Temple Church

The Temple at the gate of the City [of London] lies in the historic Square Mile but is not of it. As the City belongs to itself, like a kingdom within a kingdom, so it is with the Temple, the sanctuary of the legal world. It owns the land it stands on, it governs itself, it gives the police no trouble, and it allows us all to enjoy its beautiful domain.

It was the home of the Templars who formed themselves into an Order of Chivalry 800 years ago to guard the Holy Tomb and protect the pilgrims. It was granted to the knights of St John in 1324, and in turn they left it to the lawyers, who hold it in perpetuity. It is now the home of two Inns, Inner and Middle Temple, the rough dividing line being Middle Temple Lane, which runs from Fleet Street to the Thames Embankment. The Inner Temple Gateway stands close by and leads us to the famous church.

Temple churchExcept for St. Bartholomew’s and St John’s in the Tower, Temple Church is the oldest in London, the finest of the five round churches left in England from the days of the Crusaders, who built them in the style of the church they loved in Jerusalem, the Holy Sepulchre. Only a few steps from Fleet Street, this little round church has looked much as it is since the day it was consecrated by Heraclius, Patriarch of Jerusalem [in 1185]. Half a century more and the choir [Chancel] was added to the nave (the Oblong to the Round), and through all the changing centuries these walls have stood while all around has changed.

The porch has been refashioned and has one round and two pointed arches, but the doorway within it is a gem of Norman building, with a fine array of recessed shafts and mouldings and the flower of Norman ornament is in its lovely decoration… In it hangs a massive door about 400 years old, covered with scrolled hinges and ironwork ornament; it swings to our touch yet weighs two tons and a half, and is opened by a key which weighs five pounds.

Round church Cambridge-2

Round church at Cambridge

It opens on to a forest of clustered columns and an arcade of pointed arches circling round us in the nave……. The mosaic of red and blue glass shining in the triple east window is a delightful vista from the west doorway.

A small Norman doorway leads to a stairway at the top of which is a tiny cell in the thickness of the wall, four feet long and under three feet wide, lit by two slits in the stone. It is said to have been a place for solitary confinement in the days when the Templars were extremely strict. Here refractory brothers were confined in chains and fetters, and it is said that Brother Walter le Batcheler, who bore the standard for King Richard into Jerusalem, was here starved to death for disobedience to the Master of the Temple. [The crime was embezzlement and the year was 1301].

But it is on the floor of the Round that the eye of every visitor falls. Here lies an impressive array of Templars [in stone], perhaps the best preserved collection anywhere. Most of them wear chain mail and coats, with shields and swords, as on their crusades.

Under the floor are the remains of a 13th century chapel.
‘London’, Arthur Mee. Hodder & Stoughton, 1937.

Round church-3

Little Maplestead Church in Essex, one of four medieval English round churches still in use today. The fourth is in Northampton.

London’s Temple Church was badly damaged by fire during World War II and its restoration lasted until 1958. The conical roof seen in the first postcard above was a Victorian addition and was not replaced.

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Bristol Cathedral

Taken from a pocket guidebook, ‘Notes on the Cathedral’. No date or author credited but published between 1900 and 1911.

Bristol was one of the sees founded by Henry VIII, and like Oxford the Cathedral was originally the church of an Augustinian monastery. This monastery was founded in 1142 by Robert Fitzharding, afterwards Lord Berkeley.

Vintage postcard of Bristol Cathedral and College Green.

Fitzharding in 1155, by a charter which is still preserved in Berkeley Castle, received from Henry II the forfeited estate of Roger de Berkeley, and was thus enabled to complete the building with considerable elaboration. Fitzharding became a Canon of his own monastery, and died there in 1170. His descendants, the Barons of Berkeley, were great benefactors of the monastery, and many of them lie buried in the Cathedral.

Bristol Cathedral vertUnder Abbot Knowle the greater part of the church was rebuilt (1306 – 1332). This Abbot refused to receive the body of the murdered Edward II which consequently was taken for burial to Gloucester. The king’s tomb became a place of pilgrimage, and the offerings there made enabled the monks to adorn the church [at Gloucester] with exceptional magnificence. In 1538 the monastery was dissolved; four years later the church became the Cathedral of the new diocese of Bristol. So it continued until 1836 when it was united to Gloucester, and in 1884 was again made an independent see by Mr. Gladstone subject to the bishop’s income (£3,000) being raised. This was accomplished in 1897.

The most stirring event in connexion with the see was the riot of 1831. On Sunday Oct. 30 the trouble began by the entrance into the city of Sir Charles Wetherell, the Recorder, an opponent of the Reform Bill. The palace of the Bishop, who had voted against the Bill, was fired and destroyed, the cathedral itself being saved by the courage of the sub-sacrist, William Phillips.
Publishers – Swan Sonnenschein & Co., Ltd. with The Photochrom Co., Ltd.

Bristol Cathedral green