On the morning of April 25, we gathered in the basement of the main hotel to eat breakfast before riding the tube over to St. Paul’s Cathedral. The traditional Irish breakfast here is so hearty and filling, it really makes me feel like I’m ready to tackle the day. Once breakfast was finished, we set off across the busy London streets, braving the crowded underground system over to St. Paul’s.
Prior to this trip, I had collected some information on St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, England, in order to give a presentation while there. As such, I entered the structure with some history, as well as pre-conceived notions as to what exactly I would be seeing. And they didn’t even come close to preparing me for just how vast and majestic it actually was. First of all, just walking into the main chamber of the cathedral is more than enough to make you feel small; pillars and statues tower above you, coming to a peek in the dome, the interior of which is 365 feet in the air (one foot for every day in the year). The ceiling was adorned with ornate art, depicting various biblical scenes. In contrast to the painted images, the statues on the ground floor were mostly of lay figures throughout English history, something that was odd to me. I have never witnessed such a mixture of the religious and the secular in a place of worship, and it really highlighted not only some of the culture of England, but also how the church has become as closely tied to the nation as it is to the Anglican faith.
While exploring the cathedral, I was able to go up into the inner dome, an area called the “whispering well,” thus named for its amazing acoustics. A person standing on one side of the well can whisper into the wall, and a person standing on the other side can press their ear against the opposite wall and hear it (I tried it, and it works). Climbing up even higher, a door opened up to the outer dome, where I was treated to a panoramic view of London, architecture both old and new shrouded by a curtain of rain. It was a truly breath-taking sight, and well worth the steep hike. Also interesting was how some of the older architecture had been covered up by new constructions, like an old set of stone steps that were blocked by a new metal staircase.
After a slightly easier trek back down the dome, I left St. Paul’s with a group of people from the class. Together, we used our last few free hours in London exploring the surrounding area, stopping in shops and getting one last un-guided look at the city before rushing off to Les Miserables and the choir concert.