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Text 4. St. Paul’s Cathedral

Everybody coming to London for the first time wants to see St. Paul’s Cathedral. This is the third cathedral with this name which London has had. The two others were burnt down, the first in 1086 and the second in 1666.

Christopher Wren was an architect who had already built many buildings. Now, in 1675, he started on his greatest work. For 35 years the building of St. Paul’s Cathedral went on, and Wren was an old man before it was finished.

From far away you can see the huge dome with a golden ball and cross on the top. The inside of the cathedral is very beautiful. After looking around, you can climb 263 steps to the Whispering Gallery, above the library, which runs round the dome. It is called this because if someone whispers close to the wall on one side, a person with an ear close to the wall on the other side can hear what is said. Then, if you climb another 118 steps, you will be able to stand outside the dome and look over London.

But not only can you climb up, you can also go down underneath the cathedral, into the crypt1. Here are buried many great men, including Christopher Wren himself, Nelson and others.

1. Answer the following questions:

1. What is Christopher Wren?

2. How long did it take to build St. Paul’s Cathedral?

3. What is the height of the building?

4. What kind of a gallery does this cathedral contain?

5. What is the acoustic phenomenon of the gallery?

2. Write down the endings of the following sentences.

  1. The Whispering Gallery is ……………………………. .

  2. The crypt is a place where ……………………………. .

  3. 1666 is the year when…………………………………. .

3. Make up a summary of the article ‘St. Paul’s Cathedral’. Text 5. Wren, Sir Christopher

Wren, Sir Christopher (1632 – 1723) is the greatest English architect. His father was Dean of Windsor and his uncle Bishop of Ely, both pillars of the High Church. He was educated at Westminster School and at fifteen became a demonstrator in anatomy at the College of Surgeons; then he went up to Oxford. Experimental science was just then coming to the fore, and he found himself in company with a group of brilliant young men who were later to found the Royal Society. He was entirely engrossed in scientific studies. Evelyn called him ‘that miracle of a youth’ and Newton thought him one of the best geometrician of the day. In 1657 he was made Professor of Astronomy in London, in 1661 in Oxford; but two years later his career took a different turn with his appointment to the commission for the restoration of St Paul’s. After the Great Fire of London he was appointed one of the Surveyors under the Rebuilding Act (1667) and in 1669 became Surveyor General of the King’s Works. Then he resigned his Oxford professorship and was knighted (1673) He was twice MP (1685 – 1687 and 1701 – 1702) and, despite his Tory connections, survived the Whig revolution of 1688, but on the accession of George I in 1714 he lost his office. He was twice married, first to a daughter of Sir John Coghill, and secondly to a daughter of Lord Fitzwilliam of Lifford. He died aged ninety-one having, as he wrote, ‘worn out (by God’s Mercy) a long life in the Royal Service and having made some figure in the world.’

If Wren had died at thirty he would have been remembered only as a figure in the history of English science. His first buildings, the Shedonian Theatre, Oxford (1664 – 1669), and Pembroke College Chapel, Cambridge (1663 – 1665), are the work of a brilliant amateur though the trussed roof of the Sheldonian already displays his structural ingenuity. In 1665 – 1666 he spent eight or nine studying French architecture, mainly in Paris, and may well have visited Flanders and Holland as well. He met Bernini in Paris, but learnt more from Mansart and Le Vau, whom he probably knew and whose works he certainly studied. French and Dutch architectures were to provide the main influence on his own style. The Fire of London in 1666 gave him his great opportunity. Though his utopian city plan was rejected, every facet of his empirical genius found scope for expression in the rebuilding of St Paul’s and the fifty-one city churches. The latter especially revealed his freshness of mind, his bounding invention, and his adventurous empiricism. There were, of course, no precedents in England for classical churches except in the work of Inigo Jones. Wren’s city churches were built between 1670 and 1686, nearly thirty, being under construction in the peak year of 1677. Plans are extremely varied and often daringly original, e.g. St Stephen, Walbrook (1672 – 1679), which foreshadows St Paul’s, and St Peter’s, Cornhill (1675 – 1681), in which his two-storeyed gallery church with vaulted nave and aisles was first adumbrated. This type was later perfected at St. Clement Danes (begun 1680) and St. James’s Piccadilly (1676 – 1684). But his originality and fertility of invention are best seen in the steeples, which range from the neo-Gothic of St. Dunstan in the East to the Borrominesque fantasy of St. Vedast and St. Bride.

More scholarly and refined in detail than his sometimes rather hastily conceived and crudely executed city churches is his masterpiece, St. Paul’s Cathedral. Nothing like it had ever before been seen in England. It was a triumph of intellectual self – reliance, and the dome is one of the most majestic and reposeful in the world, purely classical in style. Baroque influences are evident elsewhere in the building, notably in the towers, the main façade, and such illusionist features as the sharm-perspective window niches and the false upper storey in the side elevations to conceal the nave buttresses.

The interior is ostensibly classical, but contains many Baroque gestures. It was begun in 1675, and Wren lived to see it finished in 1709.