What Color Was Saint Paul’s Chapel?

St. Paul’s Chapel is temporarily closed for restoration. Read more here.

How to you determine which paint color is historically accurate?

Well, it’s a mix of archeology, research, and educated guessing.

St. Paul’s Chapel was painted pink and blue in the 60s. Earlier this year Trinity decided to look into a more historically accurate palette.

The process began by digging through the layers of paint on the chapel. They took hundreds of postage-stamp size samples to see if under all that they could find the original color. The samples were then put in resin, cured, and put under a special microscope. The color they found was a dark cream color.

This color, however, was probably added in the early to mid-1800s, when the chapel was already 50 to 100 years old. Before that, the paint was water based, and instead of simply painting over the old layer as we do today they washed off the old paint each time.

The next step was to do a bit more research. Trinity staff spoke to architects with extensive experience restoring historic churches for their insight into paint colors that were historically accurate and would work well in the space.

The chapel’s design is influenced by A Book of Architecture, by James Gibbs, who designed St. Martin in the Field, which was built in London about 50 years before St. Paul’s, so they also looked at St. Martin’s for inspiration, which is a light cream color with brown balconies. 

Finally, with a few options from the architect, the history they were able to dig up, and other similar churches, they gave the community and vestry an opportunity to provide feedback.

Last week they decided on the colors (White Dove, Natural Cream, and Deep Caviar) that are currently being applied

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Soon, the chapel will have light cream walls and brown balconies. Though no one can guarantee this is what it originally looked like, it’s probably closer to St. Paul’s Chapel’s appearance when it was built 250 years ago.