Wednesday June 28
Our final class visit was to St. Paul’s. We had a private guided tour of the galleries at above the main floor of the cathedral, as well as a chat with their cathedral librarian Mr. Wisdom. Anne was our tour guide and she was just a total hoot. To get to the cathedral we took the long way around through the gardens and they were beautiful. The hydrangeas here in England are just superb!
Anne took us upstairs (100+ stairs to the first level) and we got to see some of the original sketches for the mosaics that are in the cathedral, as well as some of the original stones that were part of the old cathedral before the new one was built by Christopher Wren. We also learned that the cathedral was designed and built very plainly, but when the Victorian age rolled around, they added massive amounts of bling, most of which are still there today. Personally I like the bling, it gives the cathedral some nice flavor.
Then we met with Andrew Wisdom, who is the only professional librarian on staff at St. Pauls. He was, aptly, full of wisdom. I liked that he spoke to us as professionals and not just a group of students, the respect was very nice. The library holds religious items, including Bibles, liturgy, theology works, scared topography and the like. It’s also open to anyone who might make good use of the materials, though their catalog isn’t quite public for all to see. Due to an IT issue and a bug, the online catalog isn’t viewable to outside persons, but parts can be found via other 3rd party sites like co-pac. The library is arranged pretty simply, with big books on the bottom shelves, and small books on the top shelves. Early next year the room will be deep-cleaned and preserved so all the books will be removed at that time. It’s still unclear where they will go when the cleaning is taking place but I’m sure Mr. Wisdom will sort it.
Of course I forgot to bring my phone into the library with me to take photos, but trust me when I say it was amazing. Organized chaos at it’s finest.
The cathedral is in the Baroque style, which relied heavily on symmetry. So that means the library has a mirror image room on the other side. It’s not a library on the other side, but home to the Great Model, a 1:25 scale of the cathedral built by Wren in 1674 as a model for the king.
For the price of the model, Wren could have purchased a nice house at the time. It was quite the extravagant model to commission. It was originally the same stone gray color that the cathedral is today.
After our tour concluded with Anne, we were ushered upstairs to visit the Whisper Gallery and the Stone and Golden galleries. In total it was 528 steps. Amazing views, but you can feel the toll in your thighs!