Home >> New International Encyclopedia, Volume 20 >> Wittekind to Yttrium >> Wren


pauls, saint and churches

WREN, Sir CHRISTOPHER ( 1032-1723). One of the greatest of English architects, born at Knowle. Wiltshire. lIe was a graduate of Wad ham College. Oxford. Fellow of All Smile- in 1653, and Savilian professor of astronomy in 1660. Ile was one of the founders of the Royal Society and its president in 1681. As a scientist and mathematician of wide reputation he was in 1663 appointed one of the commissioners for the re pair of old Saint Paul's Cathedral (q.v.), Lon don. There were at this time few trained architects in England. and Wren. finding himself gradually drawn. by frequent consultatioss on building matters, into a profession which he had not originally intended to follow, devoted him self to its study with increasing enthusiasm. In 1665 he began the Sheldonian Theatre at Oxford and the Library of Trinity College. Cambridge.

The great fire of Lond(in in 1660 gave the real opportunity for the manifestation of his genius; from that lime on for forty years there was hardly au important building in or near London planned without his aid. Winchester Palace, extensive addition to Hampton Court. Chelsea Hospital, Marlborough and Buckingham Houses, the old Royal Exchange, Greenwich Hospital (in part), and a series of fifty-three parish churches in London, are among the works. He em

ployed a large force of assistants and deputies to carry out his plans, but impressed the stamp of his individual style on everything that was committed to his charge. For his great master piece. see SAINT PAUL'S CATHEDRAL.

Working in an age when his art had wofully declined in England, he succeeded in raisins the standard of taste by the refinement and pro priety of all his designs. llis work exerted a strong influence on the nascent architecture of the American colonies, especially that of the churches, though it is doubtful whether he de signed any of the American buildings attributed to him. He is buried in Saint Paul's, where on a tablet is inscribed the well-known epitaph, "Si monumentum rcquiris circumspice" (If thou seek his monoment, look about thee). Consult his biography by Elmes (London. 1S52) and by Phillimore (ib., 1883) ; Clayton, Churches of Sir Christopher Wren (ib., I34S) : Loftie, Inigo Jones and Wren (New York. 1S93) ; and the authori ties referred to under SAINT PAUL'S CATHEDRAL.