On this day in 1444, the spire of “old” St Paul’s Cathedral (*) was destroyed by lightning. A replacement spire was completed in 1462, and itself destroyed by lightning in 1561.
“Old” St Paul’s was built in the Norman, or Romanesque, to Early Gothic styles in the years after 1087 by the Bishop, Maurice and his successors; rebuilt and extended in the Gothic style in 1221-1240, and in the “New Work” of 1269-1332; renovated in the Renaissance style by Inigo Jones in 1633-1641, and again by Wren, after the Civil War, during which it had been occupied by Parliamentary troops and horses, in 1660; and burnt down in the Great Fire of 1666. There is a model of “old” St Paul’s in the Museum of London. It was clearly an impressive building, measuring some 600’ in length, and rising to a height of between 460-520’ (estimates vary), inclusive of the spire. As John Denham wrote in 1624: “That sacred pile, so vast, so high/That whether ‘tis a part of earth or sky/Uncertain seems, and may be thought a proud/Aspiring mountain or descending cloud … ”.
(*) The name is something of a misnomer, as by the time it was built, there had already been three cathedrals on the site, built in 604, 675 and 962.