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Sir Christopher Wren


Sir Christopher Wren is probably the most famous architect in history, best known for his rebuilding of St. Paul's Cathedral after the Great Fire.

As Lucy remarks to Joe in The Demon in the Embers, St. Paul's was already in need of rebuilding before the fire. The spire of the cathedral had fallen through the roof in 1561, and though the roof was repaired, the work was badly done. Fifty years later, the building was dangerous.

Under Cromwell, the cathedral was used for all sorts of irreligious purposes including as stables for cavalry horses. But when Charles II came to the throne, he appointed Christopher Wren to restore the cathedral.

Wren wanted to pull it down and start again, but this was not a popular idea. Instead, Wren designed a dome to replace the missing spire and made plans for the restoration of the rest. The King approved the design, but a week later, the Great Fire burned the cathedral to the ground.

Sir Christopher Wren, also painted by Sir Godfrey Kneller.

Wren got to work at once. Only six days after the fire died down, he presented Charles with a plan to rebuild not just the cathedral but the whole of London. Several other people also put plans forward. If any of them had gone ahead, London would have had a completely different layout today.

But the King judged it too complicated to change the city so radically. It was already difficult enough to decide who should pay for each bit of the rebuilding, and to compensate those whose houses had stood on what now became much wider streets. To get the city rebuilt as quickly as possible, Charles ordered that each house be rebuilt where it had previously stood, although all buildings now had to be built from stone and brick, and not jut out over the roads like they did before the fire. Christopher Wren oversaw the rebuilding of 51 of the 88 churches which had burned down, as well as St. Paul's.

When he died, Wren was buried in St. Paul's. His tomb has a Latin inscription on it which says, "Reader, if you seek his monument, look around you."

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