Archaeology Magazine Archive

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Inigo Jones' Lost Portico Volume 50 Number 2, March/April 1997
by Norman Hammond

More than 70 carved stones from the western portico of London's Old St. Paul's Cathedral have been found beneath the present cathedral, according to John Schofield, head of archaeology for the Museum of London. The portico was built during the 1630s by Inigo Jones (1573-1652), the father of English classical architecture, as part of a remodeling of the medieval cathedral. The entire structure was badly damaged during the English civil war (1642-1648) and again in the Great Fire of London (1666). Between 1675 and 1710 it was replaced by the current St. Paul's, designed by Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723), who reused blocks from the portico in his foundations.

Jones' makeover of the medieval building included covering the outside with a layer of limestone masonry in the classical style and adding a portico with ten columns capped by a frieze and architrave with statues along the top. This design combined details of the second-century A.D. Temple of Antoninus and Faustina in Rome with a reconstruction of the Temple of Venus and Rome (built ca. A.D. 121-135), also in Rome, by the Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio (1508-1580). Parts of the portico's fluted Corinthian columns have now been found; their dimensions suggest that the columns originally stood 56 feet tall. A computer reconstruction of Jones' remodeling is being planned.

Inigo Jones was court artist to James I (ruled 1603-1625)--for whom he investigated Stonehenge, pronouncing it a Roman temple--and Charles I (ruled 1625-1649). Only seven of his 45 recorded buildings survive, including the Banqueting House in London's Whitehall palace and the Queen's House at Greenwich. The present find was made during redevelopment of the crypt for a visitors' center, which involved tunnelling under the southwestern tower of Wren's building.

© 1997 by the Archaeological Institute of America