Check one off your bucket list: Google gives iconic St. Paul’s Cathedral the gigapixel treatment
posted Wednesday, March 2, 2016 at 8:59 PM EDT
If you were to compile a list of the most photographed places in the United Kingdom, London's St. Paul's Cathedral would doubtless sit somewhere near the top of that list. In fact, we've seen it at the top of at least one such list, although others who've tried to answer the same question have offered up different tourist hotspots such as Trafalgar Square or Tower Bridge for the number one spot. (Presumably this comes down to sampling bias, making it something of a fool's errand to try to answer the question in the first place.)
Either way, though, St. Paul's is clearly a major tourist attraction, and likely features fairly prominently as a bucket-list destination for many who've not yet had the chance to see its beauty up close. Now, though, you can get a far more closeup look at one of the cathedral's most beautiful views from the comfort of your own desk or living room than most of us could ever manage in person.
So who's behind the project that gives you this unprecedented access? None other than internet giant Google courtesy of its Cultural Institute project, which we've mentioned on our news page a few times in the past. (Our favorite Cultural Institute project takes you inside the George Eastman museum, which dates back to 1949, making it the oldest photography museum in the world.)
If you hop over to the Google Cultural Institute's microsite for St. Paul's Cathedral, you'll find a guided tour of the gigapixel image in the "Glories in Gold and Glass" section, which also includes around 40 current or historic images and 360-degree Street View spherical panoramas. You'll find another 30 images and panos in the "Designing St. Paul's Cathedral" section, which takes you through the history of the cathedral's design and creation. And in a rather cool touch, Google also invites you inside a truly gigantic model of the cathedral (albeit in an earlier incarnation), built prior to its construction to give an idea of how the final structure would look. You can also take a guided Street View tour of the cathedral inside and out.
For our money, though, it's the gigapixel image which is by far the most exciting. It shows the entire Quire Ceiling, whose mosaic tiling was completed in 1904, in absolutely astounding detail. Much of what you can see in the Cultural Institute microsite can be seen just as well or better in person, but here Google gives us an unprecedentedly clear view of this incredibly ornate work of art.
It's been over a decade since we ran our first story on a gigapixel image all the way back in late 2003, and these days they've become almost commonplace. Be that as it may, though, they've lost none of their impact over the last dozen years -- at least, when a suitably jaw-dropping subject is available!