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Who was the greatest cultural leader in history? Why do you think so?
After the Great Fire of London in 1666 there were swathes of land in the City of London west of Pudding Lane (where it started and got blown out of control by an easterly wind).
The Lord Mayor (a Yorkshireman by the name of Sir William Turner, from Kirkleatham Hall) and the aldermen (City dignitaries) were in a dilemma. There were all these survivors and no churches for them to go to to thank their maker for surviving both the Plague AND the fire. They were forced to live in tents around the Inns of Court at the City's edge. And, (the big AND) the City had lost its cathedral, Saint Paul's.
Enter a reasonably well-known architect by the name of Christopher Wren (he wasn't knighted then yet).
Look for all these City churches on Wikipedia as far west as St Clement Danes on the Strand and Bride's (short for Bridget) behind Bridge Street and Fleet Street. They look like wedding cakes, really, but the Lord Mayor and his aldermen were happy. Plans were also submitted by Wren for the re-drawing of the City's streets, but they were rejected on the grounds that they had little to do with property boundaries. The big test was designing St Paul's. His original was in the shape of a Greek cross, each side of equal length, but that wasn't on. There had to be a compromise between that an the Gothic idea of the 'long (Roman) cross'. The design was given a 'tweak' or two as it went to and fro from the planning committee back to Christopher and back again...
Still, what you have is the 'perfect English classical church' at the top of Ludgate Hill, backing on to Watling Street and Cheapside in the east. Asked why there wasn't a memorial to Wren, a tourist was pointed by one of the canons to the plaque on Wren's tomb that tells:
'Reader, if you seek his monument, look around you'.
Personally I will advocate for King Alfred the Great of England as deserving of such a title. It was during his reign, and mostly because of his influence that language and literature took such a leap in the 10th century. Latin had been falling into such disuse and many people were not speaking Latin unless they had been educated in and for the church; even then it was slowly disintegrating. Anglo-Saxon had been becoming the language of the people.
King Alfred may have likely been responsible for translating many Latin works into Anglo-Saxon himself, but even if he was not the one to do such work, he was the one who commissioned it. It is also during his time that the epics Beowulf and Dream of the Rood, among a plethora of other Anglo-Saxon poetry, were believed to have been written down, even if they were composed prior to Alfred's reign.
Charlemagne, in Gaul, also pushed a similar movement of learning. I think there is something to be said when such kings placed so much importance on learning and knowledge.
There was no 'Anglo-Saxon' in Aelfred's Wessex. Writing was in an idealised form of the Saxon tongue, speech in the vernacular. The Angles had their own tongue, overlaid with Danish in the east. 'English' came about much later, and then only written.
Regardless of the dialect, of which I realize there were multitudes, a common vernacular was slowly developing in this time period, and Alfred was still responsible for much of the translation of works from Latin.
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