Monday, 25 January 2010

Sir Christopher Wren

Hang on a minute. Who did she say?

‘Christopher Wren? The guy that built St Paul’s Cathedral?’

Last month I mentioned Sir Christopher Wren briefly when I wrote a blog entry about The Monument to The Great Fire of London. Now we will talk about him in a bit more detail.

Sir Christopher Wren has been immortalised in St Paul’s Cathedral, which was completed in 1710. His eldest son, Christopher Wren Jr., placed an inscription in his crypt that says: “LECTOR, SI MONUMENTUM REQUIRIS, CIRCUMSPICE.” This roughly translates to: “If you seek his memorial, look around you” - a fantastic idea to place inside Wren’s amazing work.

Born on October 20th 1632 into an Anglican family, Wren went from being schooled from home, to studying at Oxford University. Although he began as a student of Latin, he soon began to show talents for maths and the sciences, including anatomy, physics and astronomy. From here he moved into architecture. In 1662 he became one of the founding fathers of The Royal Society, which was dedicated to the sciences, and would also eventually become Surveyor-General of the King’s Works.

Wren was commissioned to work on re-building London after the Great Fire in 1666 working on, among others, St Paul’s Cathedral, The Monument to the Great Fire of London, The Royal Observatory in Greenwich, The Royal Hospital at Chelsea and the library at Trinity College, Cambridge.

The Windsor Guildhall is also interesting in that it shows Wren’s wry sense of humour and slightly stubborn nature. While building the Guildhall’s open space (later to house corn markets), Wren’s clients in Windsor were adamant that four pillars be included for safety. Wren tried to convince them that the pillars not needed, but the client’s view prevailed and Wren placed four pillars in the middle. However, to prove that he was right, he left a gap between the roof and the pillars, so that the don’t do anything but look nice. They definitely don’t hold up the roof!

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