Model for the High Altar

Sir Christopher Wren1693/1697

St. Paul's Cathedral

St. Paul's Cathedral

When the Choir was opened in 1697 the apse was furnished with a simple communion table and an elaborate wrought-iron altar-rail. it was also distinguished from the rest of the interior by a certain amount of bright colouring, marbling and gilding. According to Wren's son this arrangement was temporary, ans his father designed a more elaborate frame to stand behind the communion table. Difficultly in finding marble to his specification delayed progress, presumably until the idea, as an item of considerable extra expense, had fallen out of favour.

This damaged model is the only hard evidence of this design, since none of the surviving drawings fora free-standing canopy have any connection with St Paul's. Inspection of the back of the model shows that it was to stand against the wall, the clear glass of the central east window shining through it.

Spinal columns were associated in the Renaissance and Baroque periods with the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. In St Peter's in Rome there are about a dozen small columns of this sort that were formerly believed to have come from the Temple, and they were the basis of Berini's design for the free-standing canopy or baldacchino over the high alter in St Peter's. Such altar canopies were traditional in Roman churches; Berinini's design started a fashion not only for using them elsewhere, but for resting them on spiral columns.

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  • Title: Model for the High Altar
  • Creator: Sir Christopher Wren
  • Date Created: 1693/1697
  • Subject Keywords: 344