There are many places of worship worth visiting in or around London, but most recently we visited St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. Both are so much more than just houses of worship and if you have time I would highly recommend trying to fit both in.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
In my generation St. Paul’s is probably most famous for having been the location where Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer, but there has been a cathedral dedicated to St. Paul in its current spot for 1,400 years! If you’re an English history lover, like me, you’ll also be interested to know that theirs was the first wedding of an heir to the throne to take place in St. Paul’s in 480 years, following the marriage of Prince Arthur to Catherine of Aragon in 1501. This is also the location Mary Poppins is singing about in the song Feed The Birds in the movie Mary Poppins! Information about the current building from the official website:
The present Cathedral, the masterpiece of Britain’s most famous architect Sir Christopher Wren, is at least the fourth to have stood on the site. It was built between 1675 and 1710, after its predecessor was destroyed in the Great Fire of London, and services began in 1697.
This was the first Cathedral to be built after the English Reformation in the sixteenth-century, when Henry VIII removed the Church of England from the jurisdiction of the Pope and the Crown took control of the life of the church.
There are many things to see and discover inside St. Paul’s and my boys were both very interested, however I think my older son was the more engaged of the two. Sightseeing times are between 8:30 am and 4:00 pm and both guided and audio tours are available. We went with the self guided audio tour.
It seems like Simon and I climbed just about every staircase in Europe the summer of 2013 and St. Paul’s many staircases were no exception! There are three galleries to visit in the dome, the Whispering Gallery which is 257 steps up from the cathedral floor and is on the interior of the dome. If you whisper into the wall your voice can be heard clear on the other side of the gallery, hence the name!
Next is the Stone Gallery which is on the outside of the dome and is 376 steps up from the cathedral floor. Finally after climbing 528 steps you’ll reach the Golden Gallery! If you make it to the top you won’t be disappointed because the panoramic views of London are spectactular!
We also visited the underground crypt where many famous people have been laid to rest, the Duke of Wellington, Lord Nelson and the architect of St. Paul’s, Christopher Wren, are just a few. Also located in the Crypt is the St. Paul’s cafe which serves lunch as well as tea and snacks. You’ll find a loo down here as well.
Located near Big Ben and the House of Parliament Westminster Abbey was founded in 960 and with that much history behind it, it is definitely worth a visit! It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Every coronation since 1066 has taken place here as well as sixteen royal weddings, most recently the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2011. There are 3,300 people buried or commemorated at Westminster Abbey, many of them among the most significant in England’s history.
Kings, queens, statesmen and soldiers; poets, priests, heroes and villains – the Abbey is a must-see living pageant of British history. Every year Westminster Abbey welcomes over one million visitors who want to explore this wonderful 700-year-old building. Thousands more join us for worship at our daily services. The Abbey is in the heart of London.
They offer audio guides in multiple languages, but on my last visit I paid an additional £5 to take the Verger guided tour. It was SO worth it! The tours last for about 90 minutes and include a tour of the Shrine (containing the tomb of Saint Edward the Confessor), the Royal Tombs, Poets’ Corner, the Cloisters and the Nave. Many of these highlights aren’t available on the audio or self guided tour. Tour times vary and the number of people is limited, so you’ll need to ask at the ticket counter. Sadly most of my personal photos of the outside were lost a few years ago, but I still have these few selfies and I scanned a few from way back. Maybe I’ll need to go back and take some new ones…
There are so many people buried here it’s impossible to list them, but here is a short list of some that are of particular interest to me:
Edward the Confessor
Mary Queen of Scots
Martin Luther King Jr