St Paul's Cathedral by Canaletto

2 December

Today in 1697 London’s new St Paul’s Cathedral (above), in London, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, was consecrated, 30 years after the old cathedral had burned down. The opening sermon, preached by the Bishop of London, Henry Compton, took its text from Psalm 122: ‘I was glad when they said unto me: Let us go into the house of the Lord.’

The English poet Philip Larkin, known for his depressing poems which contain some notable swear words, died today in 1985. A lifelong atheist, he bought a Bible late in life, and said of it: ‘It’s absolutely bloody amazing to think that anyone ever believed any of that. Really, it’s absolute balls. Beautiful, of course. But balls.’

Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned by Pope Pius VII in 1804 in Notre Dame – or at least that was the plan. At the last moment Napoleon snatched the crown from him and crowned himself, just to emphasise who was really in control of Europe in those days.

John Wesley quit the settlement of Georgia (one of the British colonies in America) today in 1738. He had gone as a missionary to the natives and as pastor of Savannah, aiming to establish a holy community recapturing the life of the early church. It was an unmitigated catastrophe, and he left fleeing at night on foot through marshland pursued by lawsuits.

Image: Painting by Canaletto, Paul Mellon Collection, Wikimedia Commons

Time-travel news is written by Steve Tomkins and Simon Jenkins

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