Whispering Gallery, St Paul`s Cathedral

One of the most famous whispering galleries.

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St Paul’s Cathedral is an iconic building in the centre of London. High up in the central dome is a Whispering Gallery, which I remember visiting as a child. Climb 259 steps inside the dome, stand on one side of the circular gallery and talk very quietly and your speech can be heard quite clearly on the other side some 30m away.

St Paul’s is a circular whispering gallery. In this case, sound hugs the walls, allowing it to move from one side of the room to another without getting a lot quieter – the diagram shows some of the paths that the whispers take around the perimeter of the gallery.

Diagram showing sound in a circular whispering gallery
Sound paths in a circular whispering gallery

Location and Logistics

St Paul’s Cathedral, St Paul’s Churchyard, London, EC4M 8AD.  It’s worth arriving early in the morning and going straight to the Dome, because once the space gets busy it’s hard to pick out the whispering gallery effect amongst the hubbub.

Credits

[*] Picture Nanonic Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License

Author: Trevor Cox

I am a Professor of Acoustic Engineering at the University of Salford where I carry out research and teaching focussing on architectural acoustics, signal processing and audio perception. I am also an author and radio broadcaster having presented many documentaries on BBC radio and written books for academics and the general public.

6 thoughts on “Whispering Gallery, St Paul`s Cathedral”

  1. In the old senate chamber at the US Capitol building, there is a ring of whisper sites around the outer edge of the room. It was designed this way so that speakers could be heard clearly in the days before electronic amplification.

    The whole thing – which we the taxpayers bankrolled, thank you very much – is closed to the public right now, of course, thanks to the fact that President O-zero and our nutjob congress can’t get their act together.

  2. In Spain:
    – Granada, Alhambra, Palacio de Carlos V, lower ground level.
    http://www.fmschmitt.com/travels/spain/granada_province/granada/PalaceCharlesV.htm
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palace_of_Charles_V
    – Zaragoza: arc in the monument to Caesar Augustus, founder of Caesaraugusta (Zaragoza), north door of the Mercado Central (Central Market), near the Ebro river.
    http://www.viajeuniversal.com/spain/zaragoza/sitiosturisticoszaragoza/estatuacesarzaragoza.htm

  3. Other examples or whispering galleries:
    1. Mapparium Boston, MA
    2. Museum of Science and Industry- Chicago

  4. There is a whispering gallery in Gloucester Cathedral “The Whispering Gallery was created when a passageway was built behind the Great East Window of the Cathedral in the 14 century. “

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