8 Ways To Destroy St Paul's Cathedral

By M@ Last edited 14 months ago
8 Ways To Destroy St Paul's Cathedral

While Big Ben (or the Elizabeth Tower) is undeniably the most smashed-up building in London's cinematic history, St Paul's has also seen its share of destruction. The cathedral has been smitten on many occasions, both historical and fictional.

1. Burn it with fire

Old St Paul's Cathedral was completely wrecked by the Great Fire of 1666. Witnesses described the lead roof melting and cascading down into the street. After repairs proved futile, the shell of the building was demolished. In its place grew the current cathedral of Sir Christopher Wren. You can still see charred fragments of the old cathedral in the upper galleries.

The ruins of Old St Paul's.

2. Crush it with bare-chested communism

The Marx Memorial Library in Clerkenwell contains this provocative mural. It depicts a downtrodden worker breaking free of his shackles to overthrow the establishment. That establishment includes the church, represented here by a teetering St Paul's. Meanwhile, Marx, Lenin and an unfortunately placed librarian look on.

3. Burn it with fire (again)

Old St Paul's was not the oldest St Paul's. It was preceded by at least two earlier churches, both of which burned down. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles describe how the cathedral was destroyed in 1087. "...before harvest, the holy minster of St Paul, the episcopal see in London, was completely burned, with many other minsters, and the greatest part, and the richest of the whole city". A smaller fire in 962 destroyed a still-earlier version. It's beginning to look like an insurance job.

4. Death by Jägerbomb

This mural stands beside the Old Street roundabout. The buildings of London (including St Paul's) lie wrecked beneath an ashen sky. Is this a post-apocalyptic London reclaimed by wildlife? Or did a giant stag cause all the carnage? Well, possibly. The stag and cross is the logo of Jägermeister, whose branding can also be seen on the far left. The only reasonable interpretation is that the teutonic liqueur will speed the collapse of London.

5. Blast it with explosives

In the popular imagination, St Paul's survived the Blitz unscathed. It did not. Several explosives broke through into the church's interior and dozens of firebombs singed the roof. Thanks to the brave work of fire wardens, and one very brave sapper, the cathedral withstood the onslaught, but not without some structural damage.

The blast from a bomb in 1941 caused the dome to lift clear of its support walls by a millimetre. The hairline fracture is still visible today, according to the cathedral's surveyor. Incidentally, some of the fire warden stations are still present on the roof of the cathedral.

6. Crumble it romantically

London: a Pilgrimage (1872) by Blanchard Jerrold and Gustave Doré can still be found in bookshops today, thanks to the evocative images of Doré. Most are concerned with the city as it was then — a grubby, bustling place of smoke and steam and crowded squalor. But the notional pilgrimage ends with this thought-provoking image. It shows a New Zealander perched on a broken arch of London Bridge, surveying the ruins of the city. A cracked St Paul's, bereft of dome, takes centre stage.

Doré's vision is inspired by the words of historian TB Macaulay. He imagined a far future where people from the colonies might visit the ruins of London, much as young men of his own time would salivate over the remnants of ancient Athens or Rome. It might yet happen.

7. Demolish it for mining opportunities

In 2008, a unique planning application was lodged with the City of London. The charity ActionAid called for the 'total demolition' of St Paul's Cathedral, so that the land could be turned over to precious metal mining. The application was, of course, a publicity stunt. ActionAid wanted to highlight the plight of other sacred spaces threatened by prospectors. Needless to say, the application did not succeed.

8. Terrorist it to smithereens

Hilarious B-movie London Has Fallen sees the capital taken over by an army of terrorists. Many of London's landmarks are destroyed or damaged. St Paul's is the scene of one of the key gun battles. The cathedral doesn't — as far as we recall — take much of a hit. Even so, it figures prominently in the publicity material, as shown above.

Last Updated 21 March 2018