Christopher Wren, Design for the Dome of St Paul's Catherdral, a drawing in brown ink over pencil

London, England, late 17th century AD

'Si monumentum requiris, circumspice'

The old St Paul's Cathedral, a medieval Gothic structure, burnt down in the Great Fire of London in 1666. From the beginning, Wren (1632-1723) planned a dome over his new building, England's only cathedral built in the classical architectural tradition. He altered the shape and profile of the dome several times but it was not until around 1697 that the exact design for the dome was agreed; it was finally completed in 1710.

This free-hand drawing was made to show the relation of the inner and outer domes. The outer dome is supported on a massive, circular drum surrounded by giant columns. This lighter outer dome is built of timber covered with lead, hence its distinctive grey colour. It rests partly on the brick cone which rises from the inner dome. This cone, which rests on the supporting drum, also supports the crowning stone lantern, ball and cross which can be seen from the floor below, through the domes. The design of a dome within a dome, and supporting the heavy lantern via the cone to the drum, is a marvellous mix of design and engineering.

The famous dome dominates the City of London. It also marks the site of Wren's tomb. The Latin inscription on his tomb beneath the dome, reads: 'Si monumentum requiris, circumspice' ('If you are seeking his monument, look around you').

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More information

Bibliography

K. Downes, Sir Christopher Wren: the desi (Trefoil, 1988)

E. Croft-Murray and P. Hulton, Catalogue of British drawings (London, The British Museum Press, 1960)

K. Downes, Sir Christopher Wren (London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, 1982)

Dimensions

Height: 213.000 mm
Width: 245.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1881-6-11-203

PDB475

Location

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