Nonetheless I’ve been wanting to go and see it for a long, long time, if only to try out the famous whispering gallery. (Apparently you can hear what someone who’s standing on the other side of this gallery which is located in the nook of the dome, when that someone is whispering.)
I happened to find myself near St Paul’s a few weeks ago. I had been wandering around the area and decided that that was as a good a time as any to take a look inside. It also happened to be 16:00 hrs which is when visiting hours are over. Just when I started to walk on, I noticed a bunch of people following someone holding up an umbrella into the cathedral. A tour group, no doubt. Dutch as I am, I followed them in.
And good thing I did. St Paul’s Cathedral holds daily services, open to the public. And get this: They are completely free!!! Music to my Dutch ears.
I’m not religious, but the experience was quite humbling. I was seated in the quire which meant I was able to follow everything from up close. It was mesmerising to hear the choir’s voices reverberate through the immense cathedral, alternated by the hum of the sermons of the clergy. It gave me a good opportunity to take in the opulent décor of St Paul’s; the black and white chequered, mosaic floor, the gold leaf mosaic on the ceiling, the gilded altar and the ornate woodwork of the quire stalls. You can see what those hefty entrance fees are used for.
I didn’t get to go up in the whispering gallery in the end as we were all ushered towards the exit after the service, which was indeed a bit of a shame. But hey, you can’t expect to pay nothing to visit and get whispers thrown in for free.