Review: Outstanding Guided Supertour of St Paul’s Cathedral
Published 20 May 2012
There’s no denying that this is going to be a bumper year for major events in the UK. And it’s during times like these, that we find that the collective patriotism of the nation is revitalised. But one doesn’t have to be an Olympic enthusiast or street party-loving, monarchy devotee to feel proud to be British – and proud to be a Londoner. Sometimes, going back to basics is key to getting a true appreciation of the beauty of the City. How about a visit to an ‘oldie, but a goodie’ then – to the long-adored, Blitz-surviving legend – St. Paul’s Cathedral?
Having been the unwanted backdrop of the LSX/Occupy London demonstrations until this February, the cathedral suffered major disruption and incurred big financial losses. However now, the cathedral is open for business as normal.
The current St Paul’s Cathedral, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, is actually the fifth incarnation of the building, with previous models having been destroyed in a number of separate fires. The current cathedral was declared complete on Christmas Day of 1711. Even today though, over three centuries later, the cathedral is considered a feat of engineering and an architectural marvel, with its impossibly large dome.
St. Paul’s Cathedral Factual Snippets:
- St. Paul’s is the second largest church building in the United Kingdom, beaten only by Liverpool Cathedral.
- St Paul’s was the tallest building in London and dominated its skyline until fairly recently, 1962, when it was overtaken by the BT Tower.
- The cathedral lies of top of Ludgate Hill, the highest point of the City of London.
- The layout of the church is in the shape of a Greek Cross.
- The cathedral is where Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana got married, just over two decades ago in 1981.
- Many beloved British heroes are buried in the Crypt of St. Paul’s, including Admiral Horatio Nelson, the 1st Duke of Wellington, Sir Winston Churchill and Sir Christopher Wren himself.
St. Paul’s can be explored alone, or with the aid of a multimedia guide or guided tour (also known as the Supertour). These are included in the price of a ticket and are highly recommended – and must be booked on arrival. On our visit to St. Paul’s, the tour was headed by guide extraordinare, Barbara. The tour gives one the opportunity to see parts of the Cathedral that are normally closed to the public, including the Geometric Staircase, the Chapel of St. Michael & St. George and the Quire. Barbara’s knowledge of the place was fantastic – but I guess one would hope so! However, it was her passion, enthusiasm and jovial manner that made the tour outstanding.
The tours give people the chance to learn about more than just the building itself. Be prepared to be amazed by the stunning craftwork displayed within the cathedral, including the exquisite masonry, woodwork and art pieces – and understand the people behind the work – and their stories. Visit the burial places of the historical figures mentioned above and more. And discover the connections between the cathedral and the religious, people of nobility and chivalry, and also ordinary citizens – both from here in the UK and abroad.
And once you’re done with the Supertour, why not take the opportunity to climb up the building’s dome to the three galleries: the Whispering, Stone and Golden Galleries? Here you’ll get amazing views of the cathedral floor and a better view of the high-up artwork including the ceiling mosaics. The Whispering Gallery is so-called, because of ‘a charming quirk in its construction, which makes a whisper against its walls audible on the opposite side’. And The Golden Gallery offers breath-taking panoramic views of London that cannot be missed.
(Climbing the dome is not recommended for those with a fear of heights and for those with mobility problems).
Tickets cost £15 for adults, £14 for concessions (students and seniors) and £6 for children (6 – 17 years). A family ticket for 2 adults and 2 children costs £36. For groups of 10 or more, check the website for discounted rates. Booking tickets online in advance is also cheaper than paying at the door.
St Paul’s Cathedral
Address: St Paul’s Churchyard, London EC4M 8AD
Nearest Tube station: St. Paul’s (Central Line)
Official Website: www.stpauls.co.uk
Ticket Booking: www.stpauls.co.uk/Visits-Events/Buy-Tickets-Online
Guided Supertour details: Included in the price of the admission ticket, they provide a guided tour of the cathedral and crypt and commences at 10am, 11am, 1pm, and 2pm. There is limited numbers on each tour, and places on the guided tour have to be reserved at the guiding desk when you arrive. Each tour lasts for 90 minutes.