WREN, Christopher


WREN, Christopher
(1632-1723)
   Christopher Wren is consid-ered the most important English Baroque architect after Inigo Jones. He was born into an intellectual family and initially taught astronomy and math, with architecture as a secondary interest. However, Wren went to Paris in 1665, and there he met Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the famous Roman Baroque artist who was visiting as a guest of King Louis XIV. He also became interested in the renovations for the Louvre Palace that were under way. These experiences shifted his focus to architecture, and after he returned to London, he was hired in 1669 as the King's Royal Surveyor-General. The core of London had been destroyed in a fire in 1666; architectural commissions were so plentiful that Wren is credited with constructing around 53 buildings in London during his lifetime, including the Royal Observatory and the Library at Trinity College in Cambridge.
   His most famous building, however, is the massive Cathedral of Saint Paul, begun in the 1660s as a renovation of the original medieval structure; the commission became a full construction project after the Great Fire of 1666 destroyed the medieval church completely.
   Wren's massive church went through several modifications before he arrived at what appears today—a monumental two-story structure with an open portico of Corinthian columns at both levels of the façade. The resulting deep narthex is capped on either end by large clock towers, much like those originally planned for Saint Peter's Church in Rome. The nave is longer than the compromise solution found at Saint Peter's, and the dome is equally massive. Wren's interior dome is very classical in that it is made of masonry with an oculus, while on the exterior the dome is covered by a layer of lead over wood. The tall lantern is additionally supported by an internal cone of brick in the upper dome. The drum of the dome is encircled with freestanding columns that visually match the double, open colonnade on the façade. Christopher Wren was buried in the crypt of this cathedral, and on his tomb marker is written, "If you want to see his memorial, look around you."

Historical Dictionaries of Literature and the Arts. . 2008.

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