Christopher Wren In Search of Eastern Antiquity Vaughan Hart

Publication date:
14 Apr 2020
Paul Mellon Centre
232 pages: 279 x 216mm
180 color + b-w illus.
Sales territories:

A fresh look at the Eastern origins of Christopher Wren’s architecture

In this revelatory study of one of the great architects in British history, Vaughan Hart considers Christopher Wren’s (1632–1723) interest in Eastern antiquity and Ottoman architecture, an interest that would animate much of his theory and practice. As the early modern understanding of antiquity broadened to include new discoveries at Palmyra and Persepolis, Wren disputed common assumptions about the European origins of Classical and Gothic architecture, tracing these building traditions not to the Greeks or Germans but to the stonemasons of the biblical East. In a deft analysis, Hart contextualizes Wren’s use of classical elements—columns, domes, and cross plans—within his enthusiasm for the East and the broader Anglican interest in the Eastern church. A careful study of diary records reappraises Wren’s working relationship with Robert Hooke (1635–1703), who shared in many of Wren’s theoretical commitments. The result is a new, deepened understanding of Wren’s work.

Vaughan Hart is a professor of architecture at the University of Bath.

“Absorbing”—Keith Miller, Times Literary Supplement

“[O]ffers new insight into this facet of the architect by tracing a substantial component of Wren’s architectural activity that involved his study and adoption of Eastern sources. Wren’s interest in antiquarianism and architectural models from the Orient is well known, but Hart’s is the first comprehensive study dedicated to unfolding this complex constellation of architectural references.”— Gregorio Astengo, Architectural Histories

“From impressive research and clear argument, Vaughan Hart has produced a beautifully illustrated, fresh understanding of Wren’s churches and their relationship to the East.”—Benedict Vickery, Skyline [Magazine]

“Lavishly illustrated and beautifully formatted, the pages behind this evocative front cover take the reader on a richly detailed tour of Wren’s study and use of ancient and early Christian Eastern buildings and of the international information networks supporting Wren’s study.”—Kimberley Skelton, Transactions of the Ancient Monuments Society