19 January 2009

St. Paul's Cathedral

Saturday, 10 January 2009

On our second day in London we visited St. Paul's Cathedral, on a guided "Supertour." Some memorable events and reports:
  • The cathedral has been recently cleaned, revealing the bright stone as it originally appeared, and bright clear windows have been restored so that much of the cathedral is now well-lit naturally and has the bright and open feel that its architect, Christopher Wren, intended.

  • One of our tour guides had some snarky things to say about Calvinism, usually in reference to the disrespect shown the previous cathedral and its fixtures by Puritans. At least they didn't knock it down.

  • One of our guides was inclined to point out the many aspects of the cathedral that concern North Americans. The American Chapel in the apse (established around 1960, and replacing a part of the cathedral that was destroyed by a Nazi bomb) was fascinating. Built to honor Americans who died in Britain in World War II, it contains an honor roll, the pages of which are turned once a day.

  • Calvin students outside St. Paul's Cathedral in London.

  • The weather was remarkably nice (for January) so all of our number made the ascent to the Whispering Gallery and from there to the outdoor Stone Gallery for spectacular views of the surrounding area.

  • Speaking of Christopher Wren, many of us were inspired by his famous epitaph, which ends: Lector, si monumentum requiris, Circumspice. [English]

  • The stairway down to the crypt is almost charming now, but it sure wasn't meant to be. The stairwell was marked with a creepy skull-and-bones carving, and the lights on the walls were easily imagined as flickering torches. The crypt now houses a gift shop, cafe, and scores of tombs and memorials. Those of us who were taught to avoid standing on graves were briefly unsettled by the fact that one can hardly take a step in the crypt without treading on someone's tomb.
After our excellent time at the cathedral, we scattered to explore London and to begin preparing small presentations on selected Scottish Enlightenment figures. Next up: worship at Westminster Abbey.
Calvin students on the Millenium Bridge over the Thames, near St. Paul's Cathedral in London.

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