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Temple Church is one of the oldest buildings in London, dating back to 1185. It was built by the Knights Templar on the north shore of the Thames, on land granted by the King.
The Knights Templar were a group of military monks who famously fought in the Crusades, and may have based their design on the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Others claim that it is modelled on the Dome of the Rock. The Roman Catholic Patriarch of Jerusalem, a man called Heraclius, even came to London to consecrate the ground – in a service attended by Henry II.
The Knights were a famously secretive sect and had political power far and above their official status. Their official reason for being was to protect the pilgrims as they travelled to the Holy Land, but they soon sidelined out to grab the land back for the Christians.
Eventually the Templars fell foul of the Pope, and they were forcefully disbanded in 1312. The Temple grounds then passed to the Knights Hospitaller, who leased it to lawyers.
Henry VIII grabbed the land back himself in 1536 during his dissolution of the monasteries, but in 1609 James I offered the freehold to the Inner and Middle Temples (the modern-day Inns of Court).
The most famous room in Temple Church is the Rotunda, supported by columns of rare Purbeck marble, which house the remains of nine Templar Knights. These stone effigies can be seen lying on the floor still holding their swords and shields.
Initiation ceremonies were performed in the chapel and crypt, and the triangular choir was added in the mid 13th-century.
The turreted roof has been remodelled many times over the centuries, and is not how it looked originally.
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