Tuesday, 20 August 2013

The Temple Church

Another wonderful thing about London is the way that you can step from a busy main road thronged with people straight into a quiet green space. The Inns of Court are a beautiful oasis of calm in the middle of the city, and it's all the more remarkable when you see the damage that was done to the area in the Blitz.
We were going to the Temple Church, originally built as a round church by the Knights Templar, to mimic the Temple at Jerusalem. Later, it became the church of the lawyers, and the round church was extended eastwards to make a large, light and very beautiful building. Again, it's all the more remarkable when you see the destruction caused by German bombing. My Young Man was most impressed at the way one of the arches had survived despite a big crack in it.
The tombs of the knights buried there were pretty knocked about though. We had actually gone to the church to visit William Marshal, probably the greatest knight in Christendom of his age, who started off life as a younger son, was almost killed as a hostage of King Stephen when he was five years old, and yet rose to become a champion of the European jousting circuit and later Earl of Pembroke. He was also the first person who was not a king or a saint to have his biography written, in the form of an epic poem, which is why we know so much about his life and times now. Two of his sons also have their tombs in the church, and over on the other side of the dome is Geoffrey de Mandeville (there were several Geoffrey de Mandevilles - I'm not sure which one this was, though I suspect him to be either the one who was active during the period of the Anarchy or one of his sons).

The glass things appear to be candle holders, and each one has the name of a different medieval saint etched down its length.

The church also has a rather magnificent Romanesque archway over the West door, which is protected by a porch.

One thing that I wondered about, and the volunteer at the church couldn't tell me anything about it, was the winged horse that is used as the symbol for the Inner Temple. Why a pegasus? The Middle Temple has a lamb and flag, the symbol of St John the Baptist, which is sort of understandable for a body that was formed in medieval times, but the pegasus comes from Classical mythology and doesn't, at first glance, seem to have any connection with the practice of law, or with the Knights Templar.

No comments:

Post a Comment