The Temple Church is one of London’s oldest, dating from 1185. Henry II is believed to have been at the consecration. The original building – the Nave – is circular, the favoured design in contemporary Templar churches throughout Europe, following the Temple in Jerusalem. The main section – the Chancel – was added in the mid 13C.
When in 1307 the Knights Templar were suppressed throughout Europe by the French Avignon Pope Clement V, egged on by King Louis IV, all their property passed on to the Hospitallers. In England, these in turn passed to the Crown when Henry VIII suppressed the monasteries. In 1608, James I handed the area over to lawyers of the Inner and Middle Temples with the proviso that they take responsibility for the Temple Church, a situation which remains to this day. One would imagine this is the reason that it is the Authorised Version which sits on every pew, but one would like to think that good taste came into it too.
The lawyers have done a great job of keeping this church in impeccable condition. On the floor of the old nave we have eight stone monuments of medieval knights. On the north side of the Chancel is a wonderful modern pipe organ (the original 17C organ was destroyed in the Blitz) on which yesterday the organist was practising, belting out a rousing rendition of “Holy, holy, holy…”, among other old favourites. It may have dislodged tiles off a lesser church.
The Temple Church is based right in the middle of the Inner and Middle Temple district, immediately south of Temple Bar where Westminster and the City of London meet. It is open to the public for a few hours three or four times a week, but at irregular times, which can make planning a visit difficult (this was my third attempt). Entry is free for just another two days, for on 1 March a £3 entrance charge is being introduced. A sign of the times, but still worth it.