capsule review

Explore St. Paul's Cathedral Scholastic Edition

To visit the multitude of historic landmarks in Europe on a single vacation is impossible. If you haven't visited Saint Paul's Cathedral in London, The Armchair Travel Company delivers an alternative -- a virtual visit from your home computer. For those planning a future trip to London, Explore St. Paul's Cathedral serves as a rich historical primer, covering just about every part of Sir Christopher Wren's architectural masterpiece.

It's easy to find your way around Saint Paul's two levels, the crypt and the main floor, using the aerial-view map located on screen. Points of interest are clearly highlighted, some of which are accompanied by in-depth QuickTime movies on topics such as Winston Churchill's funeral and the deliciously creepy crypt. The narrative is delivered smoothly; alternatively, the user can opt to have the script displayed on the screen to read. The only weakness in the program's overall organization is its search feature, which can be confusing and difficult to navigate.

Delve into the crypt -- you'll be surprised what you might find.

The program's great strength is that it conveys the feeling of what it's like to actually walk through the cathedral. The choral background music that accompanies each image evokes the eerie feeling one gets inside the cool walls of a building with so much history literally embedded in its foundation. A few photographs are on the blurry side, but most are sharp and capture the intricate beauty of the building's interiors: chapels, altars, domes, memorials, and mysterious sections such as the Whispering Gallery. In addition, the program features outdoor perspectives of Saint Paul's, highlighting its impressive architecture.

The program takes you through the centuries, supplying loads of background history as well as current information on the state of Saint Paul's today. Dozens of little known facts reveal the cathedral's history in a format that's both entertaining and informative. For example, the original Saint Paul's was destroyed in the Fire of London in 1666; what we see today is a much different structure from the first. While unlucky in 1666, Saint Paul's fared better during World War II -- its survival during the Blitz is seen by many as a miracle.

Lady Diana Spencer and the Prince of Wales were married at the cathedral in 1981, and the CD-ROM also includes footage of that historic event.

At a Glance
  • Pros

    • QuickTime movies are well done
    • Comprehensive
    • Entertaining

    Cons

    • Confusing search feature
    • Some photographs are blurry
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