History Hero and St Paul’s Cathedral architect, Christopher Wren, died 300 years ago today
On this day, 25th of February in 1723, Christopher Wren died. That’s exactly 300 years ago! Let’s explore the life of this brilliant architect…
Christopher Wren was born in 1632 in England. Growing up, he was especially interested in maths and science, and loved to explore the world around him. As Wren grew up, he became more and more interested in architecture and went to study at Oxford University. But Wren actually trained in mathematics and astronomy rather than architecture, and he even helped invent a machine that could grind lenses for telescopes! Wren would eventually become one of the most prominent architects in England, building some of the world’s most famous buildings.
One of Christopher Wren’s most famous works is St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. St. Paul’s Cathedral actually dates back to the 7th century, but it was destroyed by a fire in the 11th century. A new cathedral was built in its place and lasted nearly 500 years before it was destroyed in 1666. Do you know how?
The Great Fire of London meant the cathedral was burned down a second time. Following this, Christopher Wren was appointed to design the St Paul’s Cathedral we see today. Wren’s design was inspired by the great churches of Italy and France, and the design featured a large dome as its centre piece. Over the years, St. Paul’s Cathedral has been the site of many important events in English history; Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 1897 and funerals for famous figures like Sir Winston Churchill and Admiral Lord Nelson. Wren himself was actually the first person to be buried in St Paul’s Cathedral, 300 years ago.
During World War II, St. Paul’s Cathedral played an important role in London’s defence – surviving the Blitz, and becoming a symbol of London’s resilience against Nazi Germany. St Paul’s Cathedral may have been Wren’s most famous design, but it was by no means his only work. The Royal Observatory in Greenwich was designed by Wren in 1675, and became one of the most significant scientific institutions in the world known for its telescopes. The Royal Observatory was used for astronomy and navigation in Wren’s lifetime, and later became important for other areas of research as well as being a very popular tourist spot in London.
Christopher Wren is remembered as one of the most important architects and scientists in history. If you ever visit St. Paul’s Cathedral in London or the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, be sure to take your History Heroes London pack and read all about the brilliant Christopher Wren who designed them!