SECRETS OF ST PAUL'SDecember 27, 2014
London is a truly fascinating city, vast in both length of history and breath of size. You could easily spend years exploring every facet of it and still have not scratched its surface. As they say a man (or woman) who is tired of London is tired of life. I was recently lucky enough to get the opportunity to see a little bit of London usually kept under lock and key and rarely seen by the general public...a little place know as St Paul's triforium. A triforium is essentially a loft...but this isn't just any loft, it's one that reveals the history and secrets of one of London's most iconic buildings.
A postcard preview of what lies within St Paul's triforium.
St Paul's Cathedral is one of London's most recognised buildings, vast in size and painstaking in detail. Views of Sir Christopher Wren's architectural masterpiece are protected and it's prohibited for any new build to obstruct its view. The original building of St Paul's was badly damaged by the Great Fire of London and was different in design to the St Paul's that we know today - the most obvious difference being that the former cathedral didn't have the vast dome.
Statue of Henry Hallam - A historic onlooker.
The triforium tour began at the crypt, the final resting place of some of Britain's most notable heroes including Sir Christopher Wren himself. The cathedral's restaurant and cafe are also located within the crypt and are well worth a mention. It's a place where you can enjoy seasonal dishes or the age old British tradition of afternoon tea in the company of some historic onlookers, such as the above. They do fixed two course lunches for £21.50 or three courses for just under £30, which is great value when you consider the location. From the crypt, you are led through an entrance which is usually kept under lock and key and up the 140 step spiral staircase to the triforium level.
The triforium houses a fascinating pick'n'mix of objects related to the history of St Paul's, including large mosaics, statues and a collection of the bits of stone that have fallen off the building over the years.
The cathedral library room is one of its best kept secrets. It's a place where not many people, besides scholars, have even had the privilege to clap eyes on. It's almost like a time capsule and when you step inside you discover a piece of the past, suspended in the present. The bookshelves that span from floor to ceiling and the dark mahogany, the marble busts - all tell-tale attributes of a geniuses hideout. And the smell...well it's one of those things that you could bottle up and sell. It's that distinctively wonderful aroma of leather bound books and old dust. You are immersed insight into an environment in which great minds have thrived for centuries and continue to do so to this day.
"Faciendi plures libros nullus est finis" translation from Latin: "Making many books there is no end".
The original marble pulpit.
After a short walk across the nave (from which there are stunning views down the West end of the cathedral) there is a dimly-lit corridor which looks as though it doesn't lead to much. However at the end of it there's a room that reveals the history of St Paul's and it's construction. For any architecture buff, it's a must see.
This is the original architect's model from which St Paul's was built, constructed perfectly to scale and in painstaking detail. The hugely expensive model was carved by Sir Christopher Wren himself in a bid to persuade his employers to back his controversially classical vision, which went against the Gothic architectural style that had dominated for centuries before.
On closer inspection of the model when you peek through the entrances there are no details spared, even in its interior. It's a bit like inception in the fact that when you look inside, it almost feels as though you are looking through the actual cathedral.
The little figure of a man and a woman are to show reference of how big the building would be in comparison to the size of a person.
When you look at the original concept sketches, you can't help but consider how remarkable it is that what started out as a vision on paper was brought to reality through Wren's unrelenting determination, despite the trials and tribulations that he faced in its funding and construction.
Finally the 'Divination' stairwell takes you back down to ground level. It's a breath-takingly stunning piece of architecture and my personal favourite part of St Paul's. You may recognise this beautiful, self supporting-staircase from Hogwarts Castle, as it has made appearances in a couple of Harry Potter films.
On occasions, the triforium tour is available to the general public and I would highly recommend checking it out if the opportunity arises. General admission to St Paul's which includes Cathedral floor, crypt and the three galleries in the dome only is £16.50 for adults, £14.50 for concessions and £7.50 for children but it's slightly cheaper if you book online in advance.