Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The repository of knowledge

I had no idea what to expect before our visit to the library at St Paul's Cathedral. I had seen the grandeur and beauty of the cathedral, with its many statues, paintings and gilded ceilings. How could the library begin to compare?

To reach St Paul's library, we had to climb partway up to the dome--meaning a long spiral staircase. The library is located on the triforium level, and as we entered the level our knowledgeable host explained the significance of some of the items we passed. There were paintings, stones from the structure before the Great Fire and giant sculptures--all hidden away from the public eye!

On our way around the triforium, we passed the Geometric Staircase. This particular staircase was immediately recognized by many members of our group as the Divination Stairwell used in the Harry Potter movies.
Geometric Staircase image from St Paul's Cathedral

We were led to a room that held a giant model of the cathedral Christopher Wren designed after the Great Fire in 1666. The plans took nine years to complete and satisfy all the requirements for the new cathedral. This was not the first time the cathedral had been rebuilt--and not destroyed by fire either. At least four cathedrals have stood on the location since 604, and in 962 and 1087 the cathedral was rebuilt after a fire. Christopher Wren's version is the structure currently standing.

In the stonework of the model room, there were quills and books. That meant this room was supposed to be a library--but there were no books! Cathedrals are built in symmetry, and we hurried over to the other side of the cathedral--and found a door!

Upon walking in to the library, we were accosted with the delicious smell of old books (perhaps this was the inspiration for the library-scented candle in the gift shop!). There are 54 bookcases in the library, and each has a number. This library is open to all who could use the materials, and the librarian receives about 150 requests to view items per year.

Image from St Paul's Cathedral
As a cathedral library, the majority of the materials are Bibles or liturgical texts. The Great Fire destroyed the entire library collection, so the library was re-built from the ground-up.  Shortly after the cathedral was re-built, a large donation of 2,000 volumes became the basis for the new collection.

This library, although lacking the gold leaf of the cathedral, has its own, perfect beauty.

No comments:

Post a Comment