Temple Church and the community of the Knights Templar in London
The Temple Church was consecrated in honour of the ‘Blessed Virgin Mary’ on 10 February 1185 by Heraclius, Patriarch of Jerusalem.
Temple Church, the Round Church, is the earliest Gothic building in England modelled on the circular Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The church and surrounding buildings were the London headquarters of the Knights Templar and hence it’s name.
Prior to the establishment of the Inns of Court being established, the Knights had based their community here. It is believed that King Henry II was present at the consecration of the church and that King Henry III favoured the Knights and wished to be buried in their church although he never was because on his death, it was revealed his will had been changed by him and he was buried at Westminster Abbey.
The choir of the church was pulled down and a far larger one built in its place as we can see it today. The new Choir was consecrated on Ascension Day 1240 in the presence of King Henry III
Inns of Court Developed from the Knights Templar
The Inns of Court developed from the work of the monks that made-up the community and order of the Knights Templar, the crusading or soldier monks.
The community relocated to Temple in about 1160 from a previous site in High Holborn, which was too small for their expanding community. It is believed that the Middle Temple and the remaining three Inns of Court were established by the middle of the 14th Century. The development of the Inn can be traced from the residence and occupation of the Knights Templar and the replacement of priestly lawyers by a lay profession in time. But more about the Inns of Court and Middle Temple later.
The Significance of the Round Table in Temple Chucrh
The Round is significant and central to the design of the church as it relates to the symbolism and beliefs that Jerusalem represented the centre of the world as can be seen on most Medieval maps and it was certainly the centre of the Crusader’s world. Templar’s built many of their churches in this Round design. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre that they relate to, is considered a sacred place for pilgrims to visit and the right to do so was defended to the death by the Knights Templar.
The Effigies of the Knights Templar
The most honored members of this order would be buried in the Round and these were the most powerful men of the period. The Effigies are more than funeral images, these knights’ eyes are open. All portrayed in their early 30’s,( the age at which Christ died and at which the dead will rise on his return, as was/is believed by Christians). These effigies are not memorials of what has long since been and gone. Their design speaks of the fervant belief of those that commissioned them.
These open eyed Knights are awaiting their calling, poised to rise to a future calling by their Christ.
William Marshall the Greatest Knight of them All
Even today people visit Temple Church from all over the world and in particular to view the effergy attributed to William Marshall one of the men who rose to power from humble beginnings and reportedly helped several Kings in the Plantagenet era maintain order and provided wise council from the noblest of Knights. The most contemporary and complete account comes from a commemorative poem written by his son some 7 years after his death. Marshall would marry into the Plantagenet line but would have no children by that marriage. For more about his exploits follow this period and the 12th/13th centuries in particular.
The White Robes & Red Crosses
By 1145 the Templars themselves wore white robes with red crosses and these were deeply symbolic. The Knights believed that when buried in the Round, the replica of Jerusalem they would be waiting for their call to life and to take arms in the last and most important battle in defence of Jerusalem which represented for them the most sacred place on earth. The white represented more than purity, taken from a reference in the Bible’s Book of Revelations ‘the martyrs of Christ are clad in white robes washed in the blood of the Lamb (Rev 7.14’), are those who will be called to life at the ‘first resurrection’.
The church has been altered and repaired over the centuries, suffering badly during World War 2, but the heart of the Round church, Temple Church remains.
The Templar Church London is steeped in history, these are just a few points of connections to consider, we will hope to make some further connections between the Church, the Templars, Crusades, kingship and the characters of the men that both as enobled knights and soldier monks. formed the community of the order that played a much reported and fabled role in the Crusades and British History.
The Church in London remains as a power symbol of all that the Knights Templar represented, here are some ways to further explore your interests and how they connect to your history:
- Go visit the Temple Church, find the location and details here
- Possible Templar Reading List ideas for further reading.
- Origins of the Knights Templar and more
- 19th century view of Temple Church and it’s Precinct