Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723)

Explore St Paul's Cathedral - Virtual Tour

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In a quiet corner of the Crypt lies this plain monument of stone to Sir Christopher Wren.

The epitaph on the wall above is very similar to the one on the floor of the Cathedral under the Dome: it ends with the Latin words which are usually translated: 'Reader, if you seek his memorial - look around you.'

That memorial is, of course, St Paul's Cathedral, and it bears witness to an astonishing achievement: the building of a vast cathedral by one man in his lifetime; that it is a work of such majesty and unity is even more astonishing.

Wren, the son of a dean, and nephew of a bishop, began his professional career as an astronomer. He quickly rose to become, at the age of twenty five, Professor of Astronomy at Gresham College, London, and three years later Savilian Professor of Astronomy at Oxford.

A year later he became Surveyor-General of the King's Works, and his glorious and prolific career in architecture was under way.

Besides St Paul's, his masterpiece, Wren built scores of buildings large and small.

In London, The Royal Hospital at Chelsea still stands - though its surroundings today, just off the King's Road are a world away from the rustic retirement in which it first appeared.

Other important buildings, such as the Customs House in the City of London, have disappeared (the Customs House was destroyed by fire in 1814).

His work in the City of London began immediately after the Fire in 1666, when he presented King Charles II with a detailed plan for a rebuilt City.

Of the fifty two churches in the City which he built after the Fire, many have disappeared, but those that remain are astonishingly varied and original.

And the Monument which he designed to commemorate the Fire still stands near the bridgehead of London Bridge.

Towards the end of his life, Wren suffered as a result of political manoeuvring. In 1718 he lost his post as Surveyor-General of the King's Works.

We know much about his life, and the sometimes difficult progress of St Paul's from the book Parentalia for which his son, also Christopher, gathered the documents, and which his grandson published in 1750.

Sir Christopher Wren died in his 91st year in 1723, having, as he put it himself: 'worn out (by God's mercy) a long life in the Royal Service, and having made some figure in the world'.