am I Protestant.) (I am, however, religious, pretty picky about my own, but very liberal in my love of churches of all kinds.) So, the architect drafted a new building, the design of which was approved. And then he went on his merry way and built the first one. (Did I mention that I love Christopher Wren?) He's pretty much a rock star. Truthfully, he was about as close to one as they had back then.
This must have been taken when I was looking back out of the gate. The woman in white with the gold scepter is Queen Anne, the one who built (she had lots of help) the Orangery that I blogged about HERE.
This is the other side/the inside of the gate. Below is a detail shot of the statues at the top. The man on the left is certainly Charles the I.
In my mind he was a sweet and gentle man. He was also crazy about art and was the monarch responsible for bringing the Baroque style to England. They say that he was beheaded for being a Catholic but it was as much for his uncontrollable spending on ART. He LOVED it. (No idea who the other guy--gal?-- is. Maybe his son Charles II.) (Since Charles the II was the King when this version of St. Paul's was built-ish, it's a pretty good guess.)
All the delectable details. . . they just go on and on and on like my penchant for ellipses.
The gold statue is known as St. Paul's Cross at the churchyard there at St. Paul's. It has only been there for about 100 years. (The statue, that is.)
I am trying to figure out a way to 1) get a column capital like the one above out of its natural environment and into mine and 2) how to use it in my décor. If someone were to gift me with one, I guarantee you, I would make good use of it. (That's not a hint.) (Because, duh!)
Our time inside the cathedral was undocumentable (and lamentable) (which is a word whilst undocumentable is not) due to no photos allowed. However, I encourage you to seek out photos online or programs on the telly. It is simply stupendous. (It's making my heart hurt just thinking about it.) However pictures, as with everything else, just don't do it justice. Just the sheer size and volume is such that there are no words (except ones that give dimensions but that involves numbers and they are fairly meaningless to us artistic types). (No? Just me?) (I can live with that.) The above photo depicts some buildings I loved on the way back to the coach, including the wonderful brick ruin.
Here's a detail shot of the French Chateau-style building on the right of the old ruin.
People think that I blow up my photos so that I (and you, too, of course!) can see the detail work on the buildings. The truth is that I have an absolute fascination for the notion of how the building you live in changes your life and I just really want to get a photo of the kind of person who lives in a place like this. (Though I suspect whomever it is looks pretty normal, huh?)
This old ruin has not been removed but has, instead, been made into a lovely garden that people can sit in and enjoy when it is not raining, which means, Not Often but Sometimes, If You Are Lucky.
A pair of nice gents carved over the doorway here. It always begs the question: Why? There must be a reason.
Capitals, columns and corbels, the 3 Big C's of elegant architecture. I want it all.
There's that lovely blue dome of St. Paul's again. (Blue is the color of London. If you need to give something a color and you live in London, blue it is. Except for the phone kiosks. Obviously.) It is a building that peeks out at you from many angles throughout the center of London. Love it.
Here we are going by the chapel. Not sure which one. Not sure if you can only get in from the outside or if you can get in through the cathedral. Just. Not. Sure. (Sorry!) Aren't the rose bushes lovely?
Who knew that carved stone could be so warm and alive?
I swear that these people are all perfectly healthy and still of this world. It's just a nice place to nap. Or, alternatively, take a photo of people lolling about on the lawn from behind a wrought iron fence. (I know which one I would choose.)
On the way back to the coach, we spotted this icon of British culture. Some people call it a phone booth or even a phone box but it is a KIOSK (or maybe even Phone Kiosk but don't quote me). My daughter, pictured happily emerging from said kiosk is NOT smiling b/c she just called her boyfriend. 1) She doesn't have one (hard to believe, I know) and 2) She couldn't even tell you if the phone inside works. She remembers that there was one. That is all. However, as a travel buddy of mine says, it's a nice, quiet place to chat on your cell phone. Indeed.
Goodbye St. Paul's. Your Baroque Splendor, your tender American Chapel in honor of the WWII Veterans, your soaring domes, your millions upon millions of chisel marks, in wood and stone that labor to shape men's hearts (and women's too--I'm an equal opportunity wannabe sculptor) will never be forgot. At least not until I get super forgetful. (It's only a matter of time.)
I am fairly certain this is the back of St. Paul's. Or the front. I just don't know. It's not where we went in, that I know. (It's good to be so smart and well informed.) (Tell me about it sometime, will you?)
And there is St. Paul's, or a portion thereof, off to the right and another one of those spire thingies one sees around town on the left. One day I need to research those. For those who are still wondering what the heck the Horse Guards Hotel is and why I call it one of the most beautiful buildings in the world, I am as surprised as you that I haven't gotten there yet. I took so many photos on this very same day, it is mind boggling. Personally, I can't wait to get to them. Next week--or the one after. Maybe.