Christopher Wren

Christopher Wren

Overview
Sir Christopher Wren FRS
Royal Society
The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...

 (20 October 1632 – 25 February 1723) is one of the most highly acclaimed English
English people
The English are a nation and ethnic group native to England, who speak English. The English identity is of early mediaeval origin, when they were known in Old English as the Anglecynn. England is now a country of the United Kingdom, and the majority of English people in England are British Citizens...

 architect
Architect
An architect is a person trained in the planning, design and oversight of the construction of buildings. To practice architecture means to offer or render services in connection with the design and construction of a building, or group of buildings and the space within the site surrounding the...

s in history.
He used to be accorded responsibility for rebuilding 51 churches in the City of London
City of London
The City of London is a small area within Greater London, England. It is the historic core of London around which the modern conurbation grew and has held city status since time immemorial. The City’s boundaries have remained almost unchanged since the Middle Ages, and it is now only a tiny part of...

 after the Great Fire
Great Fire of London
The Great Fire of London was a major conflagration that swept through the central parts of the English city of London, from Sunday, 2 September to Wednesday, 5 September 1666. The fire gutted the medieval City of London inside the old Roman City Wall...

 in 1666, including his masterpiece, St. Paul's Cathedral, on Ludgate Hill
Ludgate Hill
Ludgate Hill is a hill in the City of London, near the old Ludgate, a gate to the City that was taken down, with its attached gaol, in 1780. Ludgate Hill is the site of St Paul's Cathedral, traditionally said to have been the site of a Roman temple of the goddess Diana. It is one of the three...

, completed in 1710.
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Encyclopedia
Sir Christopher Wren FRS
Royal Society
The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...

 (20 October 1632 – 25 February 1723) is one of the most highly acclaimed English
English people
The English are a nation and ethnic group native to England, who speak English. The English identity is of early mediaeval origin, when they were known in Old English as the Anglecynn. England is now a country of the United Kingdom, and the majority of English people in England are British Citizens...

 architect
Architect
An architect is a person trained in the planning, design and oversight of the construction of buildings. To practice architecture means to offer or render services in connection with the design and construction of a building, or group of buildings and the space within the site surrounding the...

s in history.
He used to be accorded responsibility for rebuilding 51 churches in the City of London
City of London
The City of London is a small area within Greater London, England. It is the historic core of London around which the modern conurbation grew and has held city status since time immemorial. The City’s boundaries have remained almost unchanged since the Middle Ages, and it is now only a tiny part of...

 after the Great Fire
Great Fire of London
The Great Fire of London was a major conflagration that swept through the central parts of the English city of London, from Sunday, 2 September to Wednesday, 5 September 1666. The fire gutted the medieval City of London inside the old Roman City Wall...

 in 1666, including his masterpiece, St. Paul's Cathedral, on Ludgate Hill
Ludgate Hill
Ludgate Hill is a hill in the City of London, near the old Ludgate, a gate to the City that was taken down, with its attached gaol, in 1780. Ludgate Hill is the site of St Paul's Cathedral, traditionally said to have been the site of a Roman temple of the goddess Diana. It is one of the three...

, 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
Nicholas Hawksmoor
Nicholas Hawksmoor was a British architect born in Nottinghamshire, probably in East Drayton.-Life:Hawksmoor was born in Nottinghamshire in 1661, into a yeoman farming family, almost certainly in East Drayton, Nottinghamshire. On his death he was to leave property at nearby Ragnall, Dunham and a...

. Other notable buildings by Wren include the Royal Naval College in Greenwich and the south front of Hampton Court Palace.

Educated in Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 and Aristotelian physics
Aristotelian physics
Aristotelian Physics the natural sciences, are described in the works of the Greek philosopher Aristotle . In the Physics, Aristotle established general principles of change that govern all natural bodies; both living and inanimate, celestial and terrestrial—including all motion, change in respect...

 at the University of Oxford
University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is a university located in Oxford, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest surviving university in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world. Although its exact date of foundation is unclear, there is evidence of teaching as far back as 1096...

, Wren was a notable astronomer
Astronomer
An astronomer is a scientist who studies celestial bodies such as planets, stars and galaxies.Historically, astronomy was more concerned with the classification and description of phenomena in the sky, while astrophysics attempted to explain these phenomena and the differences between them using...

, geometer, and mathematician
Mathematician
A mathematician is a person whose primary area of study is the field of mathematics. Mathematicians are concerned with quantity, structure, space, and change....

-physicist
Physicist
A physicist is a scientist who studies or practices physics. Physicists study a wide range of physical phenomena in many branches of physics spanning all length scales: from sub-atomic particles of which all ordinary matter is made to the behavior of the material Universe as a whole...

, as well as an architect. He was a founder of the Royal Society
Royal Society
The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...

 (president 1680–82), and his scientific work was highly regarded by Sir Isaac Newton
Isaac Newton
Sir Isaac Newton PRS was an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist, and theologian, who has been "considered by many to be the greatest and most influential scientist who ever lived."...

 and Blaise Pascal
Blaise Pascal
Blaise Pascal , was a French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and Catholic philosopher. He was a child prodigy who was educated by his father, a tax collector in Rouen...

.

Early life and education


Wren was born at East Knoyle
East Knoyle
East Knoyle is a small village and former civil parish in Wiltshire, in the south west of England. The parish lies on the A350 road about nine miles south of Warminster, fifteen miles west of Salisbury, and two miles south west of Hindon, at grid reference ST880305...

 in Wiltshire
Wiltshire
Wiltshire is a ceremonial county in South West England. It is landlocked and borders the counties of Dorset, Somerset, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire. It contains the unitary authority of Swindon and covers...

, the only surviving son of Christopher Wren DD (1589–1658), at that time the rector of East Knoyle and later Dean of Windsor
Dean of Windsor
The Dean of Windsor is the spiritual head of the Canons of St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. The Dean chairs meetings of the Chapter of Canons as primus inter pares.-List of Deans of Windsor:* William Mugge, 1348* Walter Almaly, 1380...

. A previous son of Dr Wren, also named Christopher, was born on 22 November 1631 and died the same day. John Aubrey
John Aubrey
John Aubrey FRS, was an English antiquary, natural philosopher and writer. He is perhaps best known as the author of the collection of short biographical pieces usually referred to as Brief Lives...

’s confusion of the two persisted occasionally into late twentieth-century literature.

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
The Dean of Windsor is the spiritual head of the Canons of St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. The Dean chairs meetings of the Chapter of Canons as primus inter pares.-List of Deans of Windsor:* William Mugge, 1348* Walter Almaly, 1380...

 in March 1635, his family spent part of each year there, but little is known about Wren’s life at Windsor.

Little also 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. The story that he was at Westminster School
Westminster School
The Royal College of St. Peter in Westminster, almost always known as Westminster School, is one of Britain's leading independent schools, with the highest Oxford and Cambridge acceptance rate of any secondary school or college in Britain...

 between 1641 and 1646 is substantiated only by Parentalia, the biography compiled by his son, a third Christopher, which places him there "for some short time" before going to Oxford (in 1650); however, it is entirely consisistent with headmaster Doctor Busby's known practice, despite his own puritan opinions, of educating the sons of impoverished Royalists. Some of Wren's youthful exercises preserved or recorded (though few are datable) showed that he received a thorough grounding in Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 and also learned to draw. According to Parentalia, he was "initiated" in the principles of mathematics
Mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

 by Dr William Holder
William Holder
William Holder FRS was an English clergyman and music theorist of the 17th century. His most notable work was his widely known 1694 publication A Treatise on the Natural Grounds and Principles of Harmony.-Life:...

, who married Wren’s elder sister Susan (or Susanna) in 1643. 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 whom Wren assisted in his anatomical studies.

On 25 June 1650, Wren entered Wadham College, Oxford
Wadham College, Oxford
Wadham College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, located at the southern end of Parks Road in central Oxford. It was founded by Nicholas and Dorothy Wadham, wealthy Somerset landowners, during the reign of King James I...

 where he studied Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 and the works of Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

. It is anachronistic to imagine that he received scientific training in the modern sense. However, Wren became closely associated with John Wilkins
John Wilkins
John Wilkins FRS was an English clergyman, natural philosopher and author, as well as a founder of the Invisible College and one of the founders of the Royal Society, and Bishop of Chester from 1668 until his death....

, the Warden of Wadham. Wilkins was a member of a group of distinguished scholars whose activities led to the formation of the Royal Society
Royal Society
The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...

, comprising a number of distinguished mathematicians, original and sometimes brilliant practical 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.

1653–1664


Receiving his M.A.
Master of Arts (postgraduate)
A Master of Arts from the Latin Magister Artium, is a type of Master's degree awarded by universities in many countries. The M.A. is usually contrasted with the M.S. or M.Sc. degrees...

 in 1653, Wren was elected a fellow of All Souls College
All Souls College, Oxford
The Warden and the College of the Souls of all Faithful People deceased in the University of Oxford or All Souls College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England....

 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
Gresham College
Gresham College is an institution of higher learning located at Barnard's Inn Hall off Holborn in central London, England. It was founded in 1597 under the will of Sir Thomas Gresham and today it hosts over 140 free public lectures every year within the City of London.-History:Sir Thomas Gresham,...

, London in 1657. He was provided with a set of rooms and a stipend and was required to give weekly lectures in both Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 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
Wadham College, Oxford
Wadham College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, located at the southern end of Parks Road in central Oxford. It was founded by Nicholas and Dorothy Wadham, wealthy Somerset landowners, during the reign of King James I...

. They attended his London lectures and in 1660, initiated formal weekly meetings. It was from these meetings that the Royal Society
Royal Society
The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...

, 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:
In 1662, they proposed a society "for the promotion of Physico-Mathematicall Experimental Learning." This body received its Royal Charter from Charles II
Charles II of England
Charles II was monarch of the three kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland.Charles II's father, King Charles I, was executed at Whitehall on 30 January 1649, at the climax of the English Civil War...

 and "The Royal Society
Royal Society
The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...

 of London for 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
Savilian Chair of Astronomy
The Savilian Chair of Astronomy at the University of Oxford in England was founded in 1619 and is named after Sir Henry Savile. The Professor is a Fellow of New College....

 of Astronomy
Astronomy
Astronomy is a natural science that deals with the study of celestial objects and phenomena that originate outside the atmosphere of Earth...

 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 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
Royal Society
The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...

. His scientific works ranged from astronomy
Astronomy
Astronomy is a natural science that deals with the study of celestial objects and phenomena that originate outside the atmosphere of Earth...

, optics
Optics
Optics is the branch of physics which involves the behavior and properties of light, including its interactions with matter and the construction of instruments that use or detect it. Optics usually describes the behavior of visible, ultraviolet, and infrared light...

, the problem of finding longitude
Longitude
Longitude is a geographic coordinate that specifies the east-west position of a point on the Earth's surface. It is an angular measurement, usually expressed in degrees, minutes and seconds, and denoted by the Greek letter lambda ....

 at sea, cosmology
Cosmology
Cosmology is the discipline that deals with the nature of the Universe as a whole. Cosmologists seek to understand the origin, evolution, structure, and ultimate fate of the Universe at large, as well as the natural laws that keep it in order...

, mechanics
Mechanics
Mechanics is the branch of physics concerned with the behavior of physical bodies when subjected to forces or displacements, and the subsequent effects of the bodies on their environment....

, microscopy
Microscopy
Microscopy is the technical field of using microscopes to view samples and objects that cannot be seen with the unaided eye...

, surveying
Surveying
See Also: Public Land Survey SystemSurveying or land surveying is the technique, profession, and science of accurately determining the terrestrial or three-dimensional position of points and the distances and angles between them...

, medicine
Medicine
Medicine is the science and art of healing. It encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness....

 and meteorology
Meteorology
Meteorology is the interdisciplinary scientific study of the atmosphere. Studies in the field stretch back millennia, though significant progress in meteorology did not occur until the 18th century. The 19th century saw breakthroughs occur after observing networks developed across several countries...

. He observed, measured, dissected, built models and employed, invented and improved a variety of instruments. It was also around these times that his attention turned to architecture
Architecture
Architecture is both the process and product of planning, designing and construction. Architectural works, in the material form of buildings, are often perceived as cultural and political symbols and as works of art...

.

1665–1723


It was probably around this time that Wren was drawn into redesigning a battered St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul's Cathedral, London, is a Church of England cathedral and seat of the Bishop of London. Its dedication to Paul the Apostle dates back to the original church on this site, founded in AD 604. St Paul's sits at the top of Ludgate Hill, the highest point in the City of London, and is the mother...

. Making a trip to Paris in 1665, Wren studied the architecture, which had reached a climax of creativity, and perused the drawings of Bernini
Gian Lorenzo Bernini
Gian Lorenzo Bernini was an Italian artist who worked principally in Rome. He was the leading sculptor of his age and also a prominent architect...

, the great Italian sculptor and architect. Returning from Paris, he made his first design for St Paul’s. A week later, however, the Great Fire
Great Fire of London
The Great Fire of London was a major conflagration that swept through the central parts of the English city of London, from Sunday, 2 September to Wednesday, 5 September 1666. The fire gutted the medieval City of London inside the old Roman City Wall...

 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 knight
Knight
A knight was a member of a class of lower nobility in the High Middle Ages.By the Late Middle Ages, the rank had become associated with the ideals of chivalry, a code of conduct for the perfect courtly Christian warrior....

ed 14 November 1673. This honour was bestowed on him after his resignation from the Savilian position in Oxford, by which time he had already begun to make his mark as an architect
Architect
An architect is a person trained in the planning, design and oversight of the construction of buildings. To practice architecture means to offer or render services in connection with the design and construction of a building, or group of buildings and the space within the site surrounding the...

, 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 returned as Member of Parliament
Parliament of England
The Parliament of England was the legislature of the Kingdom of England. In 1066, William of Normandy introduced a feudal system, by which he sought the advice of a council of tenants-in-chief and ecclesiastics before making laws...

 for Old Windsor in 1680, 1689 and 1690, but did not take his seat.

By 1669 Wren's career was well established and it may have been his appointment as Surveyor of the King's Works
Office of Works
The Office of Works was established in the English Royal household in 1378 to oversee the building of the royal castles and residences. In 1832 it became the Works Department within the Office of Woods, Forests, Land Revenues, Works and Buildings...

 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 Bletchingham
Bletchingdon
Bletchingdon is a village and civil parish north of Kidlington and southwest of Bicester in Oxfordshire, England.-Manor and estates:...

. Little is known of Faith's life or demeanour, but a love letter from Wren survives, which reads, in part:
This brief marriage produced two children: Gilbert, a sickly child given to convulsions, born October 1672; the infant died not quite a year-and-a-half old. The second child, also a son, named Christopher after his father, was 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
St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul's Cathedral, London, is a Church of England cathedral and seat of the Bishop of London. Its dedication to Paul the Apostle dates back to the original church on this site, founded in AD 604. St Paul's sits at the top of Ludgate Hill, the highest point in the City of London, and is the mother...

 in 1710 and wrote the famous Parentalia, or, Memoirs of the family of the Wrens. Faith Wren died of smallpox
Smallpox
Smallpox was an infectious disease unique to humans, caused by either of two virus variants, Variola major and Variola minor. The disease is also known by the Latin names Variola or Variola vera, which is a derivative of the Latin varius, meaning "spotted", or varus, meaning "pimple"...

 on 3 September 1675. She was buried in the chancel
Chancel
In church architecture, the chancel is the space around the altar in the sanctuary at the liturgical east end of a traditional Christian church building...

 of St Martin-in-the-Fields
St Martin-in-the-Fields
St Martin-in-the-Fields is an Anglican church at the north-east corner of Trafalgar Square in the City of Westminster, London. Its patron is Saint Martin of Tours.-Roman era:Excavations at the site in 2006 led to the discovery of a grave dated about 410...

 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 married once again. He married Jane Fitzwilliam, daughter of William FitzWilliam, 2nd Baron FitzWilliam
William FitzWilliam, 2nd Baron FitzWilliam
William Fitzwilliam, 2nd Baron Fitzwilliam was an English politician who sat in the House of Commons of England between 1640 and 1653....

 and his wife Jane Perry the daughter of a prosperous London merchant.

She was a mystery to Wren's friends and companions. Robert Hooke
Robert Hooke
Robert Hooke FRS was an English natural philosopher, architect and polymath.His adult life comprised three distinct periods: as a scientific inquirer lacking money; achieving great wealth and standing through his reputation for hard work and scrupulous honesty following the great fire of 1666, but...

, 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 delayed.

Like the first, this second marriage was also brief. Jane Wren died of tuberculosis
Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...

 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 was married only nine.

Bletchingham 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
Pembroke College, Oxford
Pembroke College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England, located in Pembroke Square. As of 2009, Pembroke had an estimated financial endowment of £44.9 million.-History:...

. An intellectual of considerable ability, he is said to have been the figure who introduced Wren to arithmetic and geometry.

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
Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury
Anthony Ashley Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury was an English politician, philosopher and writer.-Biography:...

, third Earl of Shaftesbury
Earl of Shaftesbury
Earl of Shaftesbury is a title in the Peerage of England. It was created in 1672 for Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 1st Baron Ashley, a prominent politician in the Cabal then dominating the policies of King Charles II...

, 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.

Death


The Wren family estate was in the area of Hampton Court. It had been bought by Wren many years before as part of a legacy for his son Christopher Wren, Jr. 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 he caught a chill. Over the next several days the illness became increasingly worse. On 25 February 1723 a servant tried to awaken Wren from his nap, but found that Wren had died.

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:

which translates from Latin as:
His obituary
Obituary
An obituary is a news article that reports the recent death of a person, typically along with an account of the person's life and information about the upcoming funeral. In large cities and larger newspapers, obituaries are written only for people considered significant...

 was published in the Post Boy No. 5244 London 2 March 1723:


Sir 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 & 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 Astronomy 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 Parlia-

ment, continued till death.

His body is to be deposited in the Great Vault under the Dome of the Cathedral of St. Paul.

Scientific career


One of Wren's friends, another great scientist and architect and a fellow Westminster School
Westminster School
The Royal College of St. Peter in Westminster, almost always known as Westminster School, is one of Britain's leading independent schools, with the highest Oxford and Cambridge acceptance rate of any secondary school or college in Britain...

boy, Robert Hooke
Robert Hooke
Robert Hooke FRS was an English natural philosopher, architect and polymath.His adult life comprised three distinct periods: as a scientific inquirer lacking money; achieving great wealth and standing through his reputation for hard work and scrupulous honesty following the great fire of 1666, but...

 said of him "Since the time of Archimedes
Archimedes
Archimedes of Syracuse was a Greek mathematician, physicist, engineer, inventor, and astronomer. Although few details of his life are known, he is regarded as one of the leading scientists in classical antiquity. Among his advances in physics are the foundations of hydrostatics, statics and an...

 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
All Souls College, Oxford
The Warden and the College of the Souls of all Faithful People deceased in the University of Oxford or All Souls College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England....

, Wren constructed a transparent beehive for scientific observation; he began observing the moon
Moon
The Moon is Earth's only known natural satellite,There are a number of near-Earth asteroids including 3753 Cruithne that are co-orbital with Earth: their orbits bring them close to Earth for periods of time but then alter in the long term . These are quasi-satellites and not true moons. For more...

, which was to lead to the invention of micrometer
Filar micrometer
A filar micrometer is a device used in astronomical telescopes for astrometry measurements. The word filar derives from Latin filum, a thread...

s for the telescope
Telescope
A telescope is an instrument that aids in the observation of remote objects by collecting electromagnetic radiation . The first known practical telescopes were invented in the Netherlands at the beginning of the 1600s , using glass lenses...

. He experimented on terrestrial magnetism
Magnetism
Magnetism is a property of materials that respond at an atomic or subatomic level to an applied magnetic field. Ferromagnetism is the strongest and most familiar type of magnetism. It is responsible for the behavior of permanent magnets, which produce their own persistent magnetic fields, as well...

 and had taken part in medical
Medicine
Medicine is the science and art of healing. It encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness....

 experiments while at Wadham College
Wadham College, Oxford
Wadham College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, located at the southern end of Parks Road in central Oxford. It was founded by Nicholas and Dorothy Wadham, wealthy Somerset landowners, during the reign of King James I...

, performing the first successful injection of a substance into the bloodstream (of a dog).

In Gresham College
Gresham College
Gresham College is an institution of higher learning located at Barnard's Inn Hall off Holborn in central London, England. It was founded in 1597 under the will of Sir Thomas Gresham and today it hosts over 140 free public lectures every year within the City of London.-History:Sir Thomas Gresham,...

, he did experiments involving determining longitude
Longitude
Longitude is a geographic coordinate that specifies the east-west position of a point on the Earth's surface. It is an angular measurement, usually expressed in degrees, minutes and seconds, and denoted by the Greek letter lambda ....

 through magnetic
Magnetism
Magnetism is a property of materials that respond at an atomic or subatomic level to an applied magnetic field. Ferromagnetism is the strongest and most familiar type of magnetism. It is responsible for the behavior of permanent magnets, which produce their own persistent magnetic fields, as well...

 variation and through lunar observation to help with navigation
Navigation
Navigation is the process of monitoring and controlling the movement of a craft or vehicle from one place to another. It is also the term of art used for the specialized knowledge used by navigators to perform navigation tasks...

, and helped construct a 35 feet (10.7 m) telescope with Sir Paul Neile. Wren also studied and improved the microscope
Microscope
A microscope is an instrument used to see objects that are too small for the naked eye. The science of investigating small objects using such an instrument is called microscopy...

 and telescope at this time. He had also been making observations of the planet Saturn
Saturn
Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun and the second largest planet in the Solar System, after Jupiter. Saturn is named after the Roman god Saturn, equated to the Greek Cronus , the Babylonian Ninurta and the Hindu Shani. Saturn's astronomical symbol represents the Roman god's sickle.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 recognized 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. Also his contribution to mathematics
Mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

 should be noted; in 1658, he found the length of an arc of the cycloid
Cycloid
A cycloid is the curve traced by a point on the rim of a circular wheel as the wheel rolls along a straight line.It is an example of a roulette, a curve generated by a curve rolling on another curve....

 using an exhaustion proof based on dissections to reduce the problem to summing segments of chords of a circle which are in geometric progression.

A year into Wren's appointment as a Savilian Professor
Savilian Chair of Astronomy
The Savilian Chair of Astronomy at the University of Oxford in England was founded in 1619 and is named after Sir Henry Savile. The Professor is a Fellow of New College....

 in Oxford
Oxford
The city of Oxford is the county town of Oxfordshire, England. The city, made prominent by its medieval university, has a population of just under 165,000, with 153,900 living within the district boundary. It lies about 50 miles north-west of London. The rivers Cherwell and Thames run through...

, the Royal Society
Royal Society
The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...

 was created and Wren became an active member. As Savilian Professor, Wren studied mechanics
Mechanics
Mechanics is the branch of physics concerned with the behavior of physical bodies when subjected to forces or displacements, and the subsequent effects of the bodies on their environment....

 thoroughly, especially elastic collision
Elastic collision
An elastic collision is an encounter between two bodies in which the total kinetic energy of the two bodies after the encounter is equal to their total kinetic energy before the encounter...

s and pendulum
Pendulum
A pendulum is a weight suspended from a pivot so that it can swing freely. When a pendulum is displaced from its resting equilibrium position, it is subject to a restoring force due to gravity that will accelerate it back toward the equilibrium position...

 motions. He also directed his far-ranging intelligence to the study of meteorology
Meteorology
Meteorology is the interdisciplinary scientific study of the atmosphere. Studies in the field stretch back millennia, though significant progress in meteorology did not occur until the 18th century. The 19th century saw breakthroughs occur after observing networks developed across several countries...

: in 1662 he invented the tipping bucket rain gauge
Rain gauge
A rain gauge is a type of instrument used by meteorologists and hydrologists to gather and measure the amount of liquid precipitation over a set period of time....

 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 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: specialization.

Another topic to which Wren contributed was optics
Optics
Optics is the branch of physics which involves the behavior and properties of light, including its interactions with matter and the construction of instruments that use or detect it. Optics usually describes the behavior of visible, ultraviolet, and infrared light...

. 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 Naturalis. Robert Hooke
Robert Hooke
Robert Hooke FRS was an English natural philosopher, architect and polymath.His adult life comprised three distinct periods: as a scientific inquirer lacking money; achieving great wealth and standing through his reputation for hard work and scrupulous honesty following the great fire of 1666, but...

 had theorized 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
Edmond Halley
Edmond Halley FRS was an English astronomer, geophysicist, mathematician, meteorologist, and physicist who is best known for computing the orbit of the eponymous Halley's Comet. He was the second Astronomer Royal in Britain, following in the footsteps of John Flamsteed.-Biography and career: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
De motu corporum in gyrum
De motu corporum in gyrum is the title of a manuscript by Isaac Newton sent to Edmond Halley in November 1684...

, 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
Agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

, ballistics
Ballistics
Ballistics is the science of mechanics that deals with the flight, behavior, and effects of projectiles, especially bullets, gravity bombs, rockets, or the like; the science or art of designing and accelerating projectiles so as to achieve a desired performance.A ballistic body is a body which is...

, water and freezing, light and refraction, to name only a few. Thomas Birch
Thomas Birch
Thomas Birch was an English historian.-Life:He was the son of Joseph Birch, a coffee-mill maker, and was born at Clerkenwell....

's History of the Royal Society 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.

First steps to architecture


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 the well-educated gentleman, (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 Vitruvius
Vitruvius
Marcus Vitruvius Pollio was a Roman writer, architect and engineer, active in the 1st century BC. He is best known as the author of the multi-volume work De Architectura ....

 and explicit in such 16th century authors as John Dee
John Dee (mathematician)
John Dee was an English mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, occultist, navigator, imperialist and consultant to Queen Elizabeth I. He devoted much of his life to the study of alchemy, divination and Hermetic philosophy....

 and Leonard Digges. When Wren was a student at Oxford, he became familiar with Vitruvius's De architectura and absorbed intuitively the fundamentals of the architectural design there. In the past , buildings had been constructed to the needs of the patron and the suggestions of building professionals, such as master carpenters or master bricklayers.

Through the 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 Geometer in Europe", to direct the re-fortification of Tangier
Tangier
Tangier, also Tangiers is a city in northern Morocco with a population of about 700,000 . It lies on the North African coast at the western entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Spartel...

. 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 architecture practice. Before the end of 1661 Wren was unofficially advising the repair of Old St Paul's Cathedral
Old St Paul's Cathedral
Old St Paul's Cathedral is a name used to refer to the medieval cathedral of the City of London which until 1666 stood on the site of the present St Paul's Cathedral. Built between 1087 and 1314 and dedicated to St Paul, the cathedral was the fourth church on the site at Ludgate Hill...

 after two decades of neglect and distress; his architectural interests were also evident to his associates at the time. Two years after, he set his only foreign journey to Paris and the Île-de-France
Île-de-France (région)
Île-de-France is the wealthiest and most populated of the twenty-two administrative regions of France, composed mostly of the Paris metropolitan area....

, during which he acquired the firsthand study of modern design and construction. By this time, he had mastered and thoroughly understood architecture. Unlike several of his colleagues who took it up as a set of rules and formulas for design, he possessed, understood, and exploited the combination of reason and intuition, experience and imagination.

Wren's first architectural project was the chapel of Pembroke College
Pembroke College, Cambridge
Pembroke College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England.The college has over seven hundred students and fellows, and is the third oldest college of the university. Physically, it is one of the university's larger colleges, with buildings from almost every century since its...

 in Cambridge, which his uncle
Matthew Wren
"Matthew Wren" is also a British actor who appeared in BBC children's show Trapped!.Matthew Wren was an influential English clergyman and scholar.-Life:...

, the Bishop of Ely
Bishop of Ely
The Bishop of Ely is the Ordinary of the Church of England Diocese of Ely in the Province of Canterbury. The diocese roughly covers the county of Cambridgeshire , together with a section of north-west Norfolk and has its see in the City of Ely, Cambridgeshire, where the seat is located at the...

, asked him to design in 1663. The second was the design of the Sheldonian Theatre
Sheldonian Theatre
The Sheldonian Theatre, located in Oxford, England, was built from 1664 to 1668 after a design by Christopher Wren for the University of Oxford. The building is named after Gilbert Sheldon, chancellor of the university at the time and the project's main financial backer...

 in Oxford
Oxford
The city of Oxford is the county town of Oxfordshire, England. The city, made prominent by its medieval university, has a population of just under 165,000, with 153,900 living within the district boundary. It lies about 50 miles north-west of London. The rivers Cherwell and Thames run through...

, completed in 1668. This, the gift of Archbishop Sheldon
Gilbert Sheldon
Gilbert Sheldon was an English Archbishop of Canterbury.-Early life:He was born in Stanton, Staffordshire in the parish of Ellastone, on 19 July 1598, the youngest son of Roger Sheldon; his father worked for Gilbert Talbot, 7th Earl of Shrewsbury. He was educated at Trinity College, Oxford; he...

 to his old university, was influenced by the classical form of the Theatre of Marcellus
Theatre of Marcellus
The Theatre of Marcellus is an ancient open-air theatre in Rome, Italy, built in the closing years of the Roman Republic. At the theatre, locals and visitors alike were able to watch performances of drama and song. Today its ancient edifice in the rione of Sant'Angelo, Rome, once again provides...

 in Rome, but was a mixture of this classical design with a modern empirical design.

St Paul's


St Paul's
St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul's Cathedral, London, is a Church of England cathedral and seat of the Bishop of London. Its dedication to Paul the Apostle dates back to the original church on this site, founded in AD 604. St Paul's sits at the top of Ludgate Hill, the highest point in the City of London, and is the mother...

 has always been the touchstone
Touchstone (metaphor)
As a metaphor, a touchstone refers to any physical or intellectual measure by which the validity or merit of a concept can be tested. It is similar in use to an acid test, litmus test in politics, and a shibboleth.-Touchstone in literature:...

 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
St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul's Cathedral, London, is a Church of England cathedral and seat of the Bishop of London. Its dedication to Paul the Apostle dates back to the original church on this site, founded in AD 604. St Paul's sits at the top of Ludgate Hill, the highest point in the City of London, and is the mother...

. It was accepted in principle on August 27, 1666. One week later, however, the Great Fire of London
Great Fire of London
The Great Fire of London was a major conflagration that swept through the central parts of the English city of London, from Sunday, 2 September to Wednesday, 5 September 1666. The fire gutted the medieval City of London inside the old Roman City Wall...

 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 plans 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.


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
City of London
The City of London is a small area within Greater London, England. It is the historic core of London around which the modern conurbation grew and has held city status since time immemorial. The City’s boundaries have remained almost unchanged since the Middle Ages, and it is now only a tiny part of...

. 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
Cathedral chapter
In accordance with canon law, a cathedral chapter is a college of clerics formed to advise a bishop and, in the case of a vacancy of the episcopal see in some countries, to govern the diocese in his stead. These councils are made up of canons and dignitaries; in the Roman Catholic church their...

 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.
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
Parliament of England
The Parliament of England was the legislature of the Kingdom of England. In 1066, William of Normandy introduced a feudal system, by which he sought the advice of a council of tenants-in-chief and ecclesiastics before making laws...

 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 authorized 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




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
Monument to the Great Fire of London
The Monument to the Great Fire of London, more commonly known as The monument, is a 202 ft tall stone Roman Doric column in the City of London, England, near the northern end of London Bridge. It stands at the junction of Monument Street and Panda Bear Hill, 202 ft from where the Great...

 (1671-76) commemorating the Great Fire also involved Robert Hooke
Robert Hooke
Robert Hooke FRS was an English natural philosopher, architect and polymath.His adult life comprised three distinct periods: as a scientific inquirer lacking money; achieving great wealth and standing through his reputation for hard work and scrupulous honesty following the great fire of 1666, but...

, but Wren was in control of the final design, the Royal Observatory
Royal Observatory, Greenwich
The Royal Observatory, Greenwich , in London, England played a major role in the history of astronomy and navigation, and is best known as the location of the prime meridian...

 (1675-76), and the library
Wren Library, Cambridge
The Wren Library is the library of Trinity College in Cambridge. It was designed by Christopher Wren in 1676 and completed in 1695.The library is a single large room built over an open colonnade on the ground floor of Nevile's Court...

 at Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. Trinity has more members than any other college in Cambridge or Oxford, with around 700 undergraduates, 430 graduates, and over 170 Fellows...

 (1676-84) were the most important ones.

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
Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle is a medieval castle and royal residence in Windsor in the English county of Berkshire, notable for its long association with the British royal family and its architecture. The original castle was built after the Norman invasion by William the Conqueror. Since the time of Henry I it...

 was notable for the integration of architecture, sculpture and painting. This commission was in the hand of Hugh May
Hugh May
Hugh May was an English architect in the period after the Restoration of King Charles II. He worked in the era which fell between the first introduction of Palladianism into England by Inigo Jones, and the full flowering of English Baroque under John Vanbrugh and Nicholas Hawksmoor. His own work...

, who died in February 1684, before the construction finished; Wren assumed his post and finalized the works.

After the death of Charles II in 1685, Wren's attention was directed mainly to Whitehall
Whitehall
Whitehall is a road in Westminster, in London, England. It is the main artery running north from Parliament Square, towards Charing Cross at the southern end of Trafalgar Square...

 (1685-87). The new king, James II
James II of England
James II & VII was King of England and King of Ireland as James II and King of Scotland as James VII, from 6 February 1685. He was the last Catholic monarch to reign over the Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland...

, required a new chapel and also ordered a new gallery, council chamber and a riverside apartment for the Queen
Mary of Modena
Mary of Modena was Queen consort of England, Scotland and Ireland as the second wife of King James II and VII. A devout Catholic, Mary became, in 1673, the second wife of James, Duke of York, who later succeeded his older brother Charles II as King James II...

. Later, when James II was removed from the throne, Wren took on architectural projects such as Kensington Palace
Kensington Palace
Kensington Palace is a royal residence set in Kensington Gardens in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London, England. It has been a residence of the British Royal Family since the 17th century and is the official London residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Duke and...

 (1689-96) and Hampton Court (1689-1700).

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
Westminster Abbey
The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, popularly known as Westminster Abbey, is a large, mainly Gothic church, in the City of Westminster, London, United Kingdom, located just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English,...

 . He resigned the former role in 1716 but held the latter until his death, approving with a wavering signature Burlington
Burlington
Burlington often refers to:* Burlington, Ontario* Burlington, VermontBurlington may also mean:-England:*Bridlington in Yorkshire, previously known as "Burlington"*Burlington, a codename for Central Government War Headquarters-Canada:...

's revisions of Wren's own earlier designs for the great Archway of Westminster School.

Achievement and reputation


At his death, Wren was 90. 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
Baroque
The Baroque is a period and the style that used exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting, literature, dance, and music...

 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
Inigo Jones
Inigo Jones is the first significant British architect of the modern period, and the first to bring Italianate Renaissance architecture to England...

. 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
Pantheon
-Mythology:* Pantheon , the set of gods belonging to a particular mythology* Pantheon * Pantheon, Rome, now a Catholic church, once a temple to the gods of ancient Rome* Any temple dedicated to an entire pantheon-Other buildings:...

); 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
Saint Isaac's Cathedral
Saint Isaac's Cathedral or Isaakievskiy Sobor in Saint Petersburg, Russia is the largest Russian Orthodox cathedral in the city...

 (1840–42) in St Petersburg to the US Capitol
United States Capitol
The United States Capitol is the meeting place of the United States Congress, the legislature of the federal government of the United States. Located in Washington, D.C., it sits atop Capitol Hill at the eastern end of the National Mall...

 at Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

 (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
International style (architecture)
The International style is a major architectural style that emerged in the 1920s and 1930s, the formative decades of Modern architecture. The term originated from the name of a book by Henry-Russell Hitchcock and Philip Johnson, The International Style...

, Wren's work gradually stopped being perceived as a mine of examples applicable to contemporary design.

Freemasonry


Sir Christopher Wren is claimed by the Lodge of Antiquity No. 2, one of the four founding Masonic Lodges of the Grand Lodge of England in 1717, to have previously been its Master at the Goose and Gridiron, an inn at St. Paul's
St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul's Cathedral, London, is a Church of England cathedral and seat of the Bishop of London. Its dedication to Paul the Apostle dates back to the original church on this site, founded in AD 604. St Paul's sits at the top of Ludgate Hill, the highest point in the City of London, and is the mother...

 churchyard, while he was building 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). A seventeenth-century maul with an inscribed eighteenth century silver plate claiming that it was used by Wren's son for the topping-out of St. Pauls, belonging to the Lodge and often on display in the Freemasons' Grand Museum, corroborates the story, which is debatable mainly because it would have been in the interests of the Lodge and the Craft to fabricate such a story. Anderson
Anderson
-People:* Anderson Cooper, American television personality, son of Gloria Vanderbilt* Anderson Luís de Abreu Oliveira, Manchester United football player-Places:In Canada:* Anderson, British Columbia* Anderson Bay, British Columbia...

made the claims in his Constitutions while many of Wren's friends were still alive, but he made highly creative claims as to the history or legends of Freemasonry. There is also an 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 noblemen's Lodge at the Rummer and Grapes, a mile upriver at Westminster (where Wren had been to School). Wren's portrait dominates the Lodge Room used by the Lodge of Antiquity in the same building as the Museum, and not far from St. Paul's.

Commemorations


From 20 March 1981 until 1994, Wren's picture appeared on the reverse of Series D £50 banknotes issued by the Bank of England
Bank of England note issues
The Bank of England, which is now the Central Bank of the United Kingdom, has issued banknotes since 1694. Since 1970, its new series of notes have featured portraits of British historical figures. Of the eight banks authorised to issue banknotes in the UK, only the Bank of England can issue...

. He was shown against a backdrop of the skyline of London as it would have appeared in 1711 with St Paul's towering above the other city buildings. With his left hand, Wren points to an architectural plan
Architectural plan
An architectural plan is a plan for architecture, and the documentation of written and graphic descriptions of the architectural elements of a building project including sketches, drawings and details.- Overview :...

 of the cathedral. The design of the note incorporates neoclassical details from Wren's work.

The crater Wren on Mercury
Mercury (planet)
Mercury is the innermost and smallest planet in the Solar System, orbiting the Sun once every 87.969 Earth days. The orbit of Mercury has the highest eccentricity of all the Solar System planets, and it has the smallest axial tilt. It completes three rotations about its axis for every two orbits...

 was named in his honour.

The house of Wren's at Westminster School
Westminster School
The Royal College of St. Peter in Westminster, almost always known as Westminster School, is one of Britain's leading independent schools, with the highest Oxford and Cambridge acceptance rate of any secondary school or college in Britain...

 in England was named after him.

The main hall at the College of William and Mary
College of William and Mary
The College of William & Mary in Virginia is a public research university located in Williamsburg, Virginia, United States...

 in Williamsburg, Virginia
Williamsburg, Virginia
Williamsburg is an independent city located on the Virginia Peninsula in the Hampton Roads metropolitan area of Virginia, USA. As of the 2010 Census, the city had an estimated population of 14,068. It is bordered by James City County and York County, and is an independent city...

, in the United States of America is named The Wren Building in his honor.

Trivia


At one time Wren was credited with the design of the King's House at Newmarket. 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."

See also


Christopher Wren buildings
  • List of Christopher Wren Churches in London
  • Gresham Professor of Astronomy
    Gresham Professor of Astronomy
    The Professor of Astronomy at Gresham College, London, gives free educational lectures to the general public. The college was founded for this purpose in 1596 / 7, when it appointed seven professors; this has since increased to eight and in addition the college now has visiting professors.The...

  • The novel Hawksmoor
    Hawksmoor (novel)
    Hawksmoor is a 1985 novel by the English writer Peter Ackroyd. It won Best Novel at the 1985 Whitbread Awards.-Story:Set in the late seventeenth century, architect Nicholas Dyer is progressing work on several churches in London's East End...

    , which features a fictionalised Christopher Wren
  • For the character created by Agatha Christie, see The Mousetrap
    The Mousetrap
    The Mousetrap is a murder mystery play by Agatha Christie. The Mousetrap opened in the West End of London in 1952, and has been running continuously since then. It has the longest initial run of any play in history, with over 24,500 performances so far. It is the longest running show of the modern...

  • Thomas Gilbert (architect)
    Thomas Gilbert (architect)
    Thomas Gilbert was a British Architect who lived from 1706 to 1776. He is best known for designing and building St. George's Church on the Isle of Portland. His architectural design, which he applied to the Church came from Christopher Wren, to whom he was an apprentice.-References:...

    , one of Wren's apprentices and adaptant of his architectural style

External links



  • 'Scientists and Craftsmen in Sir Christopher Wren's London', lecture by Professor Allan Chapman, Gresham College
    Gresham College
    Gresham College is an institution of higher learning located at Barnard's Inn Hall off Holborn in central London, England. It was founded in 1597 under the will of Sir Thomas Gresham and today it hosts over 140 free public lectures every year within the City of London.-History:Sir Thomas Gresham,...

    , 23 April 2008 (available in text, audio and video formats).
  • Life and times of Sir Christopher Wren on a Freemasonry
    Freemasonry
    Freemasonry is a fraternal organisation that arose from obscure origins in the late 16th to early 17th century. Freemasonry now exists in various forms all over the world, with a membership estimated at around six million, including approximately 150,000 under the jurisdictions of the Grand Lodge...

     website