What is Next to St Paul’s that has its origins in Medieval times? ~ Paternoster Square

As part of My City & My Town – Appreciating London Series, next door to St Paul’s, you will notice an archway which leads into Paternoster Square. This archway is Temple Bar, created by Sir Christopher Wren in 1672, and is made of Portland stone. The name “Temple Bar” originated from its position as a gateway to the City, near the Temple law courts. There are four statues, Charles I, Charles II, James I and Queen Anne of Denmark. These are original statues carved by John Bushnell. New statues were added, depicting the royal beasts, coats of arms and supporters of the City by Tim Crawley. These new statues replaced the original statues which were lost when the Bar was removed from Fleet Street in the 19th century.

The Temple Bar
The Temple Bar, the archway to Paternoster Square from St Paul’s Cathedral

Through the Temple Bar is Paternoster Square which was once known as Paternoster Row, originating in medieval times. It was a place where the clergy of St Paul’s walked, holding their rosary beads and reciting the “Paternoster” or the “Lord’s Prayer” – Paternoster translates as “Our Father.” The Square is large, bright and there’s a sense of peacefulness that surrounds it when it is not crowded with visitors. Most notable on a sunny day is the amount of sunlight that falls across the square. The architecture too seems to be in harmony with St Paul’s Cathedral. The view from the Square of St Paul’s is superb! The “slot” view from Queen’s Head Passage and the loggia, allows for uninterrupted views of the dome of St Paul’s and is truly remarkable how the building heights are modulated to allow for such a view.

Uninterrupted view of the dome from the Square
Uninterrupted view of the dome from the Square

My visit to Paternoster Square was only a couple of weeks ago as part of my decision to re-trace my footsteps in London. I was welcomed with the special Christmas feel, of Christmas trees and Christmas market, the aroma of German sausages and onions on the grill and the mulled wine. It was not crowded when I visited which was at sundown. It afforded me the time to walk around and capture some pictures.

Christmas market at Paternoster Square
Christmas market at Paternoster Square
Christmas vibes at the Square
Christmas vibes at the Square

 

The focal point of the Square is the Paternoster Column, which was built in 2003, in Portland stone, Cornish granite and gilded copper urn. The Column stands at 23.3 meters (76.4 feet). It has a hexagonal stone base, a fluted Corinthian column, a gilded copper urn with flame finial at the top. The design of the Column reflects the ancient tradition of imperial Rome, where places of significance are marked with monumental structures. As a result, the Paternoster Column acts as a marker whereby fibre-optic cables for night-lighting of the urn is used and this establishes a visual reference to a fire beacon.

Paternoster Column
Paternoster Column, built in 2003, in Portland stone. Stands at 23.3 meters
Gold-leaf covered gilded copper urn with flame finial at the top
Gold-leaf covered gilded copper urn with flame finial at the top

The Column itself is a replica of the west portico of the old St Paul’s which was destroyed during the construction of the current St. Paul’s.  Though it was created as the focal point for the whole Paternoster development, the Column does not align with the rest of the architectural elements and this creates a relaxed environment. In addition, it forms part of a ventilation system for the car park which runs beneath the Square. If you take a close-look at the steps, underneath it is grates which allows for this ventilation.

Hexagonal stone base
Grates under the steps allows for ventilation for the car park beneath.

 

History of Paternoster Column

The area was destroyed twice, once during the Great Fire of 1666, and the second, in the winter of 1940, during the Blitz of WWII. A modern development rose out of these ashes in the 1960s but fell out of popularity. At present, what we see today, is a development by the Mitsubishi Estate Company who commissioned Whitfield Partners in 1995 to come up with a master plan with a view to preserve the heritage of the area and to meet the commercial requirements of the area.

Other points of interests:

  • Paternoster Lane

Is a stainless-steel structure built in 2002, designed by Thomas Heatherwick to disguise two air vents. It stands at 11 meters high and it has a satin finish.

Stainless structure to disguise the vents
Built in 2002, designed by Thomas Heatherwick, stands at 11 meters high.
  • Noon Mark

You can find this at 10 Paternoster Square, in the south-west corner.  When there is strong sunlight at midday, the Noon Mark casts its shadow to reveal the day of the year.

  • The Sheep and Shepherd

Was created in 1975 by Elisabeth Frink. It is a sculpture made of bronze on Portland stone plinth.

The Sheep and Shepherd
The Sheep and Shepherd, designed by Elisabeth Frink

 

Useful information:

There is no entry charges here.

Cafes, bars and casual dining are available here.

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Getting here: 

As this is located next to St Paul’s Cathedral – follow info on transport and how to get here which is St Paul’s Cathedral’s blog post – click here