SIR CHRISTOPHER WREN PRS (/ˈrɛn/ ; 30 October 1632 – 8 March
1723 ) is one of the most highly acclaimed English architects in
history. He was accorded responsibility for rebuilding 52 churches in
the City of
The principal creative responsibility for a number of the churches is
now more commonly attributed to others in his office, especially
Nicholas Hawksmoor . Other notable buildings by Wren include the Royal
Naval College, Greenwich , and the south front of
Hampton Court Palace
* 1 Life and works
* 1.1 1653–1664 * 1.2 1665–1723 * 1.3 Death
* 2 Scientific career
* 3 Architectural career
* 3.1 St Paul\'s * 3.2 Major architectural works in the 1670s and 1680s
* 4 Achievement and legacy
LIFE AND WORKS
Wren was born in
East Knoyle in
As a child Wren "seem'd consumptive." Although a sickly child, he would survive into robust old age. He was first taught at home by a private tutor and his father. After his father's royal appointment as Dean of Windsor in March 1635, his family spent part of each year there, but little is known about Wren's life at Windsor. He spent his first eight years at East Knoyle and was educated by the Rev. William Shepherd, a local clergyman.
Little is known of Wren's schooling thereafter, during dangerous
times when his father's Royal associations would have required the
family to keep a very low profile from the ruling Parliamentary
authorities. It was a tough time in his life, but one which would go
on to have a significant impact upon his later works. The story that
he was at
Some of Wren's youthful exercises preserved or recorded (though few
are datable) showed that he received a thorough grounding in
On 25 June 1650, Wren entered
Wadham College, Oxford
Receiving his M.A. in 1653, Wren was elected a fellow of All Souls\'
College in the same year and began an active period of research and
experiment in Oxford. His days as a fellow of All Souls ended when
Wren was appointed Professor of
Memorandum November 28, 1660. These persons following according to
the usual custom of most of them, met together at
In 1662, they proposed a society "for the promotion of
Physico-Mathematicall Experimental Learning." This body received its
Royal Charter from Charles II and "The
In 1661, Wren was elected Savilian Professor of
The main sources for Wren's scientific achievements are the records of the Royal Society. His scientific works ranged from astronomy, optics , the problem of finding longitude at sea, cosmology , mechanics , microscopy , surveying , medicine and meteorology . He observed, measured, dissected, built models and employed, invented and improved a variety of instruments.
It was probably around this time that Wren was drawn into redesigning a battered St Paul\'s Cathedral . Making a trip to Paris in 1665, Wren studied the architecture, which had reached a climax of creativity, and perused the drawings of Bernini , the great Italian sculptor and architect, who himself was visiting Paris at the time. Returning from Paris, he made his first design for St Paul's. A week later, however, the Great Fire destroyed two-thirds of the city. Wren submitted his plans for rebuilding the city to King Charles II, although they were never adopted. With his appointment as King's Surveyor of Works in 1669, he had a presence in the general process of rebuilding the city, but was not directly involved with the rebuilding of houses or companies' halls. Wren was personally responsible for the rebuilding of 51 churches ; however, it is not necessarily true to say that each of them represented his own fully developed design.
Wren was knighted 14 November 1673. This honour was bestowed on him
after his resignation from the Savilian chair in Oxford, by which time
he had already begun to make his mark as an architect, both in
services to the Crown and in playing an important part in rebuilding
Additionally, he was sufficiently active in public affairs to be
Member of Parliament on four occasions. Wren first stood
for Parliament in a by-election in 1667 for the Cambridge University
constituency , losing by six votes to Sir
Charles Wheler . He was
unsuccessful again in a by-election for the
By 1669 Wren's career was well established and it may have been his appointment as Surveyor of the King\'s Works in early 1669 that persuaded him that he could finally afford to take a wife. In 1669 the 37-year-old Wren married his childhood neighbour, the 33-year-old Faith Coghill, daughter of Sir John Coghill of Bletchingdon . Little is known of Faith's life or demeanour, but a love letter from Wren survives, which reads, in part:
I have sent your Watch at last & envy the felicity of it, that it should be soe near your side that every Beating of the Balance will tell you 'tis the Pulse of my Heart, which labors as much to serve you and more trewly than the Watch; for the Watch I beleeve will sometimes lie, and sometimes be idle ">
In 1677, 17 months after the death of his first wife, Wren remarried,
this time to Jane Fitzwilliam, daughter of William FitzWilliam, 2nd
Baron FitzWilliam and his wife Jane Perry, the daughter of a
She was a mystery to Wren's friends and companions.
Like the first, this second marriage was also brief. Jane Wren died of tuberculosis in September 1680. She was buried alongside Faith and Gilbert in the chancel of St Martin-in-the-Fields. Wren was never to marry again; he lived to be over 90 years old and of those years was married only nine.
Bletchingdon was the home of Wren's brother-in-law
William Holder who
was rector of the local church. Holder had been a Fellow of Pembroke
Wren's later life was not without criticisms and attacks on his competence and his taste. In 1712, the Letter Concerning Design of Anthony Ashley Cooper , third Earl of Shaftesbury , circulated in manuscript. Proposing a new British style of architecture, Shaftesbury censured Wren's cathedral, his taste and his long-standing control of royal works. Although Wren was appointed to the Fifty New Churches Commission in 1711, he was left only with nominal charge of a board of works when the surveyorship started in 1715. On 26 April 1718, on the pretext of failing powers, he was dismissed in favour of William Benson .
The Wren family estate was at
The Old Court House in the area of
Hampton Court . He had been given a lease on the property by Queen
Anne in lieu of salary arrears for building St Paul's. For
convenience Wren also leased a house on St James\'s Street in London.
According to a 19th-century legend, he would often go to
Wren was laid to rest on 5 March 1723. His remains were placed in the south-east corner of the crypt of St Paul's beside those of his daughter Jane, his sister Susan Holder, and her husband William. The plain stone plaque was written by Wren's eldest son and heir, Christopher Wren, Jr. The inscription, which is also inscribed in a circle of black marble on the main floor beneath the centre of the dome, reads:
“ SUBTUS CONDITUR HUIUS ECCLESIÆ ET VRBIS CONDITOR CHRISTOPHORUS WREN, QUI VIXIT ANNOS ULTRA NONAGINTA, NON SIBI SED BONO PUBLICO. LECTOR SI MONUMENTUM REQUIRIS CIRCUMSPICE Obijt XXV Feb: An°: MDCCXXIII Æt: XCI. ”
which translates from
“ Here in its foundations lies the architect of this church and city, Christopher Wren, who lived beyond ninety years, not for his own profit but for the public good. Reader, if you seek his monument – look around you. Died 25 Feb. 1723, age 91. ”
His obituary was published in the Post Boy No. 5244
He contrived an artificial Eye, truly and dioptrically made (as large as a Tennis-Ball) representing the Picture as Nature makes it: The Cornea, and Crystalline were Glass, the other Humours, Water. — Parentalia, p.209
He experimented on terrestrial magnetism and had taken part in
medical experiments while at
A year into Wren's appointment as a Savilian Professor in
In addition, Wren experimented on muscle functionality, hypothesizing that the swelling and shrinking of muscles might proceed from a fermentative motion arising from the mixture of two heterogeneous fluids. Although this is incorrect, it was at least founded upon observation and may mark a new outlook on medicine: specialisation.
Another topic to which Wren contributed was optics . He published a description of an engine to create perspective drawings and he discussed the grinding of conical lenses and mirrors. Out of this work came another of Wren's important mathematical results, namely that the hyperboloid of revolution is a ruled surface. These results were published in 1669. In subsequent years, Wren continued with his work with the Royal Society, although after the 1680s his scientific interests seem to have waned: no doubt his architectural and official duties absorbed more time.
It was a problem posed by Wren that serves as an ultimate source to
the conception of Newton's Principia Mathematica Philosophiae
Mentioned above are only a few of Wren's scientific works. He also
studied other areas, ranging from agriculture, ballistics , water and
freezing, light and refraction, to name only a few.
Thomas Birch 's
History of the
In Wren's age, the profession of architect as understood today did
not exist. Since the early years of the 17th century it was not
unusual for well-educated young men (virtuosi) to take up architecture
as a gentlemanly activity, a pursuit widely accepted as a branch of
applied mathematics. This is implicit in the writings of
By this time, Wren had mastered and thoroughly understood the principles of architecture. Unlike several of his colleagues, who regarded it as a set of rules and formulas for design, he had acquired, understood, and exploited the necessary combination of reason and intuition, experience and imagination.
Wren's first architectural project was the chapel of Pembroke College
in Cambridge, which his uncle , the
Bishop of Ely
St Paul\'s has always been the highlight of Wren's reputation. His association with it spans his whole architectural career, including the 36 years between the start of the new building and the declaration by parliament of its completion in 1711.
Wren had been involved in repairs of the old cathedral since 1661. In
the spring of 1666, he made his first design for a dome for St Paul\'s
. It was accepted in principle on 27 August 1666. One week later,
however, the Great Fire of
It was not until 1670 that the pace of rebuilding started
accelerating. A second rebuilding act was passed that year, raising
the tax on coal and thus providing a source of funds for rebuilding of
churches destroyed within the City of
The cathedral that Wren started to build bears only a slight resemblance to the Warrant Design. In 1697, the first service was held in the cathedral when Wren was 65. There was still, however, no dome. Finally in 1711 the cathedral was declared complete, and Wren was paid the half of his salary that, in the hope of accelerating progress, Parliament had withheld for 14 years since 1697. The cathedral had been built for 36 years under his direction, and the only disappointment he had about his masterpiece was the dome: against his wishes the commission engaged Thornhill to paint the inner dome in false perspective and finally authorised a balustrade around the proof line. This diluted the hard edge Wren had intended for his cathedral, and elicited the apt parthian comment that "ladies think nothing well without an edging".
MAJOR ARCHITECTURAL WORKS IN THE 1670S AND 1680S
Hampton Court (1689–1702) by Wren
During the 1670s Wren received significant secular commissions which manifest both the maturity and the variety of his architecture and the sensitivity of his response to diverse briefs.
Among many of his remarkable designs at this time, the monument
(1671–76) commemorating the Great Fire also involved
In 1682, Wren advised that the original statues of the King's Beasts on St George\'s Chapel, Windsor be removed. The pinnacles were left bare until 1925, when replica statues were installed.
By historical accident, all Wren's large-scale secular commissions dated from after the 1680s. At the age of 50 his personal development, as was that of English architecture, was ready for a monumental but humane architecture, in which the scales of individual parts relates both to the whole and to the people who used them. The first large project Wren designed, the Chelsea Hospital (1682–92), does not entirely satisfy the eye in this respect, but met its brief with distinction and such success that even in the 21st century it fulfills its original function. The reconstruction of the state room at Windsor Castle was notable for the integration of architecture, sculpture and painting. This commission was in the hand of Hugh May , who died in February 1684, before the construction finished; Wren assumed his post and finalised the works.
Between 1683 and 1685 he was much occupied in designing the King\'s House, Winchester , where Charles II had hoped to spend his declining years, but which was never completed. When Wren promised that it would be complete within a year the King, who was conscious of his mortality, replied that " a year is a great time in my life".
After the death of Charles II in 1685, Wren's attention was directed
Whitehall (1685–87). The new king, James II , required a
new chapel and also ordered a new gallery, council chamber and a
riverside apartment for the Queen . Later, when James II was removed
from the throne, Wren took on architectural projects such as
Wren did not pursue his work on architectural design as actively as he had before the 1690s, although he still played important roles in a number of royal commissions. In 1696 he was appointed Surveyor of Greenwich Naval Hospital , and in 1698 he was appointed Surveyor of Westminster Abbey . He resigned the former role in 1716 but held the latter until his death, approving with a wavering signature Burlington 's revisions of Wren's own earlier designs for the great Archway of Westminster School.
ACHIEVEMENT AND LEGACY
At his death, Wren was 90 (N.S. ). Even the men he had trained and
who owed much of their success to Wren's original and leadership were
no longer young. Newer generations of architects were beginning to
look past Wren's style. The
In the 20th century the potency of the influence of Wren's work on English architecture was reduced. The last major architect who admitted to being dependent on him was Sir Edwin Lutyens , who died in 1944. With the purposeful elimination of historic influences from international architecture in the early 20th century , Wren's work gradually stopped being perceived as a mine of examples applicable to contemporary design.
Since at least the 18th century, the Lodge of Antiquity No. 2, one of
the four founding Masonic Lodges of the Premier Grand Lodge of England
in 1717, has claimed
In 1788 the Lodge of Antiquity thought they were buying a portrait of Wren which now dominates Lodge Room 10, in the same building as the Museum; but it is now identified with William Talman , not Wren. Nevertheless, this recorded event and many old records attest the fact that Antiquity thought that Wren had been its Master, at a time when it still held its minute books for the relevant years (which were lost by Preston at some date after 1778).
The evidence whether Wren was a speculative freemason is the subject of the Prestonian Lecture of 2011, which concludes on the evidence of two obituaries and Aubrey 's memoirs, with supporting materials, that he did indeed attend the closed meeting in 1691, probably of the Lodge of Antiquity, but that there is nothing to suggest that he was ever a Grand Officer as claimed by Anderson.
At one time Wren was credited with the design of the King's House at
Between 20 March 1981 and 20 September 1996 Wren appeared on the reverse of the British £50 banknote .
GALLERY OF ARCHITECTURAL WORK
Interior, Sheldonian Theatre,
Tom Tower, Christ Church,
St. Paul's Cathedral, west front *
St. Paul's Cathedral, north side with the Chapter House (also by Wren) *
St. Paul's Cathedral, south transept ">
St. Paul's Cathedral
Top of north-west tower,
St. Paul's Cathedral
The nave of
St. Paul's Cathedral
St. Paul's Cathedral, interior of the dome *
Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College, Cambridge
Marlborough House, Westminster as designed by Wren *
Marlborough House, Westminster as altered *
Hampton Court Palace, south front *
Hampton Court Palace, east front *
Kensington Palace, south front *
Royal Hospital Chelsea, south front *
Royal Hospital Chelsea, The Chapel *
Royal Hospital Chelsea, Dining Hall *
Greenwich Hospital, north front *
Greenwich Hospital, Painted Hall *
Greenwich Hospital, the Dome, Painted Hall *
St. Bride's Fleet Street, spire *
St. Mary-le-Bow, steeple *
St. Mary-le-Bow, interior *
St Benet's Paul's Wharf *
St. Margaret Pattens *
St. Lawrence Jewry *
St. Mary Abchurch, interior of dome *
St. Mary Abchurch *
St. Peter Upon Cornhill *
St. Stephen's Walbrook, exterior *
St. Stephen's Walbrook, interior *
Christchurch, Newgate St *
St. Magnus-the-Martyr, steeple *
St. Magnus-the-Martyr, interior *
St. Vedast Foster Lane *
St. James Piccadilly *
St. James Piccadilly, interior *
St. Clement Danes *
St. Clement Danes, interior *
St. Martin within Ludgate *
The Monument to the great fire of
Emmanuel College, Cambridge University, the Chapel *
Theatre Royal Drury Lane, demolished *
Library, Lincoln Cathedral *
Winslow Hall, Buckinghamshire *
Pembroke College, Cambridge
The interior looking west, The Chapel, Pembroke College, Cambridge University *
Windsor Guildhall *
Sir John Moore Church of England School, Appleby Magna, Leicestershire *
Blue plaque, Hampton Court Green *
Christopher Wren's house *
Christopher Wren's house plaque
* ^ From the 12th century to 1752, the legal year in England began
on 25 March Old Style .
* ^ Wells, John C. (2008), Longman Pronunciation Dictionary (3rd
ed.), Longman, p. 908, ISBN 9781405881180
* ^ "Wren, Sir Christopher: Biography from Answers.com".
www.answers.com. Retrieved 6 September 2009.
* ^ A B "
* ^ Tinniswood 2001 , p. 366
* ^ "Discover the Crypt – St Paul\'s Cathedral, London, UK".
www.stpauls.co.uk. Retrieved 6 September 2009.
* ^ Elmes 1852 , p. 411
* ^ London: city guide – Google Books. books.google.co.uk. 2008.
ISBN 978-1-74104-712-7 . Retrieved 6 September 2009.
* ^ page 181, The Wren Society Volume XVIII,
* ^ Campbell 2011 * ^ Mark Noble , Biographical History of England, p. 327
* Campbell, Dr. James (2011). "Was Sir
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