THE TEMPLE CHURCH

It is natural to turn from this story of the Templars to the Round
Church in the Temple, which is their chief memorial. We leave the roar
and rattle of Fleet Street, and pass through the low Gateway of the
Inner Temple into the narrow lane which leads us between the gross
modern buildings, called after Oliver Goldsmith and Dr. Johnson, to the
west end of the Church–the west end, which is formed by the round
building which we have already mentioned.

The Gate-House beneath which we have passed is in itself a building of
no ordinary interest. It is, as we now see it, a modern (1905) version
of an old timber and rough-cast house, with projecting upper stories,
pleasantly contrasting with the Palladian splendour of the adjoining
Bank. It was built ‘over and beside the gateway and the lane’ in 1610 by
one John Bennett, and was perhaps designed by Inigo Jones. The room on
the first floor was, there is every reason to suppose, used by the
Prince of Wales as his Council Chamber for the Duchy of Cornwall. It
contains some fine Jacobean and Georgian panelling, an admirable
eighteenth-century staircase, and an elaborate and beautiful Jacobean
plaster ceiling, with the initials, motto, and feathers of Prince Henry,
who died 1612.

This is No. 17, Fleet Street. No. 16, to the west of it, with the sign
of the Pope’s Head, was the shop of Bernard Lintot, who published Pope’s
‘Homer,’ and later of Jacob Robinson, the bookseller and publisher, with
whom Edmund Burke lodged when ‘eating his dinners’ as a student of the
Middle Temple.

The Gate-House escaped the Fire of London, and, having been restored, is
now preserved to the public use by the London County Council.[17] It
forms an appropriate introduction to those narrow lanes and quiet Courts
and that lovely Church, whose pavements once resounded with the tread of
the mail-clad champions of Christendom, and echo now with the softer
footfall of bewigged, begowned Limbs of the Law. Dull and prosaic must
he be indeed who cannot here feel the thrill of imagination which
stirred the soul of Tom Pinch as he wandered through these Courts:

‘Every echo of his footsteps sounded to him like a sound from the old
walls and pavements, wanting language to relate the histories of the
dim, dismal rooms; to tell him what lost documents were decaying in
forgotten corners of the shut-up cellars, from whose lattices such
mouldy sighs came breathing forth as he went past; to whisper of dark
bins of rare old wine, bricked up in vaults among the old foundations of
the Halls; or mutter in a lower tone yet darker legends of the
cross-legged knights, whose marble effigies were in the Church’ (‘Martin
Chuzzlewit’).

The Round part of the Church of the Knights Templars, which we now see
lying below us, is one of the very few instances of Norman work left in
London–the only instance, save the superb fragments of St.
Bartholomew’s Church and the splendid whole of the Tower of London. It
was dedicated, as we have seen, in 1185 to St. Mary by Heraclius,
Patriarch of Jerusalem. This fact was recorded on a stone over the door,
engraved in the time of Elizabeth, and said by Stow to be an

[Illustration: INTERIOR OF THE TEMPLE CHURCH

A ROUND CHURCH of the Order of Knights Templars (dedicated in 1185). The
oblong nave is seen through the pillars of polished Purbeck marble
(1240).]

accurate copy of an older one. It also proclaimed an Indulgence of sixty
days to annual visitors, the earliest known example, I believe, of this
particular form of taxation. The Church was again dedicated in 1240. The
rectangular portion of the Church, the Eastern portion added to the
Western Round, was now probably reconstructed, supplanting a former
chancel or choir, just at the period when the new Pointed style had
ousted the round Norman.

The circular type of church is not peculiar to the Order of Templars, as
we have seen, or even to the Christians, but the choice of it was due in
this case to the practice of imitating the architecture, as the
topography, of the Holy Places at Jerusalem. In England, Round Churches
occur at Ludlow and Cambridge (1101), built before the Knights of the
Temple were established. St. Sepulchre at Northampton is possibly a
Templar Church, but the Round Church at Little Maplestead in Essex
belongs to the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and was built by the
Knights Hospitallers.

The Temple Church escaped the Fire of London as by a miracle, for the
flames came as near as the Master’s House at the East End. It escaped
the fire of 1678, when the old Chapel[18] of St. Anne, once perhaps the
scene of the initiation of the Knights Templars, lying at the junction
of Round and Rectangle, was destroyed by gunpowder to save the church.
But it could not escape the destroying hands of the nineteenth-century
Goths. For here, between 1824 and 1840, the great Gothic Revivalists
indulged in one of their most ineffable and ineffaceable triumphs of
intemperate enthusiasm. The Round part of the Church was almost rebuilt,
and the old carvings were supplanted by inferior modern work. The
conical roof was added; the horrid battlements banished. The old marble
columns were removed and replaced by new ones, to obtain which the old
Purbeck quarries were reopened. This marble takes an extraordinarily
high polish, and presents a surface so clean and lustrous as to be
almost shocking in its contrast to our dingy London atmosphere, and
buildings begrimed with dirt and soot.

The many brasses, which Camden praised, have disappeared; the rich
collection of tablets and monuments and inscribed gravestones that once
pleased the eye of Pepys, and formed a feast of heraldic ornament, has
been dispersed, and found sanctuary in the tiny Churchyard without, on
the north side of the Church, or in the Triforium. The floor of the
Church was, at the same time, wisely lowered to its original level, and
covered with a pavement of tiles designed after the pattern of the
remains of old ones found there, or in the Chapter House of Westminster.

A continuous stone bench, or sedile, which runs round the base of the
walls was added at this period, together with the delightful arcade
above it, with grotesque and other heads in the spandrels. The wheel
window–a lovely thing–was uncovered and filled with stained glass, and
the windows in the circular aisle of the Round have since been filled by
Mr. Charles Winston with stained glass which is good, but the colour of
which it is absurd to compare, as Mr. Baylis does, with the blues and
rubies of the glass of the best period. It is to be hoped that the
remaining windows will not be filled with coloured glass, as Mr.
Baylis[19] suggests, for the interior of the Round is too dark already.

The result of all this Gothic reconstruction is that, save for the old
rough stones in the exterior Round walls, and some of the ornate
semicircular arches, the Templars’ Church exists no more. The grandeur,
beauty, and historical interest of their building can be gathered now
from old engravings only; the monuments of many famous men, in judicial
robes and with shields rich in heraldry, a representative gallery of
unbroken centuries, which once crowded its floors, must be judged by
broken and scattered fragments. What we have is a reconstruction such as
the Restorers chose to give us–that is, a light and very pleasing Early
English interior, fitted into a Round Norman exterior, beneath the
remaining arcade of round arches and windows.[20]

If the enthusiasm of the Restorers, however, led them to destroy so that
we can never forgive them for having taken from us original work for the
sake of indulging their own fancy, yet it is evident that there was
much for them legitimately to undo. There were plaster and stucco, and
dividing gallery and whitewashed ceiling, and all the usual horrors of
the eighteenth century, to be got rid of. The graves and monuments were
historically interesting, but they crowded the little church unbearably.
And at least the Restorers have given us beautiful work of their own,
and a seemly and beautiful sanctuary worthy of the place.

The Round is entered by a western door–a massive oaken door superbly
hung upon enormous hinges, quite modern. It closes beneath a
semicircular arch enriched by deeply-recessed columns with foliated
capitals of the transitional Norman style, though all this work, like
the Gothic Porch which contains it, is modern restoration. The scene as
we enter the Church is one of striking singularity. Near at hand is the
arcaded sedile about the walls of the Round, and through six clustered
columns of great elegance, made of polished Purbeck marble, which
support the dome, we catch a glimpse of the polished marble columns in
the Choir, the lancet windows in the North and South walls, and the
three stained windows of the East End, beneath which the gilded Reredos
glitters. And through the painted windows of the Round itself the light
strikes upon a wonderful series of monumental recumbent figures, some of
which are made of this flashing Purbeck marble too. It is a strange,
unforgettable sight, that summons up unbidden the vision of the
Red-Cross Knights, to the tread of whose mailed feet these pavements
rang, when, beneath their baucéant banners, they gathered here to the
Dedication of their Temple.

These monuments, though re-arranged and restored indeed by Richardson,
1840, are still of great interest. Nine only out of eleven formerly
mentioned remain. Two groups of four each lie beneath the Dome, with the
ninth close by the South wall, balancing a stone coffin near the North.
Two of them belong to the twelfth century and seven to the thirteenth,
and these silent figures wear the armour of that period–the chain mail
and long surcoats, the early goad spurs, the long shields and swords,
the belts, and mufflers of mail.

The Monuments in the Temple Church have been frequently described, by
Stow and Weever, for instance, by Dugdale,[21] and by Gough.[22] The
tradition that they represent ‘ancient British Kings,’ or even
necessarily Templars, has been long exploded. The theory that every
figure whose legs are crossed in effigy belonged to that Order has been
consigned to the limbo of vulgar errors. But five of these effigies are
mentioned by Stow as being of armed Knights ‘lying cross-legged as men
vowed to the Holy Land, against the infidels and unbelieving Jews.’ And
it is very probable that cross-legs did indicate those who had either
undertaken a Crusade or vowed themselves to the Holy Land. At any rate,
I know no evidence to show that this was _not_ the symbolism by which
the medieval mason in England and Ireland chose to indicate the
Crusader.

None of these remarkable monuments can with certainty be identified. Of
those now grouped upon the South side Stow says: ‘The first of the
crosse-legged was W. Marshall, the elder Earl of Pembroke, who died
1219; Wil. Marshall, his son, the second, and Gilbert Marshall, his
brother, also Earl of Pembroke, slayne in a tournament at Hertford,
besides Ware,’ in 1241. And this may or may not be so. The fourth is
nameless; the fifth, near the wall, is possibly that of Sir Robert
Rosse, who, according to Stow, was buried here.

Of the group upon the North side, only that of the cross-legged knight
in a coat of mail and a round helmet flattened on top, whose head rests
on a cushion, and whose long, pointed shield is charged with an
escarbuncle on a diapered field, can with any probability be named. For
these are the arms of Mandeville (_de Magnavilla_)–‘quarterly, or and
gules, an escarbuncle, sable’–and this monument of Sussex marble gives
us the first example of arms upon a sepulchral figure in England.[23] It
is supposed to be the effigy of Geoffrey Mandeville, whom Stephen made
first Earl of Essex, and Matilda Constable of the Tower. A ferocious and
turbulent knight, he received an arrow-wound at last in an attack upon
Burwell Castle, and was carried off by the Templars to die. But, as he
died under sentence of excommunication, it is said that they hung his
body in a lead coffin upon a tree in the Old Temple Orchard, until
absolution had been obtained for him from the Pope. Then they brought
him to the new Temple and buried him there (1182).

The Choir, or rectangular part of the Church, of which the nave is
broader than the aisles, but of the same height, is a beautiful example
of the Early English style, and is lighted by five lancet triplet
windows. By the Restorers the old panelling and the beautiful
seventeenth-century Reredos were removed. Tiers of deplorable pews,
deplorably arranged, and a very feeble Gothic Reredos[24] were
substituted. The roof, supported by the Purbeck marble clustered columns
that culminate in richly-moulded capitals, was painted with shields and
mottoes in painstaking imitation of the thirteenth century. The windows
at the East End were filled with very inferior modern stained glass,
none of it of the least interest, poor in colour and wretchedly ignorant
in design–ignorant, that is, of the rules which guided the art of the
medieval glazier.

A bust of the ‘Judicious’ Hooker, Master of the Temple Church, and
author of the ‘Ecclesiastical Polity,’ the grave of Selden near the
South-West corner of the Choir, and above it a mural tablet to his
memory, are the monuments of known men most worthy of attention. The
fine fourteenth-century sepulchral effigy near the double piscina of
Purbeck marble is supposed to be that of Silvester de Everden, Bishop of
Carlisle.

The Organ, frequently reconstructed and finally renewed by Forster and
Andrews, 1882, has been famous for generations. It was originally built
by Bernard Schmidt. Dr. Blow and Purcell, his pupil, played upon it in
competition with that built by Harris. The decision of this Battle of
the Organs was referred to the famous, or infamous, Lord Chief Justice
Jeffreys, who was a good musician, and in this matter, at least, seems
to have proved himself a good Judge.

The _Triforium_[25] is reached by a small Norman door in the North-West
corner of the oblong. A winding staircase leads to the Penitential
Cell–4 feet long, by 2 feet 6 inches wide–where many of the Knights
were confined. To the Triforium many tablets and monuments (_e.g._, of
Plowden), once in the Church below, have been removed.

Among the epitaphs in brass, quoted at length by Dugdale, is one in
memory of John White:

‘Here lieth a John, a burning, shining light;
His name, life, actions, were all White.’

The Templars’ Church was equally divided between the two Societies of
Lawyers from ‘East to West, the North Aisle to the Middle, the South

[Illustration: THE EAST END OF THE TEMPLE CHURCH AND THE MASTER’S
HOUSE]

to the Inner Temple.’ This fact, with many others, clearly indicates the
basis of perfect equality upon which the two Societies were agreed to
stand, and on which, in spite of subsequent claims to precedence on the
part of both, declared groundless by judicial authority, they will
henceforth continue. As to the Round, it appears to have been used by
both Societies in common, largely as a place of business, like the
Parvis of St. Paul’s, where lawyers congregated, and contracts were
concluded. Butler refers to this custom in his ‘Hudibras’:

‘Walk the Round with Knights o’ the Posts
About the cross-legged Knights, their hosts,
Or wait for customers between
The pillar rows in Lincoln’s Inn.’
BUTLER: _Hudibras_.

Joint property of the two Societies, also, is that exquisite example of
Georgian domestic architecture, the Master’s House (1764). This perfect
model of a Gentleman’s Town-House owes its great charm almost entirely
to its beautiful proportions, and to the appropriate material of good
red brick and stone of which it is built. It is a thousand pities that
blue slates have been allowed to supplant the good red tiles that should
form the roof. The House itself is the successor of one which was
erected (1700) after the Great Fire.[26] The original Lodge is said to
have been upon the site of the present Garden, directly in line with the
east end of the Church. In the vaults beneath this Garden many Benchers
of both Inns have been laid to rest.

In this Lodge, then, dwells the Master of the Temple Church.

‘There are certain buildings,’ says Camden, ‘on the east part of the
Churchyard, in part whereof he hath his lodgings, and the rest he
letteth out to students. His dyet he hath in either House, at the upper
end of the Bencher’s Table, except in the time of reading, it then being
the Reader’s place. Besides the Master, there is a Reader, who readeth
Divine Service each morning and evening, for which he hath his salary
from the Master.’

A Custos of the Church had been appointed by the Knights Hospitallers,
but after the Dissolution of the Monasteries the presentation of the
office was reserved to the Crown. The Church is not within the Bishop’s
jurisdiction. On appointment by the Crown, the Master is admitted
forthwith without any institution or induction. But the Master of the
Temple Church is Master of nothing else. When, in the reign of James
I., Dr. Micklethwaite laid claim to wider authority, the Benchers of
both Temples succeeded in proving to the Attorney-General that his
jurisdiction was confined to his Church.

Masters of real eminence have been few. By far the greatest was the
learned Dr. John Hooker, appointed by Elizabeth, who resigned in 1591.
Dr. John Gauden, who claimed to have written the ‘Eikon Basilike,’ was
Master of the Temple before he became Bishop of Exeter and Worcester.
And in our own day Canon Ainger added to the charm of a singularly
attractive personality the accomplishments of a scholar who devoted much
of his time to the works of another devout lover of the Temple–Charles
Lamb.

The Church was once connected with the Old Hall by Cloisters,
communicating with the Chapel of St. Thomas that once stood outside the
north door of it, and with the Refectory of the Priests, a room with
groined arches and corbels at the west end of the present Inner Temple
Hall, which still survives (see p. 48). Later on, Chambers were built
over the Cloisters, and the Church itself was almost stifled by the
shops and chambers that were allowed to cluster about it, along the
South Wall, and even over the Porch. Beneath the shelter of these
Cloisters the Students of the Law were wont to walk, in order to ‘bolt’
or discuss points of law, whilst ‘all sorts of witnesses Plied in the
Temple under trees.’

The Fire of 1678 burnt down the old Cloisters and other buildings at the
south-west extremity of the Church. The present Cloisters at that angle,
designed by Wren, were rebuilt in 1681, as a Tablet proudly proclaims.

The Cloister Court is completed by Lamb Building, which, though
apparently within the bounds of the Inner Temple, belongs (by purchase)
to the Middle Temple, and is named from the badge of that Inn, the Agnus
Dei, which figures over the characteristic entrance of this delightful
Jacobean building, and has now given its title to the whole Court. Here
lived that brilliant Oriental Scholar, Sir William Jones, sharing
chambers with the eccentric author of ‘Sandford and Merton,’ Thomas Day.
And it was to the attics of these buildings, where Pen and Warrington
dwelt, that Major Pendennis groped his way through the fog, piloted, as
he might be to-day, ‘by a civil personage with a badge and white apron
through some dark alleys and under various melancholy archways into
courts each more dismal than the other.’[27]

The consecrated nature of their tenement resulted in certain
inconveniences to the Lawyers. On the one hand, the Temple was a place
of Sanctuary, and its character suffered accordingly. Debtors,
criminals, and dissolute persons flocked to it as a refuge, so that it
became necessary to issue orders of Council (1614) that the Inns should
be searched for strangers at regular intervals, whilst, with the vain
view of reserving the precincts for none but lawyers, it was ordained
that ‘no gentleman foreigner or discontinuer’ should lodge therein, so
that the Inns might not be converted into ‘taverns’ (_diversoria_). On
the other hand, the benevolence of the Benchers was taxed by many
unnatural or unfortunate parents, who used the Temple as a crèche, and
left their babies at its doors. The records give many instances of
payments made towards the support of such infants, who were frequently
given the ‘place-name’ of Temple.

I have quoted from Thackeray a phrase not so over-complimentary to the
surroundings of Lamb Building.

But now, before passing on to the story of the Halls of these renowned
Societies, and the Chambers which have harboured so many famous men, I
must quote, as an introduction, the passage in which the novelist makes
amends, and nobly sums up the spirit of the life men lead there, and the
atmosphere of strenuous work and literary tradition which lightens those
‘dismal courts’ and ‘bricky towers.’

‘Nevertheless, those venerable Inns which have the “Lamb and Flag” and
the “Winged Horse” for their ensigns have attractions for persons who
inhabit them, and a share of rough comforts and freedom, which men
always remember with pleasure. I don’t know whether the student of law
permits himself the refreshment of enthusiasm, or indulges in poetical
reminiscences as he passes by historical chambers, and says, “Yonder
Eldon lived; upon this site Coke mused upon Lyttelton; here Chitty
toiled; here Barnwell and Alderson joined in their famous labours; here
Byles composed his great work upon bills, and Smith compiled his
immortal leading cases; here Gustavus still toils with Solomon to aid
him.” But the man of letters can’t but love the place which has been
inhabited by so many of his brethren or peopled by their creations, as
real to us at this day as the authors whose children they were; and Sir
Roger de Coverley walking in the Temple Gardens, and discoursing with
Mr. Spectator about the beauties in hoops and patches who are sauntering
over the grass, is just as lively a figure to me as old Samuel Johnson
rolling through the fog with the Scotch Gentleman at his heels, on their
way to Dr. Goldsmith’s chambers in Brick Court, or Harry Fielding, with
inked ruffles and a wet towel round his head, dashing off articles at
midnight for the _Covent Garden Journal_, while the printer’s boy is
asleep in the passage.’