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Wednesday, December 3, 1997 Published at 05:11 GMT

St Pauls Cathedral

St Paul's celebrates its 300th anniversary
image: [ St Paul's has dominated the London skyline for 300 years ]
St Paul's has dominated the London skyline for 300 years

St Paul's Cathedral as we now know it was opened to the public on December 2, 1697.

To mark the tercentenary of the cathedral of the Church of England, the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales are attending a ceremony there on Wednesday.

The old St Paul's was completely destroyed by the Great Fire of London in 1666. It was just eight days after the last flames had died out that Sir Christopher Wren produced his first plan for a new cathedral.

[ image: The new cathedral was rebuilt using stones from the old]
The new cathedral was rebuilt using stones from the old
However, the plans were not finalised until 1675, when it began to be rebuilt out of Portland stone in a classical Baroque style. Among those assisting Wren were the master wood carver Grinling Gibbons and French ironworker Jean Tijou.

Although its 300th anniversary is being celebrated this year, St Paul's was not finished completely until 1710.

Modern times

During the Second World War, St Paul's became a national symbol of resistance when Winston Churchill declared that "the cathedral must be preserved at all costs."

There were a number of direct hits to the cathedral by incendiary bombs and the area surrounding it was completely devastated.

But a team of volunteers known as St Paul's Watch took responsibility for dousing and sand-bagging the bombs.

[ image: St Pauls is traditionally the venue for state ceremonies]
St Pauls is traditionally the venue for state ceremonies
As the traditional venue for state occasions, St Paul's held ceremonies to celebrate the peace following the Falklands War and the Gulf War.

The funeral for Winston Churchill was held in St Paul's in 1965.

Unusually, Prince Charles and Princess Diana were married in St Paul's cathedral, which is usually reserved for state ceremonies rather than royal ceremonies which are traditionally held at Westminster Abbey.

The cathedral became the centre of controversy when it appointed its first woman minor canon, the Rev Lucy Winkett, earlier this year. The appointment split the clergy at St Paul's, and has still not been accepted by some, including Canon John Halliburton.

In 1991 St Paul's began charging an admission fee for the first time, having previously relied on donations which were unforthcoming.

Maintenance costs 15,000 a day, and tourism now raises 60% of these costs, with voluntary donations, grants and sponsorships providing most of the rest.

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