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Fragment of the Coffin of Sir Christopher Wren, 1723

Fragment of the Coffin of Sir Christopher Wren 1723

Some of our architectural items are almost revered and have a special place in history.

Objects connected with famous architects help bring historical figures to life. In this case, the object is very much connected with an architect’s death, which took place on 25 February 1723. This fragment of the coffin of Britain’s most famous architect was 'liberated' from his tomb in St Paul’s Cathedral in 1851, the last time it was opened for the burial of his last surviving direct descendant. A verger gave it to the architect George Adam Burn (1817-86). By the late 19th century, Wren’s reputation was so high that his effigy was carved on the front façade of the RIBA’s new headquarters in 1934. Burn’s son gave what by then was virtually a holy relic to the RIBA in 1940, the year that so many of Wren’s London buildings were being threatened or destroyed by aerial bombardment.

Image: A fragment of the coffin of Sir Christopher Wren, 1723; image from RIBApix (number RIBA85524)
Credit: RIBA Collections

Article by Charles Hind, RIBA
27 February 2015

Discover more

This is just one of over four million items in our world-class architectural collections at the RIBA Library – it's open to everyone and access is free. Visit the library to explore our collections of books, periodicals, drawings, photographs and models:

  1. Fragment
    Fragment of the coffin of Sir Christopher Wren, Saint Paul's Cathedral, London
    Call/Ref. no. ODS/WREN/1 [Located at the V&A]
  2. Book
    Downes, K., 1988.
    'Sir Christopher Wren: the design of St. Paul's Cathedral'.
    London: Trefoil in association with Guildhall Library
    Shelved at 726.6(42.12) // DOW [SR]
  3. Book
    Summerson, J., 1965.
    'Christopher Wren'
    London: Collins, 1965.
    Shelved at 72.034(42).66:92W // SUM [Reference]

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