Ward's Book of Days.

Pages of interesting anniversaries.

What happened on this day in history.


On this day in history in 1723, died Sir Christopher Wren.

Wren was a Seventeenth Century scientist and architect, famous for his part in the rebuilding of London after the Great Fire of 1666.  

Wren was the son of the dean of Windsor, was educated at Westminster School and Wadham College, Oxford. As a boy he was introduced to Prince Charles, later Charles II, who was to employ him as Royal Architect. Wren was elected to All Souls College and became professor of astronomy at Gresham College. He was recognized as an outstanding scientist, even by Newton who was not often given to praise others.  

History does not record why Wren turned to architecture. It may be that, due to the paucity of architects available at the time, Wren felt that there was a field in which he could dominate. His first commission was the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford from which he progressed to design the chapels at Emmanuelle College, Cambridge and Pembroke College, Oxford, both in the Renaissance style which had been made fashionable in Italy by Michelangelo but was unknown in England at the time.  

Wren’s greatest work was St Paul’s Cathedral, London, ordered to be rebuilt by Charles II after the Great Fire of London. Wren based his design on St Peters in Rome, the work of the great architect Michelangelo.  Wren’s design was a combination of the Renaissance, Gothic and Baroque surmounted by an immense dome with a great lantern, based on Brunelleschi’s design for Florence Cathedral. Wren gave London one of its most distinguished buildings but the completed structure bore little relation to the original plan, which had been approved by the conservative clerics of Established Church.   

Wren is buried in the crypt in St Paul’s. The inscription on his tomb reads “Lector, si monumentum requiris, circumspice”: “ If you would see his monument, reader, look around you.”  

Much of the funds for the rebuilding of St Paul’s were appropriated from the church of St Peters, Westminster hence the saying “robbing Peter to pay Paul”.

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