ST. PAUL'S CATHEDRAL. (Page 363.)
THIS Plate presents to our view a prospect of the grand entrance to this magnificent structure, taken from the north-west corner of St. Paul's church-yard. The great fire of London, by which the old cathedral was destroyed, made way for the restoration of this magnificent pile by Sir Christopher Wren, surveyor-general of his Majesty's works, and an architect worthy of so grand a design.
It was certainly the intention and desire of Sir Christopher Wren to have taken the church of St. Peter at Rome for his model, and to have adopted one single order instead of two, with an attic story, as in that structure. This appears by his two first designs, which were however objected to; and the third produced the present noble pile, which has in some respects been preferred by a judicious writer to even the Roman Basilica. The magnificent portico of the church of St. Peter is certainly not to be equalled; but the whole front of that structure is terminated in a straight line at the top, which has neither so good an effect, nor that agreeable variety, which are given by the elevation of the pediment in the middle, and the beautiful campanile towers at each end of the front of St. Paul's, which are represented in the Plate.
It is much to be lamented that all Sir Christopher Wren's exertions could not obtain a greater open space, which might enable the spectator to view his noble structure to full advantage. Unfortunately, the commissioners for rebuilding the city had marked out the streets before his designs were decided upon, and great progress had been made in rebuilding houses before he could even begin to remove the ruins of the old church.
The two turrets on the right and left of the front are each two hundred and eight feet in height. In the one on the southern side is the great clock, the bell of which may be heard in the most distant part of London when the wind is in that quarter. In the construction of the dome, which is one hundred and twelve feet in diameter, St. Paul's differs both from the Pantheon at Rome and St. Peter's. The Pantheon is no higher than its diameter, which is too low; and St. Peter's is twice its diameter in height, being an excess the other way. Sir Christopher has taken a mean proportion, which shews its concave every way. Thus the windows of the upper order strike down the light through the great colonnade that encircles the dome without, and serves for its abutment.
The inside of the dome is painted by Sir James Thornhill, and contains, in eight compartments, the histories of St. Paul. It was Sir Christopher's intention to have beautified the inside with the more durable ornament of Mosaic work, similar to Su Peter's, which has a most magnificent and splendid appearance, and is as durable as marble, without the least decay of colour. The art was not however understood in England, and although Sir Christopher had engaged four eminent artists from Italy, apprehensions of the expense, and the length of time it would take to finish, occasioned the design to be dropped.
The conversion of St. Paul, on the triangular elevation of the pediment, seen in the Plate, the bas-reliefs under the portico, and the statue of Queen Anne, with the figures of Britain, France, Ireland, and America, at the base, were all executed by Francis Bird