A Brief Biography of Christopher Wren

By Tim Lambert

Christopher Wren was one of the greatest architects of the 17th century. He is, of course, famous for St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Wren was born on 20 October 1632 in East Knoyle, Wiltshire, England. His father was a clergyman. Christopher was educated at Westminster School and in 1650 he went to Oxford University. He gained a BA in 1651 and an MA in 1653. Christopher was interested in mathematics and science.

In 1657 he was a professor of astronomy at Gresham College in London and in Oxford University in 1661. In 1662 he became one of the founders of the Royal Society. Wren was also interested in architecture. In 1665 Wren visited Paris and he was influenced by French architecture.

The great fire of London in 1666 gave Wren a great opportunity to use his talent as an architect. Most of London was destroyed. Wren drew up plans for a new city but his plans were never carried out.

However, Wren did rebuild 51 churches between 1670 and 1686. Most famously Wren rebuilt St Paul’s Cathedral (work began in 1675 and was completed in 1711). Wren also built the Royal Observatory at Greenwich and Greenwich Naval Hospital. He also built the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, and Trinity College Library, Cambridge. Christopher was knighted in 1673 and he became an MP in 1685.

Wren married Faith Coghill in 1669 and they had two boys. Sadly his first wife died in 1675. Christopher married Jane Fitzwilliam in 1677. They had a son and a daughter. But tragedy struck again. His second wife died in 1680.

St Pauls Cathedral

Christopher Wren died on 25 February 1723. He was buried in St Paul’s Cathedral on 5 March 1723. A Latin inscription by his tomb means ‘If you seek his monument look around you’.