Christopher Wren PRS (/rɛn/; 30 October 1632 [O.S. 20 October]
– 8 March 1723 [O.S. 25 February]) was an English anatomist,
astronomer, geometer, and mathematician-physicist, as well as one of
the most highly acclaimed English architects in history. He was
accorded responsibility for rebuilding 52 churches in the City of
London after the Great Fire in 1666, including what is regarded as his
masterpiece, St Paul's Cathedral, on Ludgate Hill, completed in 1710.
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.
The Wren Building, the main building at the College of William and
Mary, Virginia, is attributed to Wren.
Aristotelian physics at the University of
Oxford, Wren was a founder of the
Royal Society (president 1680–82),
and his scientific work was highly regarded by
Isaac Newton and Blaise
1 Life and works
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
7 Gallery of architectural work
8 See also
10 External links
Life and works
Wren was born in
East Knoyle in Wiltshire, the only surviving son of
Christopher Wren the Elder (1589–1658) and Mary Cox, the only child
Wiltshire squire Robert Cox from Fonthill Bishop. Christopher
Sr. was at that time the rector of
East Knoyle and later Dean of
Windsor. It was while they were living at
East Knoyle that all their
children were born; Mary, Catherine and Susan were all born by 1628
but then several children were born who died within a few weeks of
their birth. Their son Christopher was born in 1632 then, two years
later, another daughter named Elizabeth was born. Mary must have died
shortly after the birth of Elizabeth, although there does not appear
to be any surviving record of the date. Through Mary Cox, however, the
family became well off financially for, as the only heir, she had
inherited her father's estate.
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
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
Westminster School between 1641 and 1646 is substantiated only by
Parentalia, the biography compiled by his son, a fourth Christopher,
which places him there "for some short time" before going up to Oxford
(in 1650); however, it is entirely consistent with headmaster Doctor
Busby's well-documented practice of educating the sons of impoverished
Royalists and Puritans alike, irrespective of current politics or his
own position.
Wadham College, Oxford, where Wren was a student in 1650–51
Some of Wren's youthful exercises preserved or recorded (though few
are datable) showed that he received a thorough grounding in
also learned to draw. According to Parentalia, he was "initiated" in
the principles of mathematics by Dr William Holder, who married Wren's
elder sister Susan (or Susanna) in 1643. His drawing was put to
academic use in providing many of the anatomical drawings for the
anatomy textbook of the brain, Cerebri Anatome (1664), published by
Thomas Willis, which coined the term "neurology." During this time
period, Wren manifested an interest in the design and construction of
mechanical instruments. It was probably through Holder that Wren met
Sir Charles Scarburgh
Sir Charles Scarburgh whom Wren assisted in his anatomical
On 25 June 1650, Wren entered Wadham College, Oxford, where he studied
Latin and the works of Aristotle. It is anachronistic to imagine that
he received scientific training in the modern sense. However, Wren
became closely associated with John Wilkins, the Warden of Wadham. The
Wilkins circle was a group whose activities led to the formation of
the Royal Society, comprising a number of distinguished
mathematicians, creative workers and experimental philosophers. This
connection probably influenced Wren's studies of science and
mathematics at Oxford. He graduated B.A. in 1651, and two years later
received M.A..
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
Astronomy at Gresham College, London
in 1657. He was provided with a set of rooms and a stipend and was
required to give weekly lectures in both
Latin and English to all who
wished to attend; admission was free. Wren took up this new work with
enthusiasm. He continued to meet the men with whom he had frequent
discussions in Oxford. They attended his
London lectures and in 1660,
initiated formal weekly meetings. It was from these meetings that the
Royal Society, England's premier scientific body, was to develop. He
undoubtedly played a major role in the early life of what would become
the Royal Society; his great breadth of expertise in so many different
subjects helping in the exchange of ideas between the various
scientists. In fact, the report on one of these meetings reads:
Memorandum November 28, 1660. These persons following according to the
usual custom of most of them, met together at
Gresham College to hear
Mr Wren's lecture, viz. The Lord Brouncker, Mr Boyle, Mr Bruce, Sir
Robert Moray, Sir Paule Neile, Dr Wilkins, Dr Goddard, Dr Petty, Mr
Ball, Mr Rooke, Mr Wren, Mr Hill. And after the lecture was ended they
did according to the usual manner, withdraw for mutual converse.
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
Royal Society of
Improving Natural Knowledge" was formed. In addition to being a
founder member of the Society, Wren was president of the Royal Society
from 1680 to 1682.
In 1661, Wren was elected Savilian Professor of
Astronomy at Oxford,
and in 1669 he was appointed Surveyor of Works to Charles II. From
1661 until 1668 Wren's life was based in Oxford, although his
attendance at meetings of the
Royal Society meant that he had to make
occasional trips to London.
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
London after the Great Fire.
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
constituency in 1674, losing to Thomas Thynne. On his third
attempt Wren was successful and he sat for Plympton Erle during the
Loyal Parliament of 1685 to 1687. Wren was returned for New
Windsor on 11 January 1689 in the general election, but his election
was declared void on 14 May 1689. He was elected again for New
Windsor on 6 March 1690, but this election was declared void on 17 May
1690. Over a decade later he was elected unopposed for Weymouth
and Melcombe Regis at the November 1701 general election. He retired
at the general election the following year.
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 & soe often enjoy your Eye. ...
.but have a care for it, for I have put such a spell into it; 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 &
unwilling ... but as for me you may be confident I shall
This brief marriage produced two children: Gilbert, born October 1672,
who suffered from convulsions and died at about 18 months old, and
Christopher, born February 1675. The younger Christopher was trained
by his father to be an architect. It was this Christopher that
supervised the topping out ceremony of St Paul's in 1710 and wrote the
famous Parentalia, or, Memoirs of the family of the Wrens. Faith Wren
died of smallpox on 3 September 1675. She was buried in the chancel of
St Martin-in-the-Fields beside the infant Gilbert. A few days later
Wren's mother-in-law, Lady Coghill, arrived to take the infant
Christopher back with her to Oxfordshire to raise.
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
London merchant.
She was a mystery to Wren's friends and companions. Robert Hooke, who
often saw Wren two or three times every week, had, as he recorded in
his diary, never even heard of her, and was not to meet her till six
weeks after the marriage. As with the first marriage, this too
produced two children: a daughter Jane (1677–1702); and a son
William, "Poor Billy" born June 1679, who was developmentally
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
College, Oxford. An intellectual of considerable ability, he is said
to have been the figure who introduced Wren to arithmetic and
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
The Wren family estate was at
The Old Court House
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
London to pay unofficial
visits to St Paul's, to check on the progress of "my greatest work".
On one of these trips to London, at the age of ninety, he caught a
chill which worsened over the next few days. On 25 February 1723 a
servant who tried to awaken Wren from his nap found that he had
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
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:
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
London 2 March
Christopher Wren who died on Monday last in the 91st year of his
age, was the only son of Dr. Chr. Wren,
Dean of Windsor
Dean of Windsor &
Wolverhampton, Registar of the Garter, younger brother of Dr. Mathew
(sic) Wren Ld Bp of Ely, a branch of the ancient family of Wrens of
Binchester in the Bishoprick (sic) of Durham
1653. Elected from Wadham into fellowship of All Souls
1657. Professor of
Gresham College London
1660. Savilian Professor. Oxford
After 1666. Surveyor General for Rebuilding the Cathedral Church of
St.Paul and the Parochial Churches & all other Public Buildings
which he lived to finish
1669. Surveyor General till April 26. 1718
1680. President of the Royal Society
1698. Surveyor General & Sub Commissioner for Repairs to
Westminster Abbey by Act of Parliament, continued till death.
His body is to be deposited in the Great Vault under the Dome of the
Cathedral of St. Paul.
One of Wren's friends, another great scientist and architect and a
fellow Westminster Schoolboy,
Robert Hooke said of him "Since the time
Archimedes there scarce ever met in one man in so great perfection
such a mechanical hand and so philosophical mind."
When a fellow of All Souls, Wren constructed a transparent beehive for
scientific observation; he began observing the moon, which was to lead
to the invention of micrometers for the telescope. According to
Parentalia (pp.210-211), his solid model of the moon attracted the
attention of the King who commanded Wren to perfect it and present it
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 Wadham College, performing the first successful
injection of a substance into the bloodstream (of a dog). In Gresham
College, he did experiments involving determining longitude through
magnetic variation and through lunar observation to help with
navigation, and helped construct a 35-foot (11 m) telescope with
Sir Paul Neile. Wren also studied and improved the microscope and
telescope at this time. He had also been making observations of the
Saturn from around 1652 with the aim of explaining its
appearance. His hypothesis was written up in De corpore saturni but
before the work was published, Huygens presented his theory of the
rings of Saturn. Immediately Wren recognised this as a better
hypothesis than his own and De corpore saturni was never published. In
addition, he constructed an exquisitely detailed lunar model and
presented it to the king. In 1658, he found the length of an arc of
the cycloid using an exhaustion proof based on dissections to reduce
the problem to summing segments of chords of a circle which are in
A year into Wren's appointment as a Savilian Professor in Oxford, the
Royal Society was created and Wren became an active member. As
Savilian Professor, Wren studied mechanics thoroughly, especially
elastic collisions and pendulum motions. He also directed his
far-ranging intelligence to the study of meteorology: in 1662 he
invented the tipping bucket rain gauge and, in 1663, designed a
"weather-clock" that would record temperature, humidity, rainfall and
barometric pressure. A working weather clock based on Wren's design
was completed by
Robert Hooke in 1679.
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
Robert Hooke had theorised that planets, moving in vacuo,
describe orbits around the Sun because of a rectilinear inertial
motion by the tangent and an accelerated motion towards the Sun.
Wren's challenge to Halley and Hooke, for the reward of a book worth
thirty shillings, was to provide, within the context of Hooke's
hypothesis, a mathematical theory linking the
Kepler's laws with a
specific force law. Halley took the problem to Newton for advice,
prompting the latter to write a nine-page answer, De motu corporum in
gyrum, which was later to be expanded into the Principia.
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
Royal Society (1756–57) is one of the most important
sources of our knowledge not only of the origins of the Society, but
also the day-to-day running of the Society. It is in these records
that most of Wren's known scientific works are recorded.
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
explicit in such 16th century authors as John Dee and Leonard Digges.
When Wren was a student at Oxford, he became familiar with Vitruvius'
De architectura and absorbed intuitively the fundamentals of
architectural design. In English Medieval tradition, buildings had
been constructed to the needs of the patron and the suggestions of
building professionals, such as master carpenters or master
Royal Society and his use of optics, the King noticed
Wren's works. In 1661 he was approached by his cousin Matthew with a
royal commission, as "one of the best Geometers in Europe", to direct
the re-fortification of Tangier. Wren excused himself on grounds of
health. Although this invitation may have arisen from Charles II's
casual opportunism in matching people to tasks, Wren is believed to
have been already on the way to practice as an architect. Before the
end of 1661 Wren was unofficially advising on the repair of Old St
Paul's Cathedral after two decades of its neglect and distress; his
architectural interests were also evident to his associates at the
time. Two years later, he set out on his only foreign journey, to
Paris and the Île-de-France, during which he undertook the first-hand
study of modern design and construction.
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, asked him to design
in 1663. The second was the design of the
Sheldonian Theatre in
Oxford, completed in 1668. This, the gift of Archbishop Sheldon to his
old university, was influenced by the form of the ancient Theatre of
Marcellus in Rome, thus achieving a combination of classical and
modern empirical design.
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
London reduced two-thirds of the City to a
smoking desert and old St Paul's to a ruin. Wren was most likely at
Oxford at the time, but the news, so fantastically relevant to his
future, drew him at once to London. Between 5 and 11 September he
ascertained the precise area of devastation, worked out a plan for
rebuilding the City and submitted it to Charles II. Others also
submitted plans. However, no new plan proceeded any further than the
paper on which it was drawn. A rebuilding act which provided
rebuilding of some essential buildings was passed in 1667. In 1669,
the King's Surveyor of Works died and Wren was promptly installed.
Greek Cross design for St Paul's.
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 London. Wren presented his
initial "First Model" for St Paul's. This plan was accepted, and
demolition of the old cathedral began. By 1672, however, this design
seemed too modest, and Wren met his critics by producing a design of
spectacular grandeur. This modified design, called "Great Model", was
accepted by the King and the construction started in November 1673.
However, this design failed to satisfy the chapter and clerical
opinion generally; moreover, it had an economic drawback. Wren was
confined to a "cathedral form" desired by the clergy. In 1674 he
produced the rather meagre Classical-Gothic compromise known as the
Warrant Design. However, this design, called so from the royal warrant
of 14 May 1675 attached to the drawings, is not the design upon which
work had begun a few weeks before.
Wren's cathedral as built.
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)
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 Robert
Hooke, but Wren was in control of the final design, the Royal
Observatory (1675–76), and the
Wren Library at Trinity College,
Cambridge (1676–84) were the most important ones.
Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College, Cambridge University
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
Kensington Palace (1689–96) and
Hampton Court (1689–1700).
The erection of the present
Windsor Guildhall was begun in 1687, under
the direction of Sir Thomas Fitz (or Fiddes) but, on his death in
1689, the task was taken over by Sir Christopher Wren, whose childhood
home had been Windsor, and was completed at a cost of £2687 - 1s -
6d. The new building was designed by Wren to be supported around its
perimeter by stone columns, so that, like its predecessor, it would
provide a covered area beneath as a venue for corn markets.
The story is widely told that the borough Council demanded that Wren
should insert additional columns within the covered area, in order to
support the weight of the heavy building above; Wren, however, was
adamant that these were not necessary. Eventually the council insisted
and, in due course, the extra supporting columns were built, but Wren
made them slightly short, so that they do not quite touch the ceiling,
hence proving his claim that they were not necessary. In fact, the
gaps are filled with tiles smaller than the capitals. Reading
aloud a translated version of this story is included as one of the
potential tasks on the
Putonghua Proficiency Test for Mandarin Chinese
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
Baroque school his apprentices had created was
already under fire from a new generation that brushed Wren's
reputation aside and looked back beyond him to Inigo Jones. Architects
of the 18th century could not forget Wren, but they could not forgive
some elements in his work they deemed unconventional. The churches
left the strongest mark on subsequent architecture. In France, where
English architecture rarely made much impression, the influence of St
Paul's Cathedral can be seen in the church of Sainte-Geneviève (now
the Panthéon); begun in 1757, it rises to a drum and dome similar to
St Paul's, and there are other versions inspired by Wren's dome, from
St Isaac's (1840–42) in
St Petersburg to the US Capitol at
Washington, D.C. (1855–65).
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
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
Christopher Wren to have been its Master at the
Goose and Gridiron at St. Paul's churchyard. Whilst he was
rebuilding the cathedral he is said to have been "adopted" on 18 May
1691 (that is, accepted as a sort of honorary member or patron, rather
than an operative). Their 18th-century maul with its 1827 inscription
claiming that it was used by Wren for the foundation stone of St.
Pauls, belonging to the Lodge and on display in the Library and Museum
Freemasonry in London, corroborates the story. Anderson made the
claims in his widely circulated Constitutions while many of Wren's
friends were still alive, but he made many highly creative claims as
to the history or legends of Freemasonry. There is also a clear
possibility of confusion between the operative workmen's lodges which
might naturally have welcomed the boss, and the "speculative" or
gentlemen's lodges which became highly fashionable just after Wren's
death. By the standards of his time a gentleman like Wren would not
generally join an artisan body; however the workmen
of St Paul's cathedral would naturally have sought the patronage or
"interest" of their employer, and within Wren's lifetime there was a
predominantly gentlemen's Lodge at the Rummer and Grapes, a mile
upriver at Westminster (where Wren had been to School).
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
Newmarket, Suffolk. The attribution gave rise to an apocryphal story
in which Charles II, who was over six feet tall, complained about the
low ceilings. Wren, who was not so tall, replied that "They were high
enough!", at which the king crouched down until he was on a level with
his Surveyor and strutted about saying, "Ay, Ay, Sir Christopher, I
think they are high enough."
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 & dome
The Lantern, 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
Temple Bar, London
Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College, Cambridge University
Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College, Cambridge University, from the river
Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College, Cambridge University
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 London
Emmanuel College, Cambridge University, the Chapel
The Royal Observatory, Greenwich
Theatre Royal Drury Lane, demolished
Library, Lincoln Cathedral
Winslow Hall, Buckinghamshire
Pembroke College, Cambridge
Pembroke College, Cambridge University
The interior looking west, The Chapel, Pembroke College, Cambridge
Sir John Moore Church of England School, Appleby Magna, Leicestershire
Hampton Court Green
Christopher Wren's house
Christopher Wren's house plaque
Christopher Wren buildings
Christopher Wren churches in London
Thomas Gilbert, one of Wren's apprentices and adaptant of his
Gresham Professor of Astronomy
The novel Hawksmoor, which features a fictionalised Christopher Wren
For the character created by Agatha Christie, see The Mousetrap
^ 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 "
Wiltshire Council –
Wiltshire Community History Get Wiltshire
History Question Information". History.wiltshire.gov.uk. 17 May 2003.
Retrieved 15 June 2013.
^ Wren, Ames & Wren 1750
^ "Five depictions of the brain - The Psychologist". bps.org.uk.
Retrieved 31 March 2017.
^ "Sir Christopher Wren". The MacTutor History of
Retrieved 30 September 2006.
^ "Sir Christopher Wren, 1632 - 1723". The History of Parliament.
Retrieved 15 September 2016.
^ "Cambridge University, 1660 - 1690". The History of Parliament.
Retrieved 15 September 2016.
Oxford University, 1660 - 1690". The History of Parliament.
Retrieved 15 September 2016.
^ "Plympton Erle, 1660 - 1690". The History of Parliament. Retrieved
15 September 2016.
^ "New Windsor, 1660 - 1690". The History of Parliament. Retrieved 15
^ "New Windsor, 1690 - 1715". The History of Parliament. Retrieved 15
^ "Weymouth and Melcolme Regis, 1690 - 1715". The History of
Parliament. Retrieved 15 September 2016.
^ Tinniswood 2001, p. 184 (Some time earlier, Faith had dropped
her wristwatch into a pool of water. It had been sent to Wren in
London for it to be repaired. This letter was part of a package.)
^ "the Peerage.com". the Peerage.com. Retrieved 15 June 2013.
^ Tinniswood 2001, p. 239
^ Clare Buchanan (11 April 2013). "Sir Christopher Wren's magnificent
home up for sale". Richmond and Twickenham Times. London. Archived
from the original on 12 November 2013. Retrieved 7 July 2013.
^ 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,
Oxford University Press,
1941, Arthur T. Bolton & H. Duncan Hendry editors
^ The Introduction of Self-Registering Meteorological Instruments,
Robert P. Multhauf; United States National Museum Bulletin, 1961.
^ Grattan-Guinness, Ivor, ed.; Landmark Writings in Western
Mathematics, 1st ed., 2005, pp. 64–65
^ Sir Christopher Wren: Natural Cause of Beauty
^ Bolton and Hendry, eds., The Wren Society, 20 vols.
^ a b c d e f g h Downes 1988, p. 131
^ London, H. Stanford (1953). The Queen's Beasts. Newman Neame.
^ See Marson & Mitchell p.7ff on the matter of the pillars.
^ 普通话水平测试实施纲要. Putonghua Shuiping Ceshi Gangyao.
北京. Beijing: 商务印书馆. The Commercial Press. 2004.
p. 370-371. ISBN 7-100-03996-7.
^ Jardine 2003, p. 440
^ Westminster Abbey Muniments
Christopher Wren (English architect) : Concurrent projects
– Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Britannica.com. Retrieved 12 June
^ From www.Answers.com re Lutyens: Lutyens' Neo-Georgian work, which
he jokingly referred to as his "Wrennaissance Style" (after the great
English baroque architect Christopher Wren) is typified by the use of
English baroque forms and details.
^ "Manifesto of 1778 issued by The Lodge of Antiquity, formerly The
Old Lodge of St Paul, to preserve the Ancient Landmarks of
Freemasonry, Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth" (PDF). Lodgeroomus.net.
Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 July 2012.
^ Campbell 2011
^ Mark Noble, Biographical History of England,  p. 327
Campbell, Dr. James (2011). "Was Sir
Christopher Wren a Freemason?".
Prestonian Lecture. privately printed.
Danzer, Gerald A.; Klor De Alva, J. Jorge; Krieger, Larry S. (2003).
The Americans. Rand McNally. ISBN 0-618-37719-0.
Downes, Kerry (1988). The
Architecture of Wren (2nd ed.). Redhedge.
Elmes, James (1852). Sir
Christopher Wren and his times. Chapman &
Escott, John (1996). London. OUP. ISBN 0-19-422801-0.
Hart, Vaughan (1995). St Paul's Cathedral: Sir Christopher Wren.
Phaedon. ISBN 0-7148-2998-6.
Jardine, Lisa (2003). On a Grander Scale: The Outstanding Career of
Sir Christopher Wren. HarperCollins. ISBN 0-00-710775-7.
ISBN 0-00-710776-5 paperback
Tinniswood, Adrian (2001). His Invention So Fertile: A Life of
Oxford University Press.
Ward, J. (1740). The lives of the professors of Gresham College.
Wren, Christopher; Ames, Joseph; Wren, Stephen (1750). Parentalia, or,
Memoirs of the family of the Wrens.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Christopher Wren.
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Christopher Wren
"Wren, Christopher (1632-1723)". Dictionary of National
Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Wren, Sir Christopher".
Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
'Scientists and Craftsmen in Sir Christopher Wren's London', lecture
by Professor Allan Chapman, Gresham College, 23 April 2008 (available
in text, audio and video formats).
Life and times of Sir
Christopher Wren on a
View interiors of Wren Churches in 360 degrees
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