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St Paul's renovation finally finished

One of Britain's most famous cathedrals is to celebrate its first day without scaffolding for 15 years when a £40 million restoration project draws to a close.

The public will get the first entirely "clean" view of St Paul's tomorrow after the last scaffolding comes down marking the end of a massive renovation project, the first in the cathedral's history to restore the building both inside and out.

The Sir Christopher Wren masterpiece has served as a focus for national events in its 300-year history with Winston Churchill declaring it should be saved during the Second World War when the building became the target of bombing.

Restoration work included transforming the blackened and damaged west front of the cathedral with more than 150,000 blocks of the cathedral's white Portland stone cleaned on the outside alone.

Other work included cleaning and repair of the interior, redesign and landscaping of the South Churchyard gardens, restoration of the Grand Organ and adding wheelchair access to the crypt.

The American Memorial Chapel in the cathedral, built in the 1950s to commemorate US forces who died in the Second World War, has also been cleaned and restored.

Cathedral officials said the interior had been "transformed" by state-of-the-art conservation techniques with mosaics, carvings, and sculpture brought to life by light "flooding" the building.

The cathedral, which attracts nearly two million people a year for services, tourism and other events, is celebrating the 300th anniversary of being declared complete by Parliament in 1711.

The Rt Rev Graeme Knowles, Dean of St Paul's, said: "We're thrilled that in the year we celebrate the anniversary, we can mark the completion of this extraordinary project.

"The two million who come here each year can witness Wren's original vision."

Martin Stancliffe, surveyor to the fabric, who oversaw the project, said: "This great building is now in a sound state and probably looks better than at any time since its completion in 1711."

A service will be held to celebrate the 300th anniversary on Tuesday (June 21).

To mark the completion of the project, St Paul's is launching a 300th Anniversary photography competition running from tomorrow with photographers invited to submit their best exterior shots of the building.

More information can be found at http://www.stpauls.co.uk/photocomp.