On October 9, 1940, St. Paul’s Cathedral was hit during a Blitz by the Luftwaffe. The strike destroyed the high altar, but left the Cathedral standing.
Until mid-September 1940, the West End of London had escaped the Blitz fairly unscathed. The West End is generally, even to this day, the wealthier, more posh area of London. The Germans were purposefully avoiding the West End. They knew that they could potentially stoke class tension by targeting the East End, where poorer families resided. Although 1.4 million people were evacuated from London, as many as eight million people remained in the city during the Blitz. Even measures like blackouts and curfews could only do so much to curtail the damage.
Related: London's Ancient Outcast Graveyard
In fact, this strategy had been working quite well for some time. The lower classes were resentful—their men were the ones primarily drafted into service, and their homes were the ones being destroyed. Meanwhile, the royal family and more well-off city dwellers were getting off scot-free.
However, once Buckingham Palace was damaged, likely accidentally, in a September 13 attack, the tide turned against these feelings of resentment. By the time St. Paul’s was bombed on October 9, it became a symbol of London overcoming the war and standing strong.
The famous photo below is St. Paul’s Survives, taken on December 29, 1940. It stood strong throughout the Second Great Fire of London—the nickname for the most destructive air raid of the Blitz.