The ‘romanitas’ of Wren’s Sheldonian Theatre: An Alternative Reading

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9 Nov 2023
Senate House, London and online, 6.30pm


It has long been recognised that Wren took inspiration for his Sheldonian from the theatres of ancient Rome, but at the same time the details of this relationship have been much debated, so that the most recent accounts have tended to downplay the connection. This seminar attempts to redress
the balance and demonstrate that Wren was even more influenced by his understanding of the Roman world – and not just Roman theatres – than has been previously thought. It reassesses some key questions: why would Wren have chosen the ancient Roman theatre as a model or inspiration for
his design? What did he understand about Roman theatres and what were his sources? How did he use them and what else did he use? The key to this reading is to recognise the importance of Wren as a Latin scholar and admirer of the Roman emperor Augustus, to many of Wren’s circle a role model for the newly restored monarch Charles II.

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