Nasty, Brutish, and Short
Often in our class, we discussed the art and aesthetics of the Enlightenment as a sort of cultural compliment to the matters of thought, science, and politics of the time period. In these discussions, we used the Enlightenment terms “sublime” and “beautiful” to describe the evocations art produces. Usually they are applied separately to different art; rarely can one be both sublime and beautiful.
St. Paul’s Cathedral shattered this dichotomy. Not only did the cathedral shock and awe, but it also contained moments of serene and complete beauty. Seeing the cathedral emerge suddenly from behind a clutter of financial buildings took my breath away, and the sheer magnitude and strength of the foundation and the dome (the latter of which can support the astounding weight of 65,000 tons, or eight Eiffel Towers) left us in a sense of disbelief. Although manmade and constructed over the course of many decades, St. Paul’s still showed the subliminal power that natural materials can provide. The beauty of St. Paul’s was mostly found in its interior, where ceilings of intricately tiled mosaics, perfectly fluted columns, and extravagant decorations and ornaments
Through our triforium tour of the cathedral, we were able to delve deep into its history and inner workings. Stopping by the library run by Jo Wisdom, who collected the secrets and knowledge of the cathedral, as well as the model room, where a complete model one-twenty-fifth the size of the actual cathedral allowed us to see beyond the surface of St. Paul’s and learn what an extensive and strenuous task it was to complete. Such a building would be a magnificent accomplishment in our own time, but the magnitude of this structure as it was built over the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries seems to be the result of a near miracle, or incredible human ingenuity courtesy of the great architect Sir Christopher Wren.
Reporter: Sam Blizzard
Photographer: Alec Rampe