King Henry II, gifted land close to the River Thames to the Order of the Knights Templar, to build their spiritual headquarters. Located in the heart of the city, in a secluded area consisting of buildings, courtyards and parks, with engraved tombstones, dedicated to the dead.
Its early design of 1185, was to replicate the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, upon which Jesus died, was buried and rose from the dead.
New recruits to the order, entered by way of the west door at dawn, and the door locked behind them, their old life gone forever.
They would pass between statues upon the floor, before taking their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Once accepted by the order, they would be knights and servants to the Templars, to God, for the duration of their life.
The West door, the original entrance to the church, with its porch decorated with images of the Green Man, along with other esoteric symbols.
As you entered, you were welcomed by free standing Purbeck Columns, above them the curved gothic arches, rising up to the drum.
A chancel running to the east, along which the Patriach’s procession would come to rest; for Mass. There an altar stood in all its glory.
On the south side of the building, a courtyard dedicated to the Knights Templar. Two knights riding on one horse, an image much associated with the order.
The circular nave was built in 1185, and consecrated by the Patriarch of Jerusalem; Heraclius in 1185.
The porch was added in 1195, the Chapel of St.Anne along with the Crypt in 1220, and Chancel in 1240, consecrated on Ascension Day 1240, in the presence of the King.
At the west end of the chancel, images displayed; King Stephen, King Henry II, King Richard I, and King John. The windows at the east end of the south aisle depict King Henry II. The towers east window depicts; Mark as a lion, Luke as an ox and John as an eagle.
Located within the church, are the effigies of leading Knights Templar’s:
William Marshal, the Earl of Pembroke, who died in 1219, and was adviser to King John and acted as Regent to Henry III, along with his two sons.
These figures are frozen in stone, in defence of their father. To be buried in this way, was as if one had been buried in Jerusalem. Many others lie in the church, including Geoffrey de Mandeville and William de Ros.
Chambers located below ground, housed their wealth, which also held those of Kings and Queens, even our own Crown Jewels.
The Templars created a financial role in England, the beginning of a hub, which would last for centuries. Black and white squares, depicted a visual key indicating the movement of finances.
The Templars had close relationships with the English crown, which led to their participation, in historical events. The murder of Thomas Becket, the Knights who committed the act, paid penance in the Holy Land, and their King paid penance to Thomas Becket and the sword was displayed in Temple Church.
In 1381, rebels stormed the building, during the Peasants Revolt, seeking out Sir Robert Hales, Master of the Hospitaller’s, they caught up with him at the Tower of London, hacked off his head, and spiked it on Westminster Bridge.
It became home to two colleges of lawyers: referred to as Inner and Middle Temple.
In 1540 King Henry VIII abolished the Order of the Hospitallers, confiscated their property, and in later years gave it to the Master of the Temple.
In 1585, Richard Alvey, Master of the Temple died. His natural successor Walter Travers, was passed over and Richard Hooker was appointed, from Exeter College, Oxford by order of Queen Elizabeth I.
Richard Hooker preached on Sunday mornings, and Walter Towers contradicted his sermon in the afternoon.
In 1666, Temple Church survived the Great Fire of London, yet was re-designed by Christopher Wren, with additions of buttresses and battlements in 1682.
An organ was introduced, but this was to prove much controversary between the two Inns. Each wanting a different organ, the final decision was made by Judge Jeffrey’s the then Lord Chancellor. The Father Smith organ was installed, and each Inn appointed their own organist, each playing on alternate Sundays… Honour had been satisfied and peace flowed. The organ remained in use, until its destruction during the Second World War.
Come the end of the 16th century, the two Inns had built many additional builds, yet they were nothing more than tenants. They petitioned King James I and on the 13th August 1608, they were granted a Royal Charter, use of the Temple indefinitely.
In 1841, walls and ceilings were decorated in a Victorian gothic style.
On the 10th May 1941, an incendiary bomb destroyed some of the building and alterations that had been built over the last six hundred years. Restoration started in 1954 and rededicated in 1958.