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After St Paul's: the smoke this time

An encampment around St Paul’s cathedral in London casts a new light on this icon of British wartime defiance. But the epic days of the 1940s may have something to teach the protesters in return, says David Hayes.
David Hayes
1 November 2011

A famous photograph of St Paul’s cathedral in London shows the great dome of Christopher Wren’s late 17th-century masterpiece rising proudly above the smoke of the Luftwaffe’s rain of fire during the intense bombardment of the city on 29 December 1940 - a living architectural symbol of civic and national resistance to an existential threat.

Seven decades on, the extraordinary protest encampment that has been occupying the vicinity of St Paul’s since 15 October 2011 is casting a more unforgiving light on the cathedral and its place at the heart of Britain’s iconography. But the epic days of the 1940s may have something to teach it in return.

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