Temple Church review
If Indiana Jones ever comes to London on a two-day break, then Temple Church is the first place he'll go. But first of all you have to find it... and that is almost an adventure in itself. You can't see Temple Church from the street, so what you have to do is find the big black wooden gate and follow someone else inside. (It's just past the Temple Bar monument, opposite Chancery Lane.) I guarantee that you'll fidget about outside for five minutes wondering whether you've got the right place, because it's one of those stable-sized doors that looks totally out of bounds to the public. Most of the people who step inside are suited up lawyers and solicitors from the Royal Courts of Justice over the road, because the Temple area is where they have all their chambers. So just hide behind one of those guys and you'll be fine. Through the gate you'll find an atmospheric little lane with some spindly little trees at the end, and behind those is the Round Tower of Temple Church -- the original home of the Knights Templar.
You'd never know it from the outside, but large parts of this church are practically new. The Round Tower dates back to the 1180s, and the chancel was added by Henry III sixty years later, but it's all been remodelled, burnt down and bombed over the centuries. The Victorians had a big fiddle with it in the 1860s, and totally messed up the roof by sticking a big cone on top (straight on top of the Round Tower!). Hitler obviously didn't like it either, because he sent the Luftwaffe along to knock it down in 1941 -- the only bombing raid that ever improved London.
When you get inside you'll see that they've done rather a good job on the restoration, but it's a bit too good for my taste -- I like London's churches to be dark and dirty, and there's too much sunshine in here. You can't beg for forgiveness with a shaft of warm sunshine on your face. You have to do it in the dark.
They've got the organ playing at the moment, whilst I'm writing this, and I can't see a single soul up there. The sound is coming out of the balcony and there's nobody sitting on the seat -- very spooky. Ten minutes later the church is filled with choral voices and an orchestral choir -- and it's just me and a few tourists sitting in the pews. The empty space makes it sounds really deep and thick and I don't know how to describe it. If you could condense all the notes into a gas-lamp fog then we'd be sitting in the middle of it.
The objects that everybody comes to see are found lying on the floor of the Round Tower -- eight stone Knights. They are just kipping there, fast asleep, still wearing their pyjamas of armour. These guys have gone to bed with their swords and shields and chainmail nighties. It would be fantastic if they were still in situ, but, alas, this church has been remodelled so many times over the years that they are no longer in the same place. So don't go digging underneath because all you'll find is stone. They were definitely interred somewhere around the Round Tower, alongside their contemporary king, Henry III, who was later moved to Westminster Abbey. All eight of them look amazingly old -- Geoffrey de Mandeville is dated 1144. William Marshall died in 1231, and Sir Gilbert is a mere youngster -- he didn't die until 1242.
If you're lucky then they'll let you into the balcony that runs around the rim of the Round Tower (they don't always have the spiral staircase open, though, so cross your fingers). It provides you with a great view down onto the slumbering knights.
Gert – Great description of Temple Church. Manny Thanks to the writer.
I’ve been here before…
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