Thursday, 23 June 2011


A magnificent service, where some three thousand were present, was held at St Paul's on Tuesday morning the celebrate the 300th anniversary of the completion of Christopher Wren's cathedral building.

One of the leitmotifs of my Master's year has been a series of memorable services at St Paul's: the City Guilds Service, the Loriners' Company 750th anniversary service and the Sons of the Clergy celebration.  Each is magnificent and entirely appropriate in its own way.

Tuesday's service included as a theme contributions from every part of the diverse team that maintains St Paul's at the heart of City of London life.  So, in addition to the Dean and the canons there were prayers offered by members of the IT, Marketing, Finance and Works departments, people who work in the Cathedral Shop and the Cathedral School as well as the friends and volunteers whose support helps keep the cathedral going.

An imagined nineteenth century view of old St Paul's.  In the hundred or so years before the cathedral was finally destroyed it had decayed considerably.  The spire, that was the tallest in England, was accidentally burnt and entirely destroyed in 1561 and the general fabric of the building was quite dilapidated. 
We were reminded during the service of the vicissitudes that attended the hugely ambitious rebuilding of a cathedral after the somewhat dilapidated medieval one, described somewhat imaginatively by John Evelyn as 'One of the most ancient pieces of early piety in the Christian world', had been destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666. Rebuilding took forty-five years.  Although it was an act of great civic faith there were the inevitable wrangles over typically recurring issues when it comes to big projects.  These covered the 'usual suspects' of project scope, the original plans were much reduced, and cash-flow management; at one point Wren had his salary withheld and it was only reinstated after much wrangling.

HM The Queen, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and HRH Duchess of Gloucester were the principal members of the congregation that also included the Lord Mayor and other members of the civic City and representatives from many of the livery companies. 

After an hour and a half of a beautifully presented service it was out into a blustery June day but with a useful reminder of the great legacy of Christopher Wren and those who helped him create a magnificent religious space.

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