Christopher Wren

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Sir Christopher Wren in Godfrey Kneller's 1711 portrait.

Sir Christopher Wren (20 October 163225 February 1723) was an English architect, designer, astronomer, geometer, mathematician and physicist. Wren designed St Paul's Cathedral and 53 London churches, as well as many secular buildings. He was a founder of the Royal Society (president 1680–82), and his scientific work was highly regarded by Sir Isaac Newton and Blaise Pascal.


  • Architecture has its political Use; public Buildings being the Ornament of a Country; it establishes a Nation, draws People and Commerce; makes the People love their native Country, which Passion is the Original of all great Actions in a Common-wealth…. Architecture aims at Eternity.
    • "Of Architecture", Parentalia; or Memoirs of the Family of the Wrens, comp. by his son Christopher (1750, reprinted 1965), Appendix, p. 351.
  • A time will come when men will stretch out their eyes. They should see planets like our Earth.
    • Inaugural Lecture as Professor of Astronomy, Gresham College, as quoted in If the Universe is Teeming with Aliens-- where is Everybody? Fifty Solutions to the Fermi Paradox and the Problem of Extraterrestrial Life, by Stephen Webb (2002), p. 150.

Quotes about Christopher Wren

  • He was of opinion that what we now vulgarly call the Gothick, ought properly and truly be named Saracenick Architecture refined by the Christians.
    • Conclusion of the life of Sir Christopher Wren, in The Magazine of Magazines, January 1759, p. 11.
  • Sir Christopher Wren
    Said, "I am going to dine with some men.
    If anyone calls
    Say I am designing St. Paul's."
  • Perhaps you have heard the story of Christopher Wren, one of the greatest of English architects, who walked one day unrecognized among the men who were at work upon the building of St. Paul's cathedral in London which he had designed. "What are you doing?" he inquired of one of the workmen, and the man replied, "I am cutting a piece of stone." As he went on he put the same question to another man, and the man replied, "I am earning five shillings twopence a day." And to a third man he addressed the same inquiry and the man answered, "I am helping Sir Christopher Wren build a beautiful cathedral." That man had vision. He could see beyond the cutting of the stone, beyond the earning of his daily wage, to the creation of a work of art—the building of a great cathedral. And in your life it is important for you to strive to attain a vision of the larger whole.
    • Attributed to Louise Bush-Brown, director of the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women. Reported in as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).
  • Christopher Wren, the leading architect of London's reconstruction after the great fire of 1666, lies buried beneath the floor of his most famous building, St. Paul's cathedral. No elaborate sarcophagus adorns the site. Instead, we find only the famous epitaph written by his son and now inscribed into the floor: “si monumentum requiris, circumspice”—if you are searching for his monument, look around. A tad grandiose, perhaps, but I have never read a finer testimony to the central importance—one might even say sacredness — of actual places, rather than replicas, symbols, or other forms of vicarious resemblance.
    • Stephen Jay Gould. The Lying Stones of Marrakech (2001); "A Tale of Two Work Sites", p. 251
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