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Temple Church
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Quick Facts on the Temple Church

Short URL
Temple Church Temple Church, London
Inner Temple Lane, King's Bench Walk LondonEC4
City of London  district
London  city
England  country
United Kingdom  country
Europe  continent
Main date(s)
51.513186° N, 0.110442° W
Opening hours
Varies by season and day - see official website for schedule.
Usual summer hours: Wed 1-4; Thu-Sat and Sat 11-12 and 1-4; Sun 1-4
Free; donations appreciated.

Historical Timeline of the Temple Church

10 February 1185
The Temple Church in London is consecrated in a ceremony conducted by Heraclius, Crusader Patriarch of Jerusalem. King Henry II may have been present. The Knights Templar is very powerful in England in this period. The Master of the Temple sits in parliament as the "first baron of the realm" and the Temple compound is regularly used as a residence by kings and by legates of the Pope.
The Temple Church is the scene of important negotiations leading to the signing of Magna Carta.
A newly enlarged chancel is consecrated on Ascension Day. The enlargement is primarily intended to provide a suitable resting place for King Henry III, who had indicated a wish to be buried in the Temple Church.
In Shakespeare's play Henry VI, the War of the Roses is sparked by the plucking of two roses in the Temple Church garden.
The Temple Church survives the Great Fire of London unscathed.
The walls and ceiling of the church are renovated in the Victorian Gothic style.
November 1958
The Temple Church is rededicated after being fully restored.

Description of the Temple Church

The Temple Church is the main chapel of those who work in the Temple area. It also functions as an Anglican parish church, with regular worship services and choir performancesconducted here. The head of the church bears the title "Master of the Temple," after the head of the order of the Knights Templar.

One might expect the Temple Church to be dark and atmospheric, but later restorations have tamed its air of antique mystery. Still, it's a lovely medieval church, with an unusual round Norman nave and beautiful Gothic chancel. The church is made entirely of beautiful cream-colored Caen stone.

One of the most interesting aspects inside the Temple Church are the 10 knightly effigies that lie in the old round church. These were believed to be tombs until the post-WWII restoration revealed no bodies, but only effigy memorials.

All the knights are on their back, but are otherwise positioned in different ways: some have their legs extended straight out while others have their legs crossed; some wear tunics over their armor and others wear full-length robes; some clutch their swords, some pray, and some have their arms straight at their sides. One has no effigy at all, but only a trapezoidal sarcophagus lid.

Look also for the Norman door, and take note of the circle of grotesque portrait heads, including many silly human faces and a goat in a mortarboard. The use of gargoyles to express masons' imaginations and irreverence through gargoyle sculptures is common in churches, but it is unusual for them to be placed indoors. This allows you to examine each unique and fascinating face up close, instead of high up on a drain spout as is more usual.

The nave part of the church ("the Oblong") is lovely, featuring colorful stained glass windows, an impressive organ, and a beautiful wooden altar designed by famed architect Sir Christopher Wren. The altar was designed for the Temple Church, but was mercifully in a museum in Durham when the Temple Church was nearly destroyed in 1944. It has now been restored to its intended position, where visitors can admire the woodwork and read the Ten Commandments, the Apostles' Creed and the Lord's Prayer in handsome gold script.

Holly Hayes
October 14, 2011

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