Wrens St Pauls Opens
The first service to be held in Wrenís still far from complete St Paulís Cathedral took place on December 2 1697, celebrating the ending of one of our frequent conflicts with France. The building would not be finished until 1710, the famous dome not yet begun when that first thanksgiving was held.
Christopher Wren ís version of St Paulís is the latest in a long line of places of worship on the site, dating back to the Romans who had a temple there. The first Ė wooden - cathedral, founded by Aethelbert of Kent, burned down and was replaced by a stone one devastated by the Vikings in 962; its replacement burned down in 1087, but then Old St Pauls lasted until the Great Fire in 1666 , though it was in a parlous and degraded state by then.
Charles II approved Wrenís original rather outlandish design, which the astronomer-architect then set aside for the elegant version we know today. Building work commenced in 1675, and went so slowly that as an incentive to speed up in 1697 half Wrenís salary was withheld pending completion.
St Paulís has served for many of the great state occasions: the funerals of Nelson , Wellington, and of Churchill ; jubilees for Victoria and Elizabeth II ; and the wedding of Charles and Diana Ė though Westminster Abbey is more often the choice for royal weddings. It has thus become a national symbol, never more so than when pictured during the worst night of the Blitz with flames all around it, capturing in an image London and Britainís resistance to the Nazi threat.
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