The beautiful rural county of Wilshire, England is the birthplace of Christopher Wren. He was born in 1632 on October 20, the son of a rector – Christopher Wren Snr and his wife Mary Cox. He was a sickly child and grew up with several sisters. Because the young Christopher also grew up among intellectuals, it seemed inevitable that he would develop an interest in mathematics, a subject that many students battle with.
He was just into his teens when at age 13 he invented an astronomical instrument. He was a ‘Jack of All Trades and Master of All’ as apart from being an architect and astronomer, he was also a designer and geometer.
He went to the Westminster school and later to the Wadham College in Oxford. Graduating with a bachelor’s degree in 1651, he also finished his M.A., focusing on physics, anatomy and astronomy. At the young age of 25, Christopher Wren became the professor of astronomy.
We’re going to look at some fascinating aspects of this interesting young man who shot to fame as a brilliant architect with his design of the Sheldonian Theatre. The building was inspired by the Theatre of Marcellus and would be used to host university ceremonies.
Seeing the amazing workmanship of young Christopher Wren, Bishop Gilbert Sheldon consulted with him about restoring the run-down St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Christopher Wren Interesting Facts
1. Wren’s Private Life
Gilbert was the first child born to Christopher Wren and his wife Faith. This son, born in October 1672 died in March 1674. Their second son also died before his 2nd birthday. Faith passed away in 1675 of smallpox and in 1677 Wren married his second wife, Jane. They had three small children when Jane passed away in 1680.
Christopher Wren lived to a ripe old age as it seems he lived a contented life. He enjoyed life and enjoyed a drink with his friends who came from every walk of life.
2. Wren’s Interest in Architecture blossoms
Wren only turned to architecture at the age of 30, an interesting fact about Christopher Wren. Not only did the Sheldonian Theatre at Oxford bring Wren much recognition and admiration, he then went on a tour of France in 1665 to gather more information on Baroque architecture. This entire tour inspired him so much it had a great influence on his future work as an architect.
When the Great Fire of London destroyed much of the city in 1666, King Charles II selected Wren to work on the reconstruction of the burnt city. The fire that started in a baker’s shop, also destroyed thousands of houses. Wren was made ‘Surveyor of Royal Works’ and he worked in this capacity until 1718. He designed more than 50 new churches, and one of his most magnificent masterpiece-works was St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Although Christopher Wren was renowned as a brilliant English architect, his achievements in science and art cannot be overlooked either.
3. A 17th-century Architectural Mastermind
Small wonder Wren was knighted for all his amazing work – new designs as well as restoration work. The Monument is a commemoration of the Great Fire and is built on the spot where the fire started. St Mary Le Bow is one of London’s oldest buildings, and even though it was burnt in the Great Fire, Wren rebuilt it, giving it a taller tower.
Other jobs that he was commissioned to do was to design a number of civic palaces as well as design several hospitals, one of which is the Royal Chelsea.
Christopher Wren was knighted in November 1673 because of his amazing architectural works as well as the massive role he had in rebuilding the city of London after the Great Fire, a well-known fact about Christopher Wren.
5. An Inventor of Scientific Instruments
In 1666, the 34-year-old Christopher Wren became an astronomy professor at Oxford. He was one of England’s top scientists and had already started at Oxford University at the age of 14. This was when he started inventing scientific instruments, and even Isaac Newton – English astronomer, physicist, mathematician and theologian regarded him as a leading geometer. It could be that we don’t hear that much of Wren’s amazing scientific achievements because of all the attention his architecture-career brought him.
6. A Medical Genius
Christopher Wren was only 15 when he started to help a medical professor with his dissections. He continued working in medicine until the Fire of London. It was also believed that he was the first to give medicines intravenously by means of an injection. There is also evidence from Neurosurgeon John Fulton of Yale University to suggest that he provided advances in brain surgery too.
7. A Man of Fascinating Interest
Christopher Wren never failed to surprise one with his achievements and the way he approached life. There is even a crater known as The Wren Crater and this crater is on the planet Mercury. He also put the graffiti ‘Wren’ on Stonehenge. Way back in his time, he must have known the importance of bees for the survival of man and he built a transparent beehive which would help with the study of bees, a crazy fact about Christopher Wren.
8. The End of a Brilliant Life
In 1718, at age 86, Wren retired to his home at Hampton Court where he spent his final 5 years. He died peacefully at the age of 91 in February 1723 and was buried in St. Pauls Cathedral. His gravestone has a very interesting inscription. It is in Latin but it translates to ‘if you seek his memorial, look about you’.
Nobody can deny that Christopher Wren was one fascinating man. He took on the world, starting off as a frail, sickly child, but believing he could achieve whatever he put his mind to. This was the man who founded the Royal Society and who is behind the glorious-looking Saint Paul’s. Yet if he hadn’t turned to architecture, he could literally have gone into any number of other brilliant careers such as science or medicine.
Such a versatile character, he achieved so much, but it was eventually architecture that won him over, When you look at his turbulent but illustrious life, you could say of Sir Christopher Wren – ‘A Life Well Lived’.
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