Cambridge University

Ax:son Johnson Centre for the Study of Classical Architecture

CONFERENCE: The Professional World of Sir Christopher Wren

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The Professional World of Sir Christopher Wren

FRIDAY, 22 September 2023

from 9:30 – 18:00 (GMT) 

at the Howard THEATRE, Downing College, University of Cambridge


In April 1719, towards the end of his long life, Sir Christopher Wren wrote a letter to his former paymasters, the Lords of the Treasury. Reflecting on his fifty-year career, Wren told the Lords that he had ‘worn out (by God’s Mercy) a long life in Royal Service’, he then added that it was because of this service that he had ultimately ‘made some figure in the world’. Looking back, then, Wren saw his life as one defined principally by service to the Church and to the Crown, and these institutional duties occupied him for almost his entire professional life.

This conference, organised to celebrate the Tercentenary of his death in 1723, will investigate, in detail, this crucial aspect of Wren and his architecture. Bringing together major scholars of Wren, and his broader professional milieu, the conference will present a series of papers that will shed much new light on the commitment and leadership that Wren brought to all his official positions; as the head of the Office of Works, and as the driving force behind the design and building of the City Churches and St Paul’s Cathedral. The conference will explore the numerous designs that Wren produced for these offices, the administrative reforms that he introduced into all of them, and the identities and roles played by the draftsmen, officers, and craftsmen that he employed. In all, we will demonstrate that we cannot in any way understand Wren, his architecture, and his legacy, without fully understanding his professional world.

St Paul's Cathedral, London (Photo by Deans)
Pembroke Chapel, Cambridge (Photo by Deans)


A full programme will be listed here in 2023.

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Anthony Geraghty (University of York)
  • Gordon Higgott (Independent Scholar)
  • Martin Kemp (University of Oxford)
  • Christine Casey (Trinity College Dublin)
  • James Campbell (University of Cambridge)
  • Matthew Walker (Queen Mary, University of London)
  • Richard Hewlings (Independent Scholar)
  • Elizabeth Deans (University of Cambridge) 
  • Charlotte Davis (University of York)
  • Yelda Nasifoglu (University of Oxford)


The opening address will be delivered by Professor Anthony Geraghty

The closing address on ‘Wren, a Life in Letters’ will be delivered by Dr Matthew Walker

Greenwich Royal Hospital, London (Photo by Deans)


The conference will include an exhibition of architectural drawings in honour of Sir Christopher Wren. It will prominently feature the work of Luka Pajovic (CSCA PhD student), whose drawing can be seen below, as well as select works made by our 2023 Summer School cohort.

Luka Pajovic, 'St Stephen Walbrook', 2022, walnut ink over pencil on paper.


Registration to attend will open on 1 March 2023 on eventbrite.

General registration:     £35

Student registration:     £25

The cost of registration includes entrance to conference and exhibition, coffee, tea, and refreshments during session breaks, a light buffet lunch, and champagne reception at the end of the day.

Practical details


If you are staying overnight in Cambridge and require hotel accommodation, we recommend the University Arms, located directly across Regent Street from Downing College as well as the Ibis Hotel at the Cambridge Rail Station, which is about a 15-minute walk to Downing College. Please kindly note that the conference is not holding rooms for attendees.


If you are planning on arriving in Cambridge by car, there are public parking facilities available in Cambridge. Click here for more information. Please note that unless you are a member of Downing College, no parking is available on site. 

This conference is part of the WREN | 300 celebrations. More information can be found here: