St. Paul’s Cathedral Dome: Construction Sequence

Developed with James Campbell, architectural historian at Cambridge University

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Animated Construction Sequence

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Music from the organ (William Tell’s Overture) and bells of St Paul’s (recorded 2013)

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St. Paul’s Cathedral features an innovative triple dome structure. On the circular drum, the inner dome rises and is visible from the cathedral interior. Above this inner dome, a brick cone rises to support the 850 ton lantern. This brick cone also supports the wood rafters and frame of the outer dome, which is covered in wood and lead.
This three dome system allows the cathedral to support such a heavy lantern, all the while maintaining the great height needed to be a visible London landmark.

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Virtual Reality Model

Click to Play

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This scale model is created from architectural drawings and is accurate to the foot. St. Paul’s dome consists of four interlinked structures:

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  • Inner dome – visible from the cathedral interior and purely for show; height = 225 ft (69 m)
  • Middle brick cone – a brick cone that is invisible from below but supports the 850 ton lantern above; height = 278 ft (85 m)
  • Outer dome – a wood and lead-roofed structure visible from the cathedral exterior; height = 278 ft (85 m)
  • Lantern – an 850 ton stone lantern and cross, whose weight is carried to the ground via the middle brick cone = 365ft (111 m)
The inner and outer domes are decorative, while the brick cone is the true weight-bearing support system.

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