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The Virtual St Paul’s Cathedral Project

A digital re-creation of worship and preaching at St Paul’s Cathedral in Early Modern London.

Published onMar 02, 2022
The Virtual St Paul’s Cathedral Project

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St Paul’s Cathedral, the West Front, Evening


The Virtual St Paul’s Cathedral Project, together with its companion project the Virtual Paul’s Cross Project, uses digital visual and acoustic modeling to enable us to experience worship and preaching at St Paul’s Cathedral as events that unfold over time and on particular occasions in London in the early seventeenth century.

The Virtual St Paul’s Cathedral Project makes available to scholars the experience of public worship as scripted by the Book of Common Prayer in a recreation of one of the most significant worship centers of the Church of England in the early seventeenth century. The Project enables its users to explore a highly accurate visual model of Paul’s Churchyard and the interior of St Paul’s Cathedral in the 1620’s and to hear recreations of two full days of worship in the cathedral, with sermons, Bible readings and chanted prayers together with canticles and anthems sung with organ and full choir, all in original pronunciation London dialect, sounding as though the listener were inside the cathedral’s Choir.  The website also locates this style of worship within the English Reformation’s emphasis on public, corporate worship scripted by use of the Book of Common Prayer. 

Final St Paul's Cathedral Fly Around

St Paul’s Cathedral, from the southwest

St Paul’s Cathedral, the Treasury

St Paul’s Cathedral, the Deanery

St Paul’s Cathedral, the East Front

St Paul’s Cathedral, the South Face

St Paul’s Cathedral, Augustine’s Gate

St Paul’s Cathedral, the Nave

St Paul’s Cathedral, the Choir Screen

St Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower

St Paul’s Cathedral, the Choir from atop the Choir Screen

St  Paul’s Cathedral, the Choir from the Pulpit

St Paul’s Cathedral, the Choir from the Dean’s Stall

St Paul’s Cathedral, the Choir from Above

St Paul’s Cathedral, the Ceiling

The Acoustic Model

Choir Overhead Stalls

The acoustic dimensions of the Virtual St Paul’s Cathedral Project include 6 different complete worship services audible from 5 different listening positions inside the cathedral’s Choir. An acoustic model is a model of a space, rendered in its most basic geometric forms, combined with information about the sound-handling properties of the materials out of which the forms inside the model were constructed, in this case, chiefly stone and wood. Acoustic modeling software modifies sound waves so as to create the experience of hearing sounds in the space one is modeling. These recordings allow users to hear how the service might have sounded in different locations.

Sing Joyfully (William Byrd) - Easter Day, Morning Prayer

Nunc Dimittis (4th Service) (Adrian Batten) - The Tuesday after the First Sunday in Advent, Evening Prayer

O Praise the Lord (Adrian Batten) - Easter Day, Evening Prayer

Christ our Paschal Lamb (Adrian Batten) - Easter Day, Holy Communion

 Organ Voluntary - The Tuesday after the First Sunday in Advent, Evening Prayer

  • Go here for an explanation of how acoustic modeling works.

  • Go here for samples of 14 different kinds of sound usage in the project. 

  • Go here for the four full services of Easter Sunday and here for the two services of the First Tuesday in Advent. 

  • Go here to listen to the Paul’s Cross sermon from 8 different listening positions in Paul's Churchyard.  

Project Creator or Project Team Name

John N. Wall: John N. Wall, an Episcopal priest and Professor of English in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at NC State University, planned the project, applied for funding, coordinated the work, and authored the website’s content.

David Hill: Professor of Architecture in the College of Design at NC State University, supervised graduate students in architecture who created the Visual Model, designed the project’s website, and created the fly-around video and the rendered images of the model.

Yun Jing: Formerly Associate Professor in the College of Engineering at NC State University, now Associate Professor in Acoustic Engineering at Penn State University, supervised undergraduate and graduate students in Engineering at NC State University in development of the I-Pack Simpa software and the process of auralizing sound files for use in the Project.

The co-principal investigators were aided by a team of experts, including the following:

The parts of clergy taking part in the services on Easter Day and the Tuesday after the First Sunday in Advent are performed by the British actors Colin Hurley and William Sutton. The sermons were preached by the British linguist David Crystal (who also prepared the original pronunciation scripts) and the British actor Ben Crystal. 

The role of the Choir of St Paul’s Cathedral was played by the Choir of Jesus College, Cambridge University, under the direction of Choirmaster Richard Pinel. Organ music in these recordings was played by Pinel and the Organ Scholars of Jesus College.

The music they performed was chosen by Roger Bowers, Emeritus Reader in Medieval and Renaissance Music at Jesus College, Cambridge University. 

Advice on the architectural history of the buildings inside Paul’s Churchyard was provided by  John Schofield, long-time archeologist at St Paul’s Cathedral, author of St Paul’s Cathedral Before Wren (2011) and a host of other books and articles on the official and domestic architecture of medieval and early modern London.

Student support for both the Virtual Cathedral Project and the Virtual Paul’s Cross Project was both extensive and essential. 

Students in the Masters of Architecture program in the College of Design at NC State University built and rendered the visual models of the cathedral and its surrounding structures as well as the Projects’ websites. They included Trevor Healey, Joshua Stephens, Craig Johnson, Chelsea Sacks, Jordan Gray, Grey Isley, Eli Simaan, Scott Needham, Andrew McCall, Cameron Westbrook, Smith Marks, Austin Corriher, and Caroline Cox.

Seth Hollandsworth, an undergraduate engineering major at NC State, produced all the auralized sound files.

Students at Jesus College, Cambridge University, who were members of the College Choir included Amy Butterworth, Dorothy Hoskins, Sarah Mansfield, Elizabeth Nightingale, Jacqueline Row, Serena Shah, Martha Spencer, Dewi Eburne, Matthew Rogers, Anna Semple, Victoria Taylor, Laurence Trowsdale-Stannard, Joanna Ward, Jack Bazalgette, Glen Dempsey, Hamish MacGregor, Jacob Oberholzer, Owen Winter, Harry Cheatle, Ben Dennes, Edwin Jarratt-Barhnham, Tom McIver, Dewi Rees, and Jordan Wong.

Institutional affiliation/s

NC State University and Penn State University

Years active

 2010 – present

To learn more

The Virtual St Paul’s Cathedral website

The Virtual Paul’s Cross website

The Virtual Donne website

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