Despite being a sickly child when he was born in 1632 in Wiltshire, Sir Christopher Wren survived to the ripe old age of 91. When he died in 1723, he was buried in St Paul’s Cathedral – the crowning glory of his architectural career. The Latin inscription on his memorial famously reads
LECTOR SI MONUMENTUM REQUIRIS CIRCUMSPICE
Which translates as “ Reader, if you seek my monument …look around you”. The medieval cathedral of St Pauls was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666 along with many of the other London Churches. Wren was appointed as the King’s Survivor of Works in 1699 and tasked with supervising the design and rebuilding of 51 churches in the City. A special coal tax was introduced to provide the money for this effort. Many of these churches can be seen as experiments in design, trying out different concepts, domes and proportions. The results of these works informed his plans for his masterpiece – St Paul’s. His plans for the cathedral changed several times before the building was finally completed in 1711.
If you walk around the city today, most of the churches you see are “Wren Churches” . See our churches page to find out which ones. When £50 notes were first printed in 1981, it was Christopher Wren who was chosen to appear on them. A fitting memorial to an architectural genius who gave so much to the nation.