Two icons of the city attracted our attention today: St. Paul's Cathedral and the Tower of London - and I'm quite surprised at the difference in my response to each of them.
It's an overused cliche, but St. Paul's really does inspire awe. It's an extraordinarily beautiful building, and all those issues of scale which I have spoken about in earlier posts apply to this place. And then there are the mosaics, paintings and statues which, being surrounded by such architectural grandeur, could easily fail to be recognised for their own beauty and genius.
When we were high in the sky on the London Eye yesterday I noted the prominence of the dome on the 2013 London skyline and could only wonder at its prominence when completed in 1712. The image that really captured my imagination today, which is reproduced below, is a shot of the dome still standing amongst the mayhem of the blitz on London in 1940 or 1941. It struck me that this masterpiece could easily have been destroyed and how fortunate I was to be standing within it today.
By contrast, the Tower of London inspired very little awe. I've read heaps about its famous and notorious occupants over the past 1000 years and am acutely aware of its place at the very centre of the history of this country. Yet, all the time we were there today, I could not dispel a feeling of artificiality about the place. It feels like TowerWorld Theme Park. At least now, when I read about Traitor's Gate or Wakefield's Tower, I will have some idea of how they relate to each other, but, all in all, visiting the Tower was a disappointment.