The Great Fire of London—September 4, 1666—depicted from the vantage point of the Thames River. London Bridge is seen on the left. while the Tower of London is on the right. St. Paul’s Cathedral is also visible near the center, engulfed in flames.
Providence had positioned Christopher Wren for the great work of his life. Although he submitted a comprehensive plan to the King for rebuilding the city, the funds were not available for anything that extensive. He designed and rebuilt St. Paul’s Cathedral, his greatest work. The rebuilding of fifty-two other churches fell under his purview and he helped design—and in some cases steward—the work. He had to at least approve the design of them all. He was knighted in 1673. It took thirty-five years to build St. Paul’s Cathedral, finished June 24, 1711. Wren was seventy-nine.
Christopher Wren’s plan for rebuilding London after Great Fire of 1666
Concurrent with the St. Paul’s project, Wren designed and built Trinity College Library, the Royal Hospital at Chelsea, the new chapel for James II at Whitehall, and a number of important buildings commissioned by William and Mary, the most ambitious builders of his career. Wren’s trademark style was Gothic but he was innovative in many respects; many of his plans and drawings have survived till today. Tradition says that the “Wren Building” at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia was designed by Wren himself. He is buried at St. Paul’s, his greatest architectural achievement.
Wren’s masterpiece, St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, designed in the English Baroque style, was completed in 1711 after 35 years of construction
Many Puritans saw the Great Fire of London as God’s judgement on the debauchery of the King, and the eighty-seven churches that burned a sign of His displeasure at the theological compromise that characterized the monarchy of Charles II. Nonetheless, a pastor’s son, gifted beyond his contemporaries, was put in the position of restoring houses of worship, many of which stand today.
The tomb of Christopher Wren, located in the south-east corner of the crypt of St Paul’s. At the tomb, a plain stone plaque reads:
“Here in its foundations lies the architect of this church and city, Christopher Wren, who lived beyond ninety years, not for his own profit but for the public good. Reader, if you seek his monument — look around you.”