St Paul's Cathedral Before Wren

BookSt Paul's Cathedral Before Wren

St Paul's Cathedral Before Wren

English Heritage


November 24th, 2011





St Paul’s Cathedral is the City of London’s most important monument and historic building. But Wren’s great work is only the most recent of a succession of Anglo-Saxon and medieval cathedrals on the site, where Christianity was first established in AD 604.

This report is the first ever comprehensive account of the archaeology and history of the cathedral and its churchyard from Roman times up to the construction of the Wren building which began in 1675. Archaeological excavations and observations go back to the time of Wren. The Anglo-Saxon cathedral is an enigma, and even its precise site somewhere in the churchyard is not known for certain. The medieval cathedral was probably the largest building in medieval Britain and one of the largest in Europe, with its 400ft-spire and a rose window to rival those we now see at Notre Dame in Paris. Recent excavations in and around the Wren building are described, and some of the many architectural fragments of the medieval cathedral, dug up over the last 150 years, are studied. Documents, surveys and early maps show the development of the religious complex and illuminate the lives of its occupants. In the 1630s a classical portico was added to the west end by Inigo Jones, Britain’s first truly Renaissance architect. Fragments of the portico, still covered with the soot of the Great Fire of 1666 which destroyed the cathedral, were found in 1996 when a tunnel was dug through one of the crypt walls of the present building.

From these varied sources, the cathedrals which preceded that of Wren come to the surface again, and we can appreciate the cultural and religious importance of St Paul’s within the City of London, over a period of more than 1000 years.

'John Schofield is to be congratulated on bringing together the fruits of so much painstaking reseach to give us a better appreciation of the medieval glory that has departed forever.'
The Times

The Times

'The sheer quantity of data and analysis presented here will make it a staple reference work of church archaeology research and teaching for years to come, and its deft presentation of a wealth of interdisciplinary information should ensure that it serves as a template for future publications of cathedral excavations.'
Journal of Medieval Archaeology

Journal of Medieval Archaeology, vo. 56, Nov. 2012

'This is a magnificent and seminal volume, and it redounds greatly to the credit of English Heritage to have brought it to publication.'
London Archaeologist

London Archaeologist, Spring 2012

'Thorough, fascinating and weighty without being elitist, this book . . . is an unbeatable landmark publication.'
Family Tree

Family Tree, June 2012

This is a thorough, very well illustrated and readable book, and in its hard-back form it is good value for money. ... this publication is a very welcome addition to the ecclesiastical archaeologist's library.
Kevin Blockley, The Archaeological Journal

Author Information

Author, freelance archaeologist and architectural historian.

Table of Contents

Section TitlePage
Acknowledgements Foreword Manuscript sources Other abbreviations and references Summary 1 Introduction 2 Circumstances and summary of the excavations 3 Geology, Roman and Anglo-Saxon periods (Periods 1 and 2) 4 The medieval cathedral and its churchyard, 1066-1530 (Periods 3 and 4) 5 Post-medieval, 1530-1666 (Period 5) 6 The Great Fire, the building of Wren’s cathedral and the archaeology of the churchyard, 1666-1711 (Period 6) 7 Conclusions: the work of 1969 and 1994-2006 placed in context 8 Specialist reports Gazetteer of sites Notes Bibliography Index