- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 08 Apr 2018
St Pauls Cathedral
St. Paul’s Cathedral, designed by the architect Sir Christopher Wren, is an Anglican cathedral and one of London’s most iconic buildings. It is located on top of Ludgate Hill, the highest point in the City of London. Its famous lead-covered dome is one of the world’s largest, and at 111 m (365 ft), it was the tallest building in London from its completion in 1710 until 1967.
The current cathedral is the fifth building on the site of Ludgate Hill, the original church having been founded in 604 AD. The fourth, Old St. Paul’s was a huge Gothic cathedral built by the Normans and regarded as one of the masterpieces of medieval Europe, with a tower and spire reaching a height of 489 ft. It was destroyed by the Great Fire of 1666, following which, a decision was taken to build a new cathedral from scratch.
St. Paul’s is one of the most significant buildings in terms of national identity, with propaganda images showing it remaining unscathed having become synonymous with the wartime Blitz. It has also been the location for the funerals of Lord Nelson, the Duke of Wellington and Sir Winston Churchill; as well as the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana.
 Design and construction
St. Paul’s was one of more than fifty church commissions that Christopher Wren received in the aftermath of the Great Fire. He was tasked with creating a cathedral that was a fitting replacement of the Old St. Paul’s, and a suitable place of worship.
Wren was inspired by contemporary Renaissance trends in Italian architecture, and designed the cathedral in a restrained Baroque style, attempting to combine the traditions of English medieval cathedrals with the classical style of Inigo Jones, and French buildings by Mansart. The cathedral, in particular the dome, is heavily influenced by St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
St. Paul’s is unusual among cathedrals in that it has a crypt which extends under the entire building rather than just under the eastern end. The crypt has a structural purpose, as massive piers spread the weight of the structure’s slimmer piers, necessary due to London’s relatively weak clay soil.
The most notable feature is the dome. To ensure the dome appeared visually satisfying when viewed both externally and internally, Wren designed a double-shelled dome, with the the inner and outer domes using catenary curves rather than hemispheres. Between the two shells, a brick cone supports the timbers of the outer, lead-covered dome, and the ornate stone lantern that rises above it. The cone and inner dome are 18 inches thick and supported by wrought iron chains to prevent spreading and cracking.
 Find out more
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- After the Fire: London churches in the age of Wren, Hooke, Hawksmoor and Gibbs.
- Building of the week series.
- Cathedral of Brasilia.
- Classical orders in architecture.
- Eiffel Tower.
- Edinburgh Castle.
- Floors of the great medieval churches.
- Florence Cathedral.
- Palace of Westminster.
- Pendentive dome.
- Sagrada Familia.
- St. Basil’s Cathedral.
- St Peters Basilica.
- Taj Mahal.
- The Rebuilding Acts.
- Types of dome.
- Unusual building design of the week.
 External resources
- St Pauls - Official site
Featured articles and news
When is there a right to light, and what happens if it is obstructed?
What would the nationalisation of economic infrastructure mean for GB?
A new guide to improving value by reducing design error.
We've reached 80,000 page views a day and 10,000 registered users. Why not join them?
A masterplan is a framework within which a location is encouraged to develop or change. Read our introductory article.
New consultation announced on a specialist Housing Court to settle landlord-tenant disputes.
ICE responds to a transport consultation advising the government to make decisions enabling more inclusive cities.
BRE and Loughborough University complete first phase refurbishment of demonstration home.
How the risk of collapse of fibrous plaster ceilings is being addressed in theatres.
If you’re a great writer and have practical experience of the construction industry, it could be you.
Frustrated by long documents or technical jargon? Put off by sign-up forms or costs? Take this 5 min survey to help improve construction knowledge.