From die-hard Da Vinci Code fans, to religious history buffs or even Magna Carta fanatics, Temple Church is a London landmark that attracts visitors from all walks of life.
The origins of the church date back to the 12th century (which makes it one of the oldest churches in London), and was built for and by the Knights Templar to serve as their English headquarters. It was officially opened on February 10th, 1185, and it is believed that Henry II was present for its opening as well.
During this time, the Knights Templar were extremely powerful in England, and they used the church to protect pilgrims as they made their way to and from Jerusalem during the 12th century. The Knights Templar often held worship services in “The Round,” which is believed to be the oldest section of the church.
The Magna Carta was signed at the Temple in 1215, and in William Shakespeare’s play Henry VI, the church served as the scene for the start of the War of the Roses; (and as a result, hundreds of white and red roses were planted in the church’s gardens in 2002). Most recently, the Temple Church served as a key location for Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code, and the Temple Church was featured in the film as well.
The Temple Church is a perfect example of Gothic-Romanesque architecture at its finest, and was constructed from cream-coloured Caen stone. But most importantly, the roundness of the building was constructed in a way to represent The Church Of The Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, where Jesus is believed to be buried. It is also known to be one of only three existing Norman round churches which still exist in England today.
The church building contains two separate sections: one being the “Round Church” (known to be the original nave section), and the other being the “Chancel,” which was built about half a century later. The Inner Temple and Middle Temple sections each have their own courts, halls, gardens and library collections, but the original church compound contained military training facilities, residences for kings and legates of the Pope, recreational grounds, and even an early depository bank.
The walls and ceiling of the church were renovated in Victorian Gothic style in 1841 after the designers decided to decorate the walls and ceilings in order to bring back the church’s original appearance.
Miraculously, the church wasn't damaged during the Great Fire of London in 1666, however, it was badly damaged during World War II by German air raids. Because of this, the roof of the Round Church, the nave and the chancel caught fire. Furthermore, all of the original wooden parts of the church (as well as the Victorian renovations) were destroyed; however, the church was almost completely restored after the war.
Temple Church Highlights
From gardens and libraries, to chorus performances and even organ recitals, every nook and cranny of the Temple Church is begging to be explored. But of all of the attractions located inside the Temple Church, none are as hauntingly popular as the stone effigies of the Knights Templar.
The nine life-sized marble effigies are laid out on the ground of the Round Church (which can be accessed through the church's south door), and some of the tombs are believed to be those of the Knights Templar; (however this is highly disputed). The effigies don't contain any bodies within the tombs, but were believed to have been placed there to memorialize the Knights Templar.
There is also an interesting Magna Carta exhibition inside the church, and depending on when you visit, the church may also be hosting a choral music performance or organ recital, during which the choir broadcasts their performances to the public.
- Due to the fact that the Temple Church is located behind closed doors and gates, its entrance may be difficult to find. If worst comes to worst look for another visitor who may be exiting or entering the church.
- If you luck out, you may be able to listen to the church organ during your visit.
- If you have some time, try and take a stroll around the area surrounding the church to view some magnificent architecture and stunning gardens. Also, be sure to check out Oliver Goldsmith's burial spot, which is located just beside the church.