October 20th 1632: Christopher Wren born

On this day in 1632, famous British architect Christopher Wren was born in East Knoyle, Wiltshire. The son of a rector, Wren received a top education at Westminster School and then the prestigious Oxford University. Wren’s initial intellectual interest was in astronomy and physics but this eventually developed into architecture during the 1660s. When the Great Fire of London in 1666 destroyed a large portion of the city, Wren seized the opportunity and became a chief architect of the rebuilt capital. He designed fifty-two new churches for London, most famously St. Paul’s Cathedral. St. Paul’s was London’s tallest building until 1962, having survived the Blitz during World War Two. The cathedral remains a major British landmark and is used for state services including the funeral of Winston Churchill (and more recently Margaret Thatcher), monarch’s jubilee celebrations, and the royal wedding of Prince Charles and Diana Spencer. Wren’s work in London caught the attention of the crown and he received multiple royal commissions including designing the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, the front facade of Hampton Court Palace and several hospitals. Christopher Wren died on February 25th 1723 aged 91 after having caught a bad chill. His gravestone in St Paul’s Cathedral features the Latin inscription “Reader, if you seek his memorial - look around you.”


Though the precise date is the subject of dispute, it is believed that the foundation stone of St. Paul’s Cathedral was laid on 21 June 1675. Construction of Sir Christopher Wren’s design would not be completed for over 30 years, but the cathedral today stands as one of London’s iconic buildings.

A parallel of some of the principal towers and steeples built by Sir Christopher Wren, London, England.

1, St. Dunstan in the East. 2, St. Magnus. 3, St. Benet, Gracechurch-street. 4, St. Edmund the King, Lombard-street. 5, St. Margaret Pattens. 6, Allhallows the Great. 7, St. Mary Abchurch. 8, St Muchael, Cornhill. 9, St. Lawrence, Jewry. 10, St.Benet Fink. 11, St.Bartholomew. 12, St. Michael, Queenhithe. 13, St. Michael Royal. 14, St. Antholia, Watling-street. 15, St. Stephen, Walbrrok. 16, St. Swithen, Cannon-street. 17, St. Mary-l-eBow. 18, Christ Church, Newgate-street. 19, St. Ncholas, Cole Abbey, 20, St. Mildred, Bread-street. 21, St. Augustin, Watling-street. 22, St. Mary Somerset. 23, St. Martin, Ludgate. 24.St. Andrew by the Wardrobe. 25, St. Bride, Fleet-street.

The scale is expressed by St. Paul’s in the background.

Source: Charles Knight, Old England: A Pictorial Museum, 1845.