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Hitler’s Firestorm and the Christmastime Salvation of St. Paul’s

December 28th, 2013 - 10:55 pm

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.

Film footage from St. Paul's Cathedral roof, December 29, 1940.

Film footage from St. Paul’s Cathedral roof, December 29.

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.

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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.

View from St. Paul's, December 30, 1940

View from St. Paul’s, December 30, 1940

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.

Merry Christmas.

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.

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Top Rated Comments   
I read a book recently that described how a large time bomb buried itself in the church yard of St. Paul's. A crew of men spent several days digging it out by hand, then trucking it to the countryside for detonation. Can you imagine the cold, hard courage needed to do that?
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
Which is why I don't weep over Dresden.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (19)
All Comments   (19)
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I visited London in 1971 and saw St. Pauls. At that time you could still see empty spaces very near the church where buildings destroyed during WWII had once stood. The fact that St. Pauls escaped almost certain destruction is enough to make one believe in miracles. The strength of character shown by all those who worked to save her can't be praised enough.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
A MESSAGE TO ALL AMERICANS:

p)RESIDENT 0BAMA AND HIS MINIONS WILL BE PUSHING MANY POLITICAL ISSUES THIS COMING YEAR TO TAKE ATTENTION AWAY FROM HIS FAILED TRAIN WRECK, KNOWN AS 0BAMACARE...IRS, NSA, AP SPYING AND BENGHAZI SANDALS...

PLEASE, WE DON'T WAN'T TO TAKE OUR EYE OFF THE BALL...STAY ALERT!

AMERICANS BEWARE! ... ISSUES COMING DOWN THE PIKE FROM THE LIBOCRATS ARE FOR DISTRACTION PURPOSE ONLY...PERIOD

THANK YOU AND HAVE A WONDERFUL 2014...
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
How shameful is it that the President of the United States sent back to England a bust of Winston Churchill. Without Churchill at the helm I doubt if England would have been able to withstand the Nazi onslaught, even if the Germans had been unable to invade England proper they could have made life almost impossible through the bombing and submarine warfare campaigns. Everyone says the Battle of England was England's finest hour; it was guided by England's finest leader who was desperately needed during that hour.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
Would President Obama have "reset" his relations with Hitler's Germany? Not only did he show contempt for Winston Churchill, but he also showed contempt for former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. He went to the funeral of Nelson Mandela in South Africa, but he did not even send a representative of the U.S. government to the funeral of Mrs. Thatcher.
27 weeks ago
27 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'd like to recommend a novelette by Connie Willis that is an homage to those who defended St. Paul's during the blitz:

FIRE WATCH

It is sci fi. Won both the Hugo and Nebula awards.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
It was Britain's finest hour indeed.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
J. Christian,
Thanks for writing this article. I am fortunate to have visited St. Paul's on two separate trips over the years. When you see that dome and read about the heroism that saved it, one is most grateful that the church and the dome are still standing today. Tourists are usually made aware of Hitler's attempt to destroy the church so the story that you tell here lives on. There is also a stone tablet (I believe on the floor) that is hard to miss that honors those who died saving the dome and the church so Princess Diana could be married there decades later. :-)
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
Thanks for re-telling this story. It's tough but necessary to remind ourselves that it always appears to be darkest before the dawn.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
Thank you for this beautiful Christmas present, Mr. Adams, by far the best I have received. And for quoting the “Holy Ghost Prayer.”

I had forgotten the second part, and now I can say the whole thing, especially on those occasions when the bill for reading some news of the previous day demands payment around 3:00 a.m. It’s just about the only traditional prayer left to me (along with the Prayer to Saint Michael, the Archangel) that seems even remotely up to the task. Keep up the good work, and peace be with you!
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Jew Paul of Tarsus after whom the Cathedral is named was the one who lit the flame of the Gospel all throughout Europe. What a wonderful victory he attained over the hordes of the mustached rascal who tried to gain Europe for the devil. Make a note EU anti-Christians and others: you are not going to prevail where the Roman Empire, the USSR, the Third Reich, and Napoleon failed so ignominiously. Somewhere the shovels are busy digging your graves. Bring it on! We are ready!
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
I read a book recently that described how a large time bomb buried itself in the church yard of St. Paul's. A crew of men spent several days digging it out by hand, then trucking it to the countryside for detonation. Can you imagine the cold, hard courage needed to do that?
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
History is clear: most Nazis escaped like rats, committed suicide, or were hanged. Live without honor, die like a rat. Those who died that night left behind an honorable memory. All free men should aspire to such a noble death.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
Which is why I don't weep over Dresden.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
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