Sir Christopher Wren was the most famous English architect of his time, best known for designing Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London. Wren was the only living son of a rector, and he suffered from health problems from a young age. Christopher Wren attended Westminster School and then Oxford University after being discreetly educated at home for a few years. Wren, who was drawn to mathematics at an early age and seemed bound for a career as a scientific scholar, became a professor of astronomy in London after finishing his master. When he was commissioned to build the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford, Wren’s interest in architecture grew. Later, he traveled to Paris to study French and Italian baroque styles, which impacted and inspired his later works. After the Great Fire of London in 1666 destroyed most of the city, the monarch named him as one of the architectural commissioners in charge of overseeing the city’s reconstruction. Wren planned and oversaw the rebuilding of 51 city churches over the next 46 years, including his masterpiece, St. Paul’s Cathedral. One of the causes for his acclaim was that he insisted on the highest quality materials and workmanship. Later, he got royal commissions to construct hospitals and other structures throughout England. Sir Christopher Wren, rightly regarded as the most important British architect of all time, skillfully interpreted the Baroque style in England and dominated English architecture for 50 years.
Youth and Adolescence
Christopher Wren was born on October 20, 1632, in East Knoyle, Wiltshire, to vicar Christopher Wren Sr. and his wife, Mary Cox. Catherine, Susan, and Elizabeth were among his aunts. Wren was a sickly kid who was educated by Rev. William Shepherd, a local clergyman. He was a bright kid who showed a keen interest in mathematics from an early age.
Afterward, he attended Westminster School and, in 1649, Wadham College, Oxford. In college, his main subjects were Latin and Aristotle’s works, but he was also interested in science and mathematics at Oxford. He received his Bachelor’s degree in 1651 and his M.A. in the following two years. At the age of 25, he was appointed Professor of Astronomy at Gresham College in London, where he specialized in astronomy, physics, and histology.
Christopher Wren’s Career
Wren, along with other mathematicians, scientists, and scholars, became a founder member of ‘The Royal Society in 1660. Wren was named Savilian professor of astronomy at Oxford the following year. Wren made his first foray into architecture in 1662, designing the Sheldonian Theatre at Oxford, a structure meant for university ceremonies. This work won him a lot of respect as an architect.
Wren spent several months in France in 1665 learning about French Renaissance and Baroque buildings. This journey provided him with a wealth of inspiration and had a major impact on his future works. The Great Fire of London in 1666 destroyed much of the city and turned much of it into a smoking desert. As a result, King Charles II appointed Wren to the committee formed to oversee the city’s reconstruction.
Wren, as one of the committee’s main architects, was tasked with rebuilding the 87 parish churches destroyed by the Great Fire. He was appointed ‘Surveyor of Works’ to Charles II in 1669, a position he kept until 1718. By 1670, Wren was also working on plans for a new St. Paul’s Cathedral, which would ultimately become his masterpiece. He worked on several other buildings in addition to the City Churches.
Other examples of Wren’s brilliant design include the Royal Hospital at Chelsea, Trinity College’s library, and the Royal Naval Hospital at Greenwich. He was also in charge of renovating Hampton Court Palace’s south front.
Wren was a famous anatomist, astronomer, geometer, and mathematician-physicist in addition to being an outstanding architect. He was also a Member of Parliament for Old Windsor in 1680, 1689, and 1690.
Wren’s Important Projects
Between 1670 and 1686, he designed 51 new chapels for the city of London, which became known as the ‘City Churches’. His work on the City Churches established him as a prominent architect in England.
Wren’s masterwork is St. Paul’s Cathedral, which took nearly 35 years to complete. St. Paul’s design reflects the impact of French and Italian architecture, with its magnificent dome, remarkable scale, and theatrical grandeur.
Honors and Recognition
On November 14, 1673, Christopher Wren was honored.
Personal History and Influence
Wren married Faith Coghill, daughter of Lord John Coghill of Bletchingdon, in 1669. Gilbert, who died at the age of 18 months, and Christopher were their two boys. Faith tragically perished in 1675. Wren married Jane Fitzwilliam, the daughter of William Fitzwilliam, 2nd Baron Fitzwilliam, in 1677.
The couple had two children: Jane, a girl, and William, a son. Unfortunately, Jane perished from illness in 1680. Wren never remarried. Sir Christopher Wren died in London, England, on February 25, 1723.
Estimated Net Worth
Christopher is a wealthy architect who is also a well-known architect. Christopher Wren’s net wealth is $5 million, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.