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   Chapter 16 PAUL'S CATHEDRAL.

The History of London By Walter Besant Characters: 5807

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


Such was Paul's in the fifteenth century. In the sixteenth the Reformation came. The candles were all put out; the shrines were destroyed; the altars were taken out of the chapels: the miraculous images were taken away: the church, compared with its previous condition, became a shell. The choir was walled off for public worship: the rest of the church became a place of public resort: the poets of the time are full of allusions to Paul's Walk. It was a common thoroughfare even for men leading pack horses and asses. The Cathedral, left to neglect, began to fall into a ruinous condition. An attempt was made at restoration: funds were collected, but they came in slowly. Laud, who became Bishop of London in 1631, gave an impetus to the work: the celebrated Inigo Jones was appointed architect: in order to prevent the church from being turned into an Exchange, he built a West Porch, which is shown in some of the pictures of St. Paul's. In the time of the Commonwealth this portico was let off in shops and stalls: the nave of the church actually became a cavalry barrack.


(From Longman's 'A History of the Three Cathedrals of St. Paul's.')

When King Charles returned it was resolved to repair and restore the cathedral, by this time almost in ruins: but while the citizens were considering what should be done, the Great Fire of London settled the question by burning down all that was left.

Then Christopher Wren began the present building. The first stone was laid on June 21, 1675, nine years after the Fire. Divine service was performed on December 2, 1697, the day of thanksgiving for the Peace of Ryswick. The work was completed in 1710, thirty-five years after its commencement. The present church is 100 feet shorter than its predecessor: its dome is also 100 feet lower than the former spire. The grandeur of the building cannot be appreciated by any near view, because the houses block it in on all sides, and the former view from the bottom of Ludgate Hill is now spoiled by the railway bridge. Those who wish to see what St. Paul's really is-how splendid a church it is-how grandly it stands above the whole City-must cross the river and look at it from Bankside, Southwark.

The dome is three fold: it consists of an outer casing of wood covered with lead: a cone of bricks which supports the lantern and cross: and an inner cupola of brick which supports nothing. The towers at the west end are 222 feet in height.

St. Paul's, especially since the crowding at Westminster Abbey, is becoming the National Burial Church. It is already well filled with monuments of British worthies and heroes of this and the last century. Of men distinguished in Literature, Art, and Science, there are buried here Dr. Johnson, Hallam the historian, Sir Joshua Reynolds the painter, Turner the painter, Rennie the engineer who built Waterloo Bridge

, Sir William Jones, the great Oriental scholar, and Sir Astley Cooper, the great surgeon. There is also buried here, as he should be, Sir Christopher Wren himself. But those who visit the Cathedral desire most to see the tombs of Wellington and Nelson. The remains of the former lie in a great sarcophagus worked out of a single piece of Cornish porphyry. Those of the Admiral were placed first in a coffin made from the main mast of the French ship Orient, taken at the Battle of the Nile. This was deposited in a sarcophagus made by Cardinal Wolsey and intended for the burial of King Henry the Eighth. In the Cathedral, too, you will find the monuments of those splendid fighting men, Lord Collingwood, Nelson's friend: Howe and Rodney: Earl St. Vincent, who won the battle of Cape St. Vincent: Lord Duncan of Camperdown, and many others.


(Built by Sir Christopher Wren.)

In the crypt you will find, if you look for it, the brass tablet which marks the spot where lie the remains of a man whose history should be an encouragement to every boy who reads this book. His name was Edward Palmer. Born without family influence, plainly educated at the grammar school of his town, he taught himself in the teeth of all difficulties-that of bad health especially-Arabic, Persian, and all the languages which belong to that group: at the age of twenty-four he was so splendid an Oriental scholar that the greatest Orientalist at Cambridge declared that he could teach him nothing. He was elected to a Fellowship at St. John's College and became the Lord Almoner's Professor of Arabic. He mastered, in addition to his Oriental studies, all the European languages except Russian and the Slavonic group. He explored the Desert of the Exodus and the Peninsula of Sinai. He did a great deal of literary work. But he was not buried in St. Paul's Cathedral for these studies. In the year 1882, when the Egyptian War broke out, he was sent on a secret mission to the tribes of the Desert. He knew them all: he could talk their language as well as his own: he was the equal of any one in his knowledge of Arabic poetry and his power of telling stories: they welcomed him with open arms: the service that he rendered to his country for which he was honoured with a funeral at St. Paul's, was that he prevented these tribes from destroying the Suez Canal. He succeeded in reaching the British camp at Suez in safety, his task accomplished, the safety of the Canal assured. He was murdered in return by a party of Egyptian Arabs sent from Cairo. His bones were recovered by Sir Charles Warren-who further tracked down and hanged every man connected with the murder. The road to possible greatness lies open to all, but the way leads through a difficult and thorny way only to be passed, as Palmer found, by resolution invincible and by long patient industry.

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