St. Paul’s Cathedral in London is, without doubt a magnificent place to visit. It’s a landmark building that is recognised throughout the world by millions of people of all nationalities. I was recently involved in a project that would draw people to the historical and architectural delights of churches which are geographically close to landmark tourist attractions. From mazes to castles, national forests to the sites of famous battles. Somewhere close to all of them you’ll find a church which, even when viewed as just a building, is often a museum in itself: a chunk of living untouched history. St. Paul’s Cathedral breaks the mould. It is the landmark site with hotels and other businesses which depend on the tourist trade vying for the visitor ‘buck’. It is just a giant version of all the old churches that we take so much for granted as we drive or walk past them every day. The Cathedral houses the final resting place of two of my hero’s from British history: Horatio Nelson and the Duke of Wellington, paradoxically two warring ‘generals’ whose bodies lay in a place of worship. A nation’s ultimate nod to those who’ve protected us from outside forces that may have changed our British way of life forever.
A friend of ours happens to be the Canon Chancellor. The Reverend Canon Dr. Giles Fraser was installed as Canon Chancellor of St. Paul’s Cathedral in September 2009. As Canon Chancellor, Dr. Fraser fulfils the role of residentiary Canon, overseeing the work of the St Paul’s Institute, the Cathedral’s forum for contemporary ethics. Giles is a jolly, highly educated and equally controversial man who holds the keys to Wren’s wonder. It is because of him that I never could have believed what happened to us last Saturday evening. As the rest of London was preparing for another night of feeding and entertaining the thousands of visitors and tourists that are drawn to the capital on a daily basis, we found ourselves in a quiet, dark side road to the rear of St. Paul’s. We followed Giles along this corridor and that corridor until we reached a door which, as it was being opened, was accompanied by the sound of a few light switches being thrown. We were standing, just the three of us, in the centre of St. Paul’s Cathedral without another soul to be seen. I could have spent days in the library alone. I’m sure that most if not all of the fabulous shows being presented in the West-End live up to their reputation to entertain at the highest possible level. I’ve seen a few: I know they do. But nothing, absolutely nothing could have replaced that moment in time. It would take pages and pages of text to fully describe the experience that evening but I can tell you that I have spent private time with my two heroes and have seen London in all of its night-time glory from the very top of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Wonderful.