The great dome across the Thames

“If evensong and matins will agree

Let’s see who shall be the first to tell a tale.”

       Prologue, The Canterbury Tales

One of my highlights during the London portion of our trip is a visit to St. Paul’s Cathedral. As we walk around to the front of the church, its great bells begin to peal, their resonance surrounding me. Listen on Instagram.

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St. Paul’s during the blitz, WW2

I look up at the dome and think of how history stretches across this site. Three churches were built here between about 600 and 1087 – two burned and one was destroyed by Vikings. A stone cathedral was then built in the 11th century that later burned in the Great Fire of London in 1666. During the evensong service we attended, which happened to be on the anniversary of that terrible day, the minister said the embers burned for a week. After the fire, Christopher Wren designed the building that stands to this day, which was protected by civil defense brigades during the bombing blitzes of WW 2 and became a symbol of British resiliency. Learn more.

I always enjoy evensong, which has a tradition of sung prayer followed for some 500 years. Songs waft up where the angels and saints dwell in the glorious art and sculpture of the domed ceiling. It feels as though music and prayer have soaked into the walls. I see a man kneeling on the stone floor through much of the 45 minute service, his knees bearing his faith.

The minister’s words echo across the cavernous sanctuary. She speaks about the plight of refugees and how Jesus’ followers are called to take risks, to put others’ needs before their own. Do we hoard or do we give? Do we hate or do we trust? Perfect love casts out all fear. Such gentle words carry a lot of weight.

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Queen Anne stands before St. Paul’s Cathedral in all her regalness. The building is so big, the dome cannot be seen from the front plaza.
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