Did you know Sir Christopher Wren was a scientist and mathematician as well as an architect? He designed St. Paul’s Cathedral to be 365 feet tall, equal to the number of days in a year.
As I walked toward the cathedral, the bells were pealing! And there was a wedding going on. The bride and groom were having their picture taken on the steps.
Inside you can attend a service, or light a candle - pray privately. I lit a candle for Mom, said a prayer for all those grieving the loss of a loved one. St. Paul’s is also a working church. They still hold services every day. I really wanted to attend evensong, when the entire service is sung. Maybe I’ll go back before my journey is done.
I walked down the nave toward the altar, stood there and looked up at the soaring dome. No words can describe it. Then I walked up the 257 steps to what’s called the Whispering Gallery, which overlooks the cathedral floor. This is about 90 feet above the floor. Then I decided to go ahead and walk up a further 119 steps to the Stone Gallery. The steps are smaller and steeper now. Yikes. And when I come out onto the gallery, I’m outside! Lovely, cool breeze. Beautiful view of London and the Thames. Now I’m 175 feet above the ground! If you look at the picture of St. Paul’s that I posted, the Stone Gallery is just below the dome.
NOW I decide I might as well go ahead and climb the remaining 152 steps to the Golden Gallery. Very narrow steps, very tight and close. I was definitely nervous climbing these stairs. They reminded me of the spiral metal stairs in the Statue of Liberty, up to the crown. The problem is, you can see DOWN. So I concentrated on each step right in front of me, one at a time. Just before you step outside there’s a square of glass cut into the floor and you can look through it, see all the way down to the cathedral floor! I got a picture of my feet standing over this strange looking-glass. Then I stepped outside onto the Golden Gallery, and now I'm 280 feet above the ground! If you look at that picture again, the Golden Gallery is that little band circling the spire just above the dome. From up there I could see the dome below me – very surreal. Had to keep away from the railing. And there’s only room for one person at a time around the Golden Gallery, single file around the railing. Scary, but exhilarating. I’m posting a picture of the view from there.
So I climbed a total of 528 steps, up and down. My legs were a bit wobbly when I got to the floor, and I was glad to be on the ground again. Down to the crypt for lunch. Mozzarella and tomato on a baguette, and chocolate cake. And this really great Victorian lemonade. Had ginger in it. Never would’ve paired those two, but it works! Sat with a lady named Bridget and we had a lovely conversation. She’s from Tipperary in Ireland, but she's lived in London for quite a while now, since her husband died. She loves London, told me she'd always wanted to come and visit, bring her kids, but her husband worked in London and never wanted to come back in on the weekends. Turns out her favorite place to walk is in Hampton Court gardens, which so far has been my favorite place in England!
Then in the middle of our conversation the fire alarm goes off! Lol… Had to stuff my chocolate cake (always save the cake!) into a napkin and haul it out of St. Paul’s. Everything was okay and they let us back in about 15 minutes later. I finished my visit by walking through the crypt. Saw Florence Nightingale’s tomb and learned more about the history of St. Paul’s. There’s been a church on this site since 604! Can you believe that? The first two cathedrals burned down, the 2nd in the Great Fire of 1666 that decimated London. Then Christopher Wren designed the cathedral we see today. It was struck twice by bombs during the blitz in World War II, and badly damaged, but still standing. There’s a wonderful picture of the cathedral after the bombing. I can only imagine how it must have made the people of London feel – their city being attacked day after day after day – to look up and see, soaring into the sky, the dome of St. Paul’s – still there. How comforting.
GUEST WRITER'S BIO
Vicki Speegle is an award-winning screenwriter whose feature script LOVED ONES was in development at Amazon Studios and was a finalist for best screenplay. Her screenplay DEAREST was a finalist for the 2011 Sundance Screenwriters Lab, and her television pilot THE WAKES OF WILBUR POE recently placed in the finals of Slamdance.
Vicki grew up the daughter of a gay single mom turned pastor in Akron, Ohio, where she helped take care of her two younger brothers, an experience that provided fodder for a number of short stories and scripts. Her infatuation with storytelling began at the age of five when she sent a love letter to Donny Osmond, and since then she has worked an eclectic mix of jobs to support her writing habit, including 4 years in the U.S. Navy tracking nuclear submarines on a tiny island called Adak, Alaska, assistant to a very eccentric New York City artist, and a brief bout as the world’s worst waitress. Vicki studied music performance and education at Akron University before making the move to New York University, where she earned her BFA in Film & Television Production. During her studies at NYU she interned as assistant to the editor for Ken Burns’ production of THE WEST. She wrote, directed, and produced several shorts, including her thesis film OLDER, which went on to screen at the Tribeca Underground Film Festival and won 2nd place in the Pioneer Theatre Short Film Slam in New York City.
After graduating from NYU, Vicki joined Rigas Entertainment as assistant to the Director of Development, helping in the development of feature films with directors Peter Cattaneo (The Full Monty) and Maggie Greenwald (SongCatcher). In 2005 Vicki began shooting a documentary about her mother’s struggle to reconcile her faith as a pastor with her advancing Alzheimer’s. The project is currently in post-production and has garnered the support of GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation). In 2007 Vicki’s screenplay LOVED ONES placed in the top 5 of the Bluecat Screenplay Competition and won Screenplay Live at the Rochester Film Festival. Her works have placed in several other competitions, including Women in Film, Chesterfield, and American Zoetrope. Vicki’s credits include a teen comedy for Applause Films and radio scripts for Wynton Marsalis, Director of Jazz At Lincoln Center.
Vicki lives and works as a writer, filmmaker, and web producer in New Jersey. She is still waiting for Donny’s response.