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St Paul's Cathedral's Best Kept Secret

On a level with the Whispering Gallery, but hidden from the prying eyes of the public, is a locked room about four times the size of my living room (an average Victorian front room). Imagine a huge dolls house made for royalty – ten feet tall and fifteen long – and you are starting to get an idea of what Christopher Wren’s original model for St Paul's Cathedral looked like. In dark wood and amazingly detailed, it once even included the leaded windows though sadly no more following several moves and loans to different institutions. Still however a magnificent thing to behold for its scale and craftsmanship and its ambition as an architectural project.

St Paul's Cathedral model

It stands on a raised platform about four feet high, and you can in fact open this and go underneath the model popping up in the nave and having a look round from the inside, though it seems this is now discouraged so sadly I didn’t get to experience this.

The model looks remarkably like the building that we now see, although there are now curves which were once squared off corners, and the original pillars were to be twice the height of those finally built – how imposing that would have been!

Apparently when Wren showed the model to his client – The Church of England – they were horrified deeming it too “Catholic”. They wanted something more along the lines of the original medieval cathedral ie with a spire rather than a dome.

Wren set about providing drawings that would satisfy these demands with a more modest dome topped by a spire. When the ok was finally given Wren set about building realising his dream. And that is precisely what he did – realise his dream rather than building what had been commissioned. He ensured that no-one had sight of the whole plan apart from himself, allowing master masons to see only the plans for the section they were working on.

When the final result - something very similar to the original model - was unveiled, the church was understandably furious. It took Wren fifteen years and a petition to parliament to finally get paid.

Such commitment, such self belief, such integrity – as impressive as St Paul’s itself!

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