Inigo Jones (1573-1652)

Explore St Paul's Cathedral - Virtual Tour

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Inigo Jones was an enormously influential figure in British architecture in the first half of the seventeenth century. English patrons, who had hitherto built in a style unique to these islands, in which Gothic and Renaissance influences were combined, were, for the first time, introduced by Jones to the prevailing architectural ideas of Northern Italy.

After study in Italy, Jones returned to London in the early seventeenth century, where he enjoyed Royal patronage as an architect and designer of the elaborate court entertainments of the day. Of his Royal architectural commissions, the Banqueting House in Whitehall, London, has probably the greatest fame. It is also notorious as the scene of King Charles I's execution.

His work at Lincoln's Inn fields and the Piazza at Covent Garden were also enormously influential.

In the 1630's, Jones was appointed to redesign the west facade of St Paul's Cathedral, which was then in a sorry state. Under his direction, the north and south walls of the Nave and Transepts and - above all - the West Front were refaced in Portland stone and in a classical style.

The outstanding feature of his new work was the Great West Portico, which was paid for by King Charles I, out of his own funds. The columns were about 45 feet in height, and the portico was, at that time, the tallest north of the Alps.

While it stood it was greatly admired, and after the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, it was repaired. But following the Great Fire in 1666, it proved necessary to sweep away the old cathedral in its entirety. As a result, one of the most important works of Wren's greatest predecessor was lost - to be replaced by Wren's own masterpiece.

"He was more of an artist by education than Wren, had a finer taste in art, had seen more of the best works of the great Italian and ancient Roman masters, had associated more with wits and men of the world than his eminent successor; but he was less of a mathematician, had a less expanded mind, and was less of a philosopher."
- J. Elmes, 'Sir Christopher Wren'