St Paul's is the seat of the Bishop of London and mother church of the Diocese of London. As part of an ongoing arts project, a two specially commissioned video installations by Bill Viola are currently on display inside the cathedral.
For more than 1400 years, a cathedral dedicated to St Paul has stood at the highest point in the city. The present incarnation is the masterpiece of British architect Sir Christopher Wren, and was built between 1675 and 1710 after its predecessor was destroyed in the Great Fire of London. Services began here in 1697.
This was the first cathedral to be built after the English Reformation, when Henry VIII removed the Church of England from the jurisdiction of the Pope and the crown took control of the life of the church.
The St Paul’s Cathedral Arts Project is an ongoing programme which seeks to explore the encounter between art and faith. Projects have included installations by Gerry Judah, Antony Gormley, Rebecca Horn, Yoko Ono and Martin Firrell.
Visitors can see two large-scale permanent video installations by artist Bill Viola – Martyrs (Earth, Air, Fire, Water) and Mary, the two first moving-image works to be installed in a British cathedral or church on a long-term basis.
The two pieces together symbolise some of the profound mysteries of human existence. As Bill Viola himself explained: 'One is concerned with birth and the other death; one with comfort and creation, the other with suffering and sacrifice. If I am successful, the final pieces will function both as aesthetic objects of contemporary art and as practical objects of traditional contemplation and devotion.'
Your ticket allows access to visit the Bill Viola installation, the whole of the cathedral floor and crypt, an audio guide and/or guided tour and access to the three gallery levels.