St. Paul's Cathedral (London)
ST. PAUL'S CATHEDRAL (LONDON)
Most important baroque church in England and Sir Christopher Wren's masterpiece. An early church on Ludgate Hill, London, was removed c. 1080 and Old St. Paul's Cathedral was finished by the end of the 13th century. Following 17th-century repairs by Inigo Jones and the Great Fire of 1666 that almost destroyed the structure, Wren was called upon for further repairs. At first he thought to rebuild the Gothic church, but the walls proved insecure, and in 1668 Wren began work on a fresh plan. His initial plan called for a Greek cross with a dome over the intersection after the manner of S. Maria della Salute in Venice. For the sake of the liturgy, this plan was dropped in favor of a medieval arrangement with extended choir and nave of equal lengths and short transept arms. Though Wren believed that Paris was "the best school of architecture in Europe," the cathedral has many Roman features. The dome, like Michelangelo's dome on St. Peter's, spans the width of both nave and aisles, a diameter of 100 feet, and its exterior profile is clearly dependent on Bramante's Tempietto of St. Pietro in Montorio. The space suggested is not that of the known, as in the Pantheon, nor the mystical unknowable space of the medieval conception, but the knowable, yet unknown, space of the Renaissance experience. The clock towers of the façade, moreover, are reminiscent of Borromini's S. Agnese in Piazza Navona, Rome. Yet the whole church, dominated by the dome from whatever angle it is viewed and encircled by a two-storied facing on all sides, makes for an impressive unity.
Bibliography: Publications of the Wren Society, ed. a. t. bolton and h. d. hendry, 20 v. (London 1924–43) v.13–16. s. b. hamilton, "The Place of Sir Christopher Wren in the History of Structural Engineering," Transactions of the New-comen, Society…, London 14 (1933–34) 27–42. r. dutton, The Age of Wren (New York 1951). j. n. summerson, Architecture in Britain, 1530–1830 (4th ed. Pelican History of Art Z3; 1963). s. a. warner, St. Paul's Cathedral (London 1923). w. r. matthews and w. m. atkins, eds., A History of St. Paul's Cathedral and the Men Associated with It (London 1964). d. f. ewin, St. Paul's Cathedral (London 1976).
[w. s. rusk/eds.]