city at night

city at night

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Globe and St. Paul's

My sightseeing today began with the reconstruction of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre.  The original Globe Theatre was built in 1599 by Shakespeare's theatrical company on the southern bank of the Thames River.  Several of the Bard's greatest plays had their premieres here.  The theater burned down in 1614 but was immediately rebuilt.  In 1642 when the Puritans under Oliver Cromwell came to power, all theaters in England were closed, and the Globe was torn down.

In 1997 a replica of the Globe was built close to the location of the original  Although there exist no architectural plans of Shakespeare's theater, the new Globe was based on descriptions from the era and is probably a close approximation.  Special permission was granted to allow the building to have a thatched roof like the original.  (Thatched roofs were outlawed in London after the Great Fire of 1666.)  The roof of the new Globe, however, is treated with flame retardant and has a sprinkler system.

Today performances of Shakespeare's works are given here.  I was hoping to view Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" which is currently running.  However after checking the availability of tickets online, I found that every performance during my stay here was sold out with the exception of the pit.  (The pit is the open-air area around the stage where the "groundlings"... the poor folk who only paid a penny for admission... stood through the performance.)  As much as I would enjoy seeing Shakespeare in the Globe, I did not relish the thought of standing through the entire play, not to mention taking the risk of being rained on.  So instead, I took the guided tour of the theater.

After visiting the Globe, I crossed the pedestrian Millennium Bridge across the Thames to St. Paul's Cathedral.

The present St. Paul's stands on the site of an earlier Gothic cathedral.  The earlier church was built between 1240 and 1314 and was one of the largest in medieval Europe.  The building was gutted in the Great Fire of 1666.  Three years later, the great architect Sir Christopher Wren was given the assignment of rebuilding St. Paul's.  The new Baroque cathedral, which was finished in 1704, was equally imposing.  It is topped by an enormous dome, and for many years St. Paul's was the tallest building in London.  The Cathedral survived the German bombings of World War II, and the sight of St. Paul's dome still standing proudly, gave hope to the beleaguered Londoners.

The cathedral is one of the most impressive churches that I have seen.  I think it is much more spectacular than Westminster Abbey.  Unfortunately, photography of the interior is prohibited, but I found some images from the web to share with you.

Visitors are allowed to climb 257 steps to reach the Whispering Gallery, the balcony around the interior base of the dome.  The view from nearly 100 feet above the Cathedral floor is breathtaking.  (The climb is literally breathtaking.)

I was a glutton for punishment and climbed another 271 steps to reach the outdoor Golden Gallery at the top of the dome.  A panorama of all of London is spread out below you.

 A photo taken by a kind tourist is my proof that I made it to the top!

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