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Temple Church
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Temple Church

Amidst the lanes and courtyards of the Inner and Middle Temple, between Fleet Street and the Thames, there is a historical gem: the Temple Church, a rare surviving example of a Norman round church, which was consecrated by Heraclius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, in 1185. It also possesses a distinguished Early English chancel, which is an even more exceptional survival for central London, and it has an interesting collection of mediaeval effigies. The church serves the lawyers of the Middle and Inner Temple, the remote successors of the Knights Templar, whose order was founded to protect pilgrims in the Holy Land. The capture of Jerusalem in the First Crusade led to a vogue for round churches in imitation of the Holy Sepulchre, and Temple Church is one of just four such buildings still in use in England.





Temple Church

This distinguished Early English aisled chancel was consecrated in 1240 as a new east arm to the round nave.


The round nave is the surviving part of the church of 1185. Its east arm was replaced in the 13th century by a longer aisled chancel. The aisles are as tall as the chancel proper, producing an east end of three equal gables, reminiscent of Cornish churches. The new aisled chancel was consecrated in 1240. The whole has been much restored. The west doorway is round-headed, with three main orders of shafts and much elaborate carving. All seems Norman, albeit late Norman. The porch, however, is rib-vaulted. This is the first instance to be noticed here of two different styles being used in the 12th-century work.

Temple Church

Heraclius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, consecrated this round church for the Knights Templar in 1185.


The round itself is 18 metres (59 feet) in diameter and is divided into a nave and an ambulatory by a ring of six piers. The piers consist of four Purbeck marble shafts, two larger and two smaller, with shaft-rings. They have waterleaf capitals for the most part and support pointed arches. The ambulatory is rib-vaulted and has blank pointed arcading, but the windows are round-headed. The triforium has intersecting blind arches, a usual Norman feature. The chancel and its aisles are rib-vaulted and have triplets of lancets throughout, the middle lancet taller in each case.

Temple Church

The elaborately carved west doorway of the Norman round nave.


Temple Church

Effigies facing the font, on the south side of the round, include those of the family of William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke. Gilbert, fourth Earl, lies in the foreground.


The east end focuses on a pedimented reredos of 1682, which was carved by William Emmett. The stained glass in the east windows above, consisting of historical and heraldic subjects in roundels, is by Carl Edwards, 1957-8. Between the chancel and the nave there are the monuments to Edmund Plowden (died 1584), Treasurer of the Middle Temple, with a recumbent effigy under a coffered arch; and to Richard Martin (died 1618), Recorder of London, who kneels at a prayer-desk, also under an arch. To the west, there are the famous Purbeck effigies from the 13th century, representing lay supporters of the Templars. The one labelled as Robert de Ros is the best preserved. The rest, all heavily restored, include such prominent figures of history as Geoffrey de Mandeville and William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke.

Temple Church

The Norman round nave is one of only four still in use in England, and it shelters several 13th-century Purbeck marble effigies of lay supporters of the Knights Templar.



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