Temple Church

Fourth time lucky. London’s Temple Church is one of the most famous in the capital, connected as it is to the enigmatic and fascinating Knights Templar. Previous attempts to visit saw me arriving just after closure, or at the commencement of some concert, or on a day it was not planned to open. Unusually for a London church, it charges an entry fee. Unusually for me, I was prepared to pay it.

Much of what remains is inauthentic. German bombs caused much of it to be rebuilt in the 1950s, and the Victorians destroyed some medieval features in order to replace them with things that looked more medieval- such as the leering grotesques that line the nave, above. Despite all the carnage, genuine knightly effigies occupy the central floorspace, impassively returning the gazes of those who pay to view them.

The round part of the church, once the nave but now something of a narthex, is the most interesting section. It was probably the first gothic building in England but it was modelled on Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre as well as the Islamic Dome of the Rock, which the victorious Templars had converted to their headquarters during their occupation of that city. Their churches around Europe were smaller versions of this, all with rounded naves. So as the tourist information boards gleefully reports, this building was ‘England’s Jerusalem since 1163’.

I have been to real Jerusalem the once, and loved it, though I care not for its violence and constant state of readiness for attacks, riots, invasion and general discord. Yet there is a New Jerusalem planned, modelled on the old city of David, in which God dwelt with His servant king. The Temple Church did not particularly remind me of Jerusalem, though any returned crusaders would have doubtless better seen the comparisons. Yet I long for Jerusalem, the city of peace; I long to be where the King reigns visibly and absolutely. If the builders of London’s Temple longed for a token of Zion by the Thames, how much more should we long for the Jerusalem above, to which we are heading?

The exiles swore:

If I forget you, O Jerusalem,

Let my right hand forget its skill!

If I do not remember you,

Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth—

If I do not exalt Jerusalem

Above my chief joy.

Psalm 137, vv5-6, NKJV