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City of London Churches

City of London Churches


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Published by corinne mills
The following pages are a series of written by Mark McManus about some of his favourite churches in the City of London
The following pages are a series of written by Mark McManus about some of his favourite churches in the City of London

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Published by: corinne mills on Mar 24, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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The Knights Templar were an order of warrior monks who were founded in Jerusalem following
the First Crusade, their headquarters on the site of Solomon's Temple. They built smaller
Temples in many of Europe's capital cities, their original London site being at High Holborn. As
the Order expanded, they moved to a new site between the Thames and Fleet Street. The Church
of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem was a circular building raised over the supposed site of
Christs's tomb, and Templar churches followed this design. The London church was consecrated
in 1185 by Heraclius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, in the presence of King Henry II. The Marshal
family, Earls of Pembroke, were benefactors and several generations were buried in the church,
including the 1st Earl who was instrumental in the negotiations that led to Magna Carta. Another
effigy visible is that of the East Anglian magnate, Geoffrey de Mandeville.

Henry III favoured the Templars and decided that his mausoleum would be at the church. A large
choir was built for this purpose, and consecrated inHenry's presence on Ascension Day 1240.
However, upon the King's death in 1272, it was discovered that he had changed his Will, and he
was consequently interred at Westminster Abbey.

In 1307, after machinations between the Pope and Philip IV of France, the Knights Templar were
suppressed. Edward II took control of the church and gave it to that other crusading Order, the
Knights Hospitaller. In turn, the Hospitallers rented the Temple to a pair of lawyer colleges who
needed a base in London. Later becoming known as the Inner and Middle Temple, these groups
use the church as their chapel to this day. The Hospitallers, in turn, were abolished by Henry VIII
and the building became a 'royal peculiar', i.e. a church under direct control of the monarch. The
King himself appointed a priest, who was known as 'Master of the Temple'.

In 1585, the second Master died and his deputy Walter Travers was passed over for promotion
because of his Calvinist views. Richard Hooker of Exeter College Oxford was appointed instead,
but the aggrieved Travers had his day: Hooker would preach on Sunday mornings and Travers
would contradict him in the afternoon sermon! This became known as the 'Battle of the Pulpit'.

In 1608, James I granted a Royal Charter to the two Inns of Court, giving them perpetual use of
the Temple so long as they kept up its maintenance; this Charter is still in force today. The jurist,
antiquarian and legal writer John Selden, whose library occupies the 'Selden End' of the Bodleian
Library, was buried in the church in 1654.

Although it escaped the Great Fire, the church was restored by Wren who also designed the
reredos. An organ was installed for the first time and, between 1729 and 1814, both Inns of Court
appointed their own organists who played on alternate Sundays. An 1841 restoration by Smirke
and Burton saw the building being decorated in Victorian Gothic style, Wren's reredos being
removed and a singing choir of men and boys introduced. The round church received a
'pepperpot' roof.
Incendiary bombs wrought havoc on 10th May 1941, destroying all the wood in the church.
Restoration by Walter and Emil Godfrey was slow, the choir rededicated in 1954 and the round
church in 1958. By good fortune, the Wren reredos - removed over a century before - was able to
be restored to the church after spending the intervening years in a museum in County Durham.

Temple Church can be reached from an alley leading from Fleet Street, opposite the lantern-
towered church of St Dunstan In The West and below Prince Henry's Room, currently in use as a
Samuel Pepys museum. The alley opens into an open plaza, surrounded by the buildings of the
Inns of Court, towering over the church. The churchyard is paved but still contains a handful of
Crusader tombs and, in a quiet corner, a tomb bearing the simple epitaph 'Here lies Oliver
Goldsmith'. A friend of Samuel Johnson and part of the same intellectual circle, Goldsmith was a
poet (The Deserted Village), a novelist (The Vicar of Wakefield) and a playwright (She Stoops
To Conquer). The nearby barristers' Chambers called Goldsmith Building boasts, at its entrance,
a list of tenants including one 'Horace Rumpole'. On the other side of the church, in the plaza, is
a column topped by a model of two knights sharing a horse - the symbol of the Knights Templar.

Visitors enter the church through the south door, with the round church to the left and the large
choir to the right. Easily missed, next to the Visitor Desk, is a glass panel in the floor, protecting
and displaying the sunken gravestone of Selden.
The round church resembles a Chapter House, with alcoves and a seating mantle. Between the
alcoves can be found humorous gargoyles, and above is a triforium. The medieval effigies, most
with the crossed legs that signify their Crusader status, were laid out here during the 1841
The dark marble of the church's columns contrast pleasantly with the lighter hues of the walls
and the fan-vaulted ceiling. Pews and pupit are plain, but the stained glass windows above
Wren's reredos are a riot of colour, and are flanked by similar windows. As well as religious
symbolism, the windows also contain plenty of Templar references: the two needy knights
sharing a horse; images of Pegasus (whose inclusion alludes to a manuscript in which the former
symbol was misinterpreted as the winged horse of Greek legend); a portarayal of the church,
complete with the pepperpot roof not restored after 1941; images of Crusaders with the motto
'Beausean'. The window was a 1954 gift from the Glazier's Company, and was designed by Carl
Two intriguing effigies can be found in the choir. The first is the ornate effigy of Edmund
Plowden, a benefactor of the Middle Temple described as having 'great gravity, knowledge and
integrity'. The other effigy is that of an unknown bishop, traditionally that of Heraclius, but more
probably a Bishop of Carlisle who died while visiting.

Today the church is popular with visitors, due to its history, architecture, and more recently its
brief inclusion in Dan Brown's popular conspiracy novel 'The Da Vinci Code'. The strong
connection with the legal industry remains, and members of the Inns of Court continue to wed in
the church and have their children baptised there. As a comparison to another well-known
Templar site, this is no Rosslyn, but enough exists to intrigue the casual visitor or conspiracy

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