Day two of my London sojourn was largely about seeing David Bailey‘s Stardust exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, but having a couple of hours to spare I broke my journey in a part of the City that embodies the ever-changing history of London.
The EC4 part of my Capital Cryptogram refers to a postal area of the City of London that incorporates Blackfriars and St Paul’s. The former of these ecclesiastical locations acquired a grisly reputation when Roberto Calvi, “God’s Banker“, was found hanging from the Blackfriars Bridge, his clothing full of bricks.
But I get ahead of myself. My journey from Docklands to the City was a joyous reminder of the varied delights that London offers. Peter Ackroyd‘s metaphysical masterpiece Hawksmoor first alerted me to the unique vision of Wren’s apprentice and so I was pleased to encounter three of his six churches, as well as the Tower of London and the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street on my short drive into town. Add in the dizzying heights of “The Cheesegrater” and “The Walkie-Talkie” and the day was off to a good start.
My goal was somewhat different in its aspirations though; the Millennium Bridge (usurper to a title rightly claimed by one of the beauties that span the Tyne). Linking the City to Bankside it provides an unobstructed view from Tate Modern across the river to St Paul’s Cathedral, and so photogenic is the aspect that since its chequered opening and reopening it has become a favourite of TV location scouts. The sight of suited and booted hopefuls marching across to the sound of Prokofiev is a staple of The Apprentice. The bridge itself has a futuristic feel that may seem at odds with Wren’s Baroque extravagance but its flowing lines guide the eye.
If you can bear to turn away from the dominating dome, the bridge offers you not just the Tate but something a little older, at least in style. The reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe is another aspect of London’s rich past.
But back to the main event, the bridge and the journey’s end beyond it.
The great church’s facade is impressive enough, and to be fair it garners a large throng of admirers each day (some of whom will feature in my next post). Be honest though, like so many of the world’s great duomos and cathedrals, it’s the crowning glory that really grabs you.