The Contradictions of Saint Paul’s Cathedral An Architectural Exploration of Its Relationship with the People of London

Ilaria Bortot (1), Harry Ellerd-Cheers (2)
(1) LLM Art Law, School of Law, University of York, United Kingdom, United Kingdom,
(2) MA Medieval History, Faculty of History, University of York, United Kingdom, United Kingdom


Saint Paul’s Cathedral is a contradiction. Beautiful and majestic, it combines an almost Catholic shape with a Protestant soul. It is one of the most powerful symbols of England, and a reason for pride for any Londoner. This paper wants to explore the architectural variations of Saint Paul’s, especially before and after the Great Fire in 1666, to unveil the peculiar relationship between the cathedral and the people of London. Although St Paul’s has been a constant for the Londoners, its role in their lives has not always been the same. The progressive change in people’s attitude towards the cathedral went at the same pace as the alteration of the architecture of the building, which mirrored the social, political, and religious changes of the country. From being a central point of commerce and medieval social life during its Norman period and its Gothic style, the cathedral evolved into the highest symbol of religion and power and reached its peak with the design provided by Wren. Looking at the different models of Saint Paul’s, from its first consecration in 604 until today, it is evident that the building has been an active player in English history, adapting itself to necessity. It witnessed the Norman Conquest, the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII, and the Great Fire, and it was the symbol of the English strength and resistance in World War II. Therefore, the study of the architectural changes of Saint Paul’s is the study of the city of London, its people, and some of the most significant historical events that shaped England.

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Ilaria Bortot
ilariabo[email protected] (Primary Contact)
Harry Ellerd-Cheers
Bortot, I., & Ellerd-Cheers, H. (2023). The Contradictions of Saint Paul’s Cathedral: An Architectural Exploration of Its Relationship with the People of London. The Academic Research Community Publication, 7(3), 01–15.

Article Details

Received 2023-08-15
Accepted 2023-09-25
Published 2023-10-31