Christopher Wren: Google Doodle celebrates birthday of St Paul’s Cathedral architect


Monday 20 October 2014


Google has used its latest animated doodle to celebrate the 382th anniversary of the birth of Sir Christopher Wren, one of the most acclaimed architects in British history.

Wren, who was born on this day in 1632, is most famous for rebuilding 52 churches in the City of London following the Great Fire of 1666, including the iconic St Paul’s Cathedral.

The future architect was born in East Knowle, Wiltsire, to a rector father, Christopher, and a mother, Mary. He was educated at Westminster School, and then Wadham College, Oxford. He showed a precocious talent for mathematics and invention, and was appointed Professor of Astronomy at Gresham College in London at the age of 25. Five years later, in 1662, he was one of the founder members of the Royal Society.

Soon thereafter he turned his attention to architecture. His first commissioned buildings were the chapel of Pembroke College, Cambridge, and the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford, whcih is used for music concerts, lectures and University ceremonies.

His interest in architecture came at a most providential time, for in 1666 the Great Fire of London swept through the City, reducing much of it to cinders and the old St Paul’s Cathedral to ruins. However, Wren had already become involved in plans to repair the cathedral, which include the addition of a huge dome. His plan was accepted by the City the week before the fire.

Wren produced ambitious plans for rebuilding the whole of the medieval city, but these were rejected. Wren had better luck with the city churches, which he designed along with a team that included Nicholas Hawksmoor. He was appointed Surveyor of the Royal Works in 1669, giving him control of all government building in the country.

St Paul’s was opened for services in 1697, but the dome was not completed until 1711, when Wren was 79 years old, having worked on the project for the last 45 years.

The animation begins with an image of various draftsman’s tools, which gives way to a brief animation showing the aftermath of the Great Fire, out of the ruins of which grows the cathedral, finally resolving to an architect’s drawing of it in elevation.

He was knighted in 1673. It has been suggested that he was a Freemason.