Grinling Gibbons (1648-1721)

Explore St Paul's Cathedral - Virtual Tour

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Of the outstanding wood-carvers whose work adorns St Paul's Cathedral, none is as celebrated as Grinling Gibbons, who was born in Rotterdam of English parents in 1648. He came to England as a youth, and was discovered in 1671 by John Evelyn the diarist 'in a poore solitary thatched house in a field' in Kent.

"This day I first acquainted His Majesty with that incomparable young man Gibbons, whom I had lately met with in an obscure place by mere accident. I saw him about such a work as for the curiosity of handling, drawing and studious exactness, I never had before seen in all my travels."
- Evelyn

Though he also worked in marble, stone and bronze, it is chiefly for his outstandingly virtuosic wood carving that he is remembered, especially the extremely delicately carved limewood festoons of flowers, leaves and fruit which he provided for Hampton Court Palace and, of course, examples like this from the Quire of St Paul's Cathedral. His work ranks among the best decorative carving of his day anywhere in Europe.

His work on the St Paul's choir stalls is outstanding, including as it does the Bishop's two thrones, and the seat of the Lord Mayor.

His workshop was also responsible for the decoration of the original Choir Screen, which was dismantled in 1860, but re-assembled in a different scheme, so that parts of it can be seen in the South Transept Porch, in the West End of the reorganised Choir Stalls...

and in, for example, some details in the Chapel of St Michael and St George.