St Paul's Cathedral - Britain's National Shrine

Still from 'St Paul's Cathedral' - Taken from 'Films of Britain 1942-43'
'A picture of St. Paul’s Cathedral, past and present. Old St. Paul’s; St. Paul’s rebuilt by Wren; St. Paul’s the shrine of an Empire’s heroes–– Nelson, Wellington, Roberts, Kitchener, Jellicoe, Beatty.
The film shows recent historic occasions, and the great Dome riding high above the blitz of 1940. It ends with a thanksgiving service on the steps of the bomb-scarred Cathedral.'[1]

Date: 1942
Duration: 14:25

Director: James E. Rogers
Production Company: Merton Park
Producer: -
Cinematographer: James E. Rogers
Composer: -
Narration: Robert Speaight
Editor: V. Sagovsky
Sound Recording: Al Rhind
Assistant Director: Arline Rogers

Length: 35mm: 1000ft. 16mm: -ft.

Distributor: M.G.M.


This film heavily features the events of 29th December 1940, known as the 'Second Great Fire of London' - one of the most destructive air raids of the London Blitz. The event saw a firestorm sweeping towards St Paul's Cathedral, and then-Prime Minister Winston Churchill ordered that the cathedral must be saved, and great effort was made to (successfully) save the building.

Though extremely different in tone and made by different production teams, this title bears a number of stylistic similarities to A Message From Canterbury. For example, both films open and close with shots of rooftop Christian crosses, both utilise cathedral choirs for the soundtrack, both relay the repeated destruction of their respective cathedrals, and both feature a similarly-styled re-enactment of an air raid.

St. Paul's Cathedral
Certificate: U
Distributors: M.G.M.
Producers: Merton Park Studios
1288ft / 14mins
Documentary. Produced for the British Council.[2]

St . Paul's Cathedral
Production: Produced by Merton Park Studios
Description: Direct photography with commentary and background music.
Teaching Notes: Not available.
Distributors: The Film Library, G.B. Equipments, Ltd., Tower House, Woodchester, Nr. Stroud, Glos.
Owner of U.K. Rights: British Council.
Conditions of Supply: Loaned on hire at 7s. 6d. Per reel per day plus 2s. per reel for each additional day.

Contents: After a short historical introduction, the first part of this film describes various features of interest to be seen on a tour of the Cathedral. These include the paintings in the dome of scenes on the life of St. Paul, the tombs of Sir Christopher Wren, Lord Nelson, Earl Jellicoe, Earl Beatty, the Duke of Wellington, Lord Roberts, Lord Kitchener and P/O Fiske, the first American officer to give his life in the Battle of Britain. The second half of the film describes the night of December 29th, 1940, when the great incendiary raid on the City took place. Though the are around St. Paul's was devastated, the Cathedral, apart from some damage to the Choir, High Altar and the North Doorway, remained unharmed. The film closes with scenes of the Thanksgiving Service held afterwards on the Cathedral steps.
Appraisal: This is an interesting, well-photographed and arranged film, in which there is a discreet and effective use of music. It is not for direct educational use, but as a general background film could well be shown to schools among other audiences.
16mm. Sd.
14 mins.
2 reels.[3]
  1. ^ Films of Britain - British Council Film Department Catalogue - 1942-43
  2. ^ New Short Films Issued between July 21 and August 20 [1944]
    Monthly Film Bulletin of the BFI
  3. ^ Background Films
    31st July 1945
    Educational Films
    Arts and Crafts
    Monthly Film Bulletin of the BFI