Welcome to our St. Paul's Cathedral history section. You can skip to subsequent pages using the links below or simply continue reading to start at the beginning.
The present St. Paul's occupies the site of a Gothic church of the same name, which was destroyed in the great fire of 1666, when William Sancroft was dean. With almost pathetic devotion this prelate clung to the ruins of the beautiful structure in which he had so long officiated, and the erection of a new building was for some time delayed in the hope that the restoration of the old might be possible.
A temporary choir was therefore fitted up in the least dangerous part of the dilapidated walls, but it began to fall whilst Divine service was going on, and Sancroft called in Sir Christopher Wren, who was then endeavouring to carry out his scheme for the rebuilding of the whole metropolis.
The choice of the Dean was confirmed by King and Parliament, Bishop and Chapter, and in 1673 the great architect submitted designs for a new cathedral to Charles II., who selected one, of which a model still exists, and the plan of which has the form of a Greek cross, its centre covered in with a large dome supported on eight arches. This design had, however, to be set aside in order that something more in accordance with church precedent might be substituted, and the present building, with its ground plan in the form of a Latin cross, retains in its long nave and distinctly marked transepts the outline of the old Gothic cathedral.
It is remarkable that a very similar change has befallen St. Peter's at Rome. As erected by Michael Angelo, the plan of that church was a Greek cross, but the nave was lengthened out at a subsequent date.