St Paul's Cathedral closed over protest

St Paul's Cathedral has been forced to close its doors to the public because of the anti-capitalist protest taking place outside.

The Dean of St Paul's, the Rev Graeme Knowles, said the decision to close the cathedral was made with "heavy hearts".



He said the decision was taken after church officials received a report by health and safety officials.









The Dean asked the activists, who have occupied a makeshift campsite outside the main entrance of the house of worship since Saturday, to move on.



He said the church would close its doors to members of the public after a service this afternoon.



The cathedral has not been closed since the Second World War, the Dean said.



"We have a legal obligation to keep visitors safe and healthy," he added.









Earlier in the week, a church official said the Occupy London Stock Exchange protest was causing a "risk to the life of the cathedral".



Mr Knowles, who has been forced to cancel a visit to America, said the decision was "unprecedented".



He said: "I have written an open letter to the protesters this afternoon advising them that we have no lawful alternative but to close St Paul's Cathedral until further notice.



"Health, safety and fire officers have pointed out that access to the cathedral is seriously limited.



"With so many stoves and fires and lots of different types of fuel around, there is a very clear fire hazard.



"Then there is the public health aspect which indeed speaks for itself. The dangers relate not just to cathedral staff and to visitors but are a potential hazard to those encamped themselves.



"The decision to close St Paul's Cathedral is unprecedented in modern times.



"We have done this with a very heavy heart, but it is simply not possible to fulfil our day to day obligations to worshippers, visitors and pilgrims in current circumstances."









Mr Knowles said he has asked the Registrar to implement "emergency procedures" to keep the building closed but fit for purpose.



The 200 staff and 100 volunteers were informed of the closure this afternoon.



A cathedral spokeswoman said staff would be coming to work "as usual".



The Dean continued: "In the open letter I am asking the protesters to recognise the huge issues facing us at this time and asking them to leave the vicinity of the building so that the cathedral can reopen as soon as possible."



He added: "I hope that the protesters will understand the issues we are facing, recognise that their voice has been legitimately heard, and withdraw peacefully."



He said the cathedral's Chapter defended the right to protest but would like to use the building for its intended use.



"That protest has happened, it has been legitimately heard and we would now like to be able to have space back and use it as we should," he added.



Some of the issues raised by Health and Safety and fire officers included the presence of unknown quantities of flammable liquids, smoking and drinking in tented areas, compromised fire exits and public health issues such as sanitation and food hygiene.



The cathedral is one of London's best loved tourist attractions and draws between 2,000 and 3,000 worshippers each Sunday.



He said small gatherings of no more than 100 people would still be allowed inside the church so planned weddings could still go ahead.









A cathedral dedicated to St Paul has stood on the site since 604 AD. The current building - the fourth to occupy the site - was designed by the court architect, Sir Christopher Wren, and built between 1675 and 1710 after its predecessor was destroyed in the Great Fire of London.



It is a key site on London's skyline, a popular location with tourists and is the cathedral of the Diocese of London.



It has been the focus point for many a royal celebration, including Queen Victoria's Jubilee and the marriage of Lady Diana Spencer to the Prince of Wales on July 29 1981.



As well as attending the wedding of Charles and Diana, the Royal Family has gathered in force at St Paul's over the years for the 80th and 100th birthdays of the Queen Mother and the thanksgiving services for the Queen's Golden Jubilee and her 80th birthday.



It also staged the funerals of Lord Nelson, the Duke of Wellington and Sir Winston Churchill, the peace services marking the end of the First and Second World Wars and more recently the Service of Remembrance and Commemoration for the September 11 terrorist attacks.









A group of around 200 activists living in the camp congregated on the steps of the cathedral for a meeting to discuss the closure.



The campers decided that they would not leave the vicinity "for the moment".



They took turns to address the crowd. One female protester said: "We should not be blackmailed into moving.



"We agree that we should stay. It is too necessary for us to go straight away."



Others chanted: "We should not go."



Activist Julian Stevenson, from Barnstaple in Devon, said it was "not constructive" to get involved in a conflict with the church.



Another said: "When we started this occupation, no one invited us."



One camper was holding a banner which read: "Where would Jesus be if he were here today? Would he be camped out in the freezing weather speaking out against inequality? Or would he be in a religious building worrying about revenue from tourists?"



A man, who did not wish to be named, read out a mission statement to the crowd. He said: "The current system is unsustainable, undemocratic and unjust.



"We stand together with occupations all over the world.



"We refuse to pay for the banks' crisis."



The camp, which has been erected for six days, is occupied by dozens of tents. The activists are camped under a banner which reads "capitalism is crisis".



Three generators are providing power to the camp, there are two portable toilets and a kitchen, and even a library has been constructed.

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
News
UK Border Control
i100
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Administrator

£16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Teleradiology s...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Administrator - Out of Hours

£19000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Telera...

Recruitment Genius: Receptionist / Office Administrator - Full or Part Time

£14600 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established in 2003 the company...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn