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St Paul's Cathedral, London

St. Paul's Cathedral, St. Paul's Churchyard, London EC4M 8AD, United Kingdom (51°30′49″N, 0°5′54″W)
London, St Paul's Cathedral
TQ 320 811
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) London
now London
medieval London
now London
medieval St Paul
now St Paul
  • Ron Baxter
  • Ron Baxter
27 June 2003

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Feature Sets

What remains of Old St Paul's, including the fragments of Inigo Jones's Corinthian W portico, is a collection of stones in the S triforium stone store of Wren's cathedral. Few are Romanesque, and those that are belong to the Historic Collection, which is to say that they were discovered on the site at some time, probably in the 19th or early 20th century, and neither the date nor the location of the find was noted. This suggests, circumstantially, that they came from Old St Paul's cathedral, but other possibilities should not be ignored, especially in view of the destructive consequences of the Great Fire on all the medieval churches in the City of London.


The Romanesque cathedral of St Paul was begun by Bishop Maurice (1085-1107) in 1087 and continued under his successor Richard de Beaumis I (1108-27). According to William of Malmesbury Bishop Richard completed a large part of the cathedral, but a fire in 1133 must have slowed the work down, and funds were still being sought for its completion as late as 1175. In Bishop Richard's time Henry I helped with the funding by giving the cathedral rights to all fish caught in the neighbourhood of the cathedral and tithes on all venison taken in Essex.

By 1620 the cathedral was in need of restoration, and a Royal Commmission was appointed to decide what was needed. Nothing was done until 1631 when a second Royal Commission was convened under Bishop Laud (1628-33). In 1633 Inigo Jones was put in charge of the work, but the Civil War put a stop to it in 1642. Jones's spectacular remodelling lasted only until 1666 when the Fire of London destroyed the building.


Loose Sculpture


The measurements of the foliage voussoir (loose stone 1) indicate an arch diameter of approximately 2m, which would be very wide for a cloister arcade or for any kind of furnishing, such as a tomb. It is more likely to belong to a doorway, possibly multi-ordered but certainly reasonably large in scale. Stylistically the use of beaded stems in this kind of interlacing pattern and deeply carved is found on the voussoirs of the cloister arcade at Reading Abbey in the 1130s, and in related work excavated in the Chapter House of St Albans Abbey, which is dateable to the abbacy of Robert de Gorham (1151-66). What stands out about the St Paul’s voussoir is the precision of the design, the delicately carved leaf terminals, and the use of a square flower as the focal point of the design, and for these reasons a date in the 1150s is suggested.

The two chevron voussoirs (loose stones 2 and 3) are presumably from jambs rather than an arch. This kind of heavy chevron, alternating rolls and beading also occurs among the St Albans Chapter House fragments, where some stones also include the motif of a square flower in a cavetto. Waterleaf capitals like loose stone 4 enjoyed a period of popularity in the second half of the 12thc, particularly between c.1170 and c.1180.

Wenceslaus Hollar's illustration to Dugdale (1658) show a nave with cushion capitals at arcade and gallery levels, which is hardly surprising at this date, but the sculpture described here fits well into a campaign that extended into the 1170s at least. The connection with Reading Abbey work is unsurprising in view of the well-documented involvement of King Henry I in assisting the building campaign.


S. Bradley and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England, London 1: The City of London, New Haven and London 1997, 2002 ed., 155-58.

W. Dugdale, The History of St Paul's Cathedral, London 1658.

J Schofield (ed.), St Paul's Cathedral before Wren, Swindon (English Heritage), 2011

Victoria County History, London 1 (1909), 409-33.