Churchill knew that the Christopher Wren-designed dome of St. Paul’s was a national and religious symbol of pride. Buried in its crypt were English heroes such as John of Gaunt, Admiral Horatio Nelson and Arthur Wellesley, the man who defeated Napoleon and ushered in Catholic emancipation in England.
After Churchill’s order, all firefighting resources were devoted to saving the towering dome of St. Paul’s. Walter Matthews, the dean of St. Paul’s, led bucket brigades on the roof, dousing the hot blowing embers threatening the cathedral.
Inside the dome, a volunteer scampered over beams to dislodge an incendiary bomb that had landed on the lead-lined dome, burned through it, and threatened to set the wooden internal structure ablaze. Miraculously, it extinguished before igniting the ancient beams. The battle between Hitler’s firestorm and the church raged all night.
At sunrise, a square mile around St. Paul’s was incinerated. But St. Paul’s stood, surrounded by carnage.
Hitler had failed to destroy St. Paul’s, or the will of the British to fight him and liberate an enslaved continent.
For those celebrating Christmas, the triumphant salvation of St. Paul’s in 1940 fits easily within the Christmas season.
Christmas is about undefeatable good coming to the world in the form of a child. Christmas is about a gift given to man, the ability of man to triumph over evil, to renew the face of the Earth. Love and human dignity would triumph over murder and chaos.
St. Paul’s, and eventually all of England, would not be consumed by Hitler’s fires. The flames stopped short of destroying St. Paul’s seventy years ago, this very night, and gave England a Christmastime triumph of good over evil.
And now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus. – Acts 4: 29-31.