THE TEMPLE CHURCH.
The restoration of the Temple Church—The beauty and magnificence of the venerable building— The various styles of architecture displayed in it—The discoveries made during the recent restoration—The sacrarium—The marble piscina—The sacramental niches—The penitential cell—The ancient Chapel of St. Anne—Historical matters connected with the Temple Church— The holy relics anciently preserved therein—The interesting monumental remains.
“If a day should come when pew lumber, preposterous organ cases, and pagan altar screens, are declared to be unfashionable, no religious building, stript of such nuisances, would come more fair to the sight, or give more general satisfaction to the antiquary, than the chaste and beautiful Temple Church.”—Gentleman’s Magazine for May, 1808, p. 1087.
“After three centuries of demolition, the solemn structures raised by our Catholic ancestors are being gradually restored to somewhat of their original appearance, and buildings, which, but a few years since, were considered as unsightly and barbarous erections of ignorant times, are now become the theme of general eulogy and models for imitation.”*
It has happily been reserved for the present generation, after a lapse of two centuries, to see the venerable Temple Church, the chief ecclesiastical edifice of the Knights Templars in Britain, and the most beautiful and perfect relic of the Order now in existence, restored to the simple majesty it possessed near seven hundred years ago; to see it once again presenting the appearance which it wore when the patriarch of Jerusalem exercised his sacred functions within its walls, and when the mailed knights of the most holy order of the Temple of Solomon, the sworn champions of the Christian faith, unfolded the red-cross banner amid “the longdrawn aisles” and offered their swords upon the altar to be blessed by the ministers of religion.
* Dublin Review for May, 1841, p. 301.
From the period of the reign of Charles the First down to our own times, the Temple Church has remained sadly disfigured by incongruous innovations and modern embellishments, which entirely changed the ancient character and appearance of the building, and clouded and obscured its elegance and beauty.
Shortly after the Reformation, the Protestant lawyers, from an overanxious desire to efface all the emblems of the popish faith, covered the gorgeously-painted ceiling of this venerable structure with an uniform coating of simple whitewash; they buried the antique tesselated pavement under hundreds of cart-loads of earth and rubbish, on the surface of which, two feet above the level of the ancient floor, they placed another pavement, formed of old grave-stones. They, moreover, disfigured all the magnificent marble columns with a thick coating of plaster and paint, and destroyed the beauty of the elaborately-wrought mouldings of the arches, and the exquisitely-carved marble ornaments with thick incrustations of whitewash, clothing the whole edifice in one uniform garb of plain white, in accordance with the puritanical ideas of those times.
Subsequently, in the reign of Charles the Second, the fine open area of the body of the church was filled with long rows of stiff and formal pews, which concealed the bases of the columns, while the plain but handsome stone walls of the sacred edifice were encumbered, to a height of eight feet from the ground, with oak wainscoting, which was carried entirely round the church, so as to shut out from view the elegant marble piscina on the south side of the building, the interesting arched niches over the high altar, and the sacrarium on the eastern side of the edifice. The elegant gothic arches connecting the Round with the oblong portion of the building were filled up with an oak screen and glass windows and doors, and with an organ-gallery adorned with Corinthian columns and pilastres and Grecian ornaments, which divided the building into two parts, altogether altered its original character and appearance, and sadly marred its architectural beauty. The eastern end of the church was, at the same time, disfigured with an enormous altarpiece in the classic style, decorated with Corinthian columns and Grecian cornices and entablatures, and with enrichments of cherubims and wreaths of fruit, leaves, and flowers, exquisitely carved and beautiful in themselves, but heavy and cumbrous, and quite at variance with the gothic character of the edifice. A huge pulpit and sounding board, elaborately carved, were also erected in the middle of the nave, forming a great obstruction to the view of the interior of the building, and the walls and all the columns were thickly clustered and disfigured with mural monuments.
All these unsightly and incongruous additions to the ancient fabric have, thanks to the good taste and the public spirit of the Masters of the Benches of the societies of the Inner and Middle Temple, been recently removed; the ceiling of the church has been repainted; the marble columns and the tesselated pavement have been restored, and the venerable structure has now been brought back to its ancient condition.
The historical associations and recollections connected with the Temple Church throw a powerful charai around the venerable building. During the holy fervour of the crusades, the kings of England and the haughty legates of the pope were wont to mix with the armed bands of the Templars in this their chief ecclesiastical edifice in Britain. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries some of the most remarkable characters of the age were buried in the Round, and their mail-clad marble monumental effigies, reposing side by side on the cold pavement, still attract the wonder and admiration of the inquiring stranger.
The solemn ceremonies attendant in days of yore upon the admission of a novice to the holy vows of the Temple, conducted with closed doors during the first watch of the night; the severe religious exercises performed by the stern military friars; the vigils that were kept up at night in the church, and the reputed terrors of the penitential cell, all contributed in times past to throw an air of mystery and romance around the sacred building, and to create in the minds of the vulgar a feeling of awe and of superstitious terror, giving rise to those strange and horrible tales of impiety and crime, of magic and sorcery, which led to the unjust and infamous execution at the stake of the Grand Master and many hundred Knights of the Temple, and to the suppression and annihilation of their proud and powerful order.
The first and most interesting portion of the Temple Church, denominated by the old writers “The Round,” was consecrated in the year 1186 by Heraclius, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, on his arrival in England from Palestine, as before mentioned, to obtain succour from King Henry the Second against the formidable power of the famous Saladin.* The old inscription which formerly stood over the small door of the Round leading into the cloisters, and which was broken and destroyed by the workmen whilst repairing the church, in the year 1695, was to the following effect:
“On the 10th of February, in the year from the incarnation of our Lord 1185, this church was consecrated in honour of the blessed Mary by our lord Heraclius, by the grace of God patriarch of the church of the Resurrection, who hath granted an indulgence of fifty days to those yearly seeking it.”†
* See ante, p. 80. On the 10th of March, before his departure from this country, Heraclius consecrated the church of the Hospitallers at Clerkenwell, and the altars of St. John and St. Mary. Ex registr. S. John Jerus, in Bib. Cotton, fol. 1.
† A fac-simile of this inscription was faithfully delineated by Mr. Geo. Holmes, the antiquary, and was published by Strype, A.D. 1670. The earliest copy I have been able to fine of it is in a manuscript history of the Temple, in the Inner Temple library, supposed to have been written at the commencement of the reign of Charles the First by John Wilde, Esq., a bencher of the society, and Lent reader in the year 1630.
The oblong portion of the church, which extendeth eastwards from the Round, was consecrated on Ascension-day, A.D. 1240, as appears from the following passage in the history of Matthew Paris, the monk of St. Alban’s, who was probably himself present at the ceremony.
“About the same time (A.D. 1240) was consecrated the noble church of the New Temple at London, an edifice worthy to be seen, in the presence of the king and much of the nobility of the kingdom, who, on the same day, that is to say, the day of the Ascension, after the solemnities of the consecration had been completed, royally feasted at a most magnificent banquet, prepared at the expense of the Hospitallers.”*
It was after the promulgation, A.D. 1162 and 1172, of the famous bull omne datum optimum, exempting the Templars from the ordinary ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and enabling them to admit priests and chaplains into their order, and appoint them to their churches without installation and induction, and free from the interference of the bishops, that the members of this proud and powerful fraternity began to erect at great cost, in various parts of Christendom, churches of vast splendour and magnificence, like the one we now see at London. It is probable that the earlier portion of this edifice was commenced immediately after the publication of the above bull, so as to be ready (as churches took a long time in building in those days) for consecration by the Patriarch on his arrival in England with the Grand Master of the Temple.
As there is a difference in respect of the time of the erection, so also is there a variation in the style of the architecture of the round and oblong portions of the church; the one presenting to us a most beautiful and interesting specimen of that mixed style of ecclesiastical architecture termed the semi-Norman, and by some writers the intermediate, when the rounded arch and the short and massive column became mingled with, and were gradually giving way to, the early Gothic; and the other affording to us a pure and most elegant example of the latter style of architecture, with its pointed arches and light slender columns. These two portions of the Temple Church, indeed, when compared together, present features of peculiar interest to the architect and the antiquary. The oblong portion of the venerable fabric affords, perhaps, the first specimen of the complete conquest of the pointed style over the massive circular or Norman architecture which preceded its erection, whilst the Round displays the different changes which the latter style underwent previous to its final subversion.
* Tempore quoque Templi Londinensis, præsente Rege et multis regni Magnatibus; quieodem die, scilicet die Ascensionis, completes dedicationis solemniis, convivium in mensâ nimis laute celebrarunt, sumptibus Hospitaliorum.––Matt. Par. ad ann. 1240, p. 526, ed. 1640.
The Temple Church is entered by a beautiful semicircular arched doorway, an exquisite specimen of the Norman style of architecture, still unfortunately surrounded and smothered by the smoke-dried buildings of studious lawyers. It is deeply recessed and ornamented on either side with columns bearing foliated capitals, from whence spring a series of arched mouldings, richly carved and decorated. Between these columns project angular piers enriched with lozenges, roses, foliage, and ornaments of varied pattern and curious device. The upper part of these piers between the capitals of the columns is hollowed out, and carved half-length human figures, representing a king and queen, monks and saints, have been inserted. Some of these figures hold scrolls of paper in their hands, and others rest in the attitude of prayer. Over them, between the ribs of the arch, are four rows of enriched foliage springing from the mouths of human heads.
Having passed this elegant and elaborately-wrought doorway, we enter that portion of the church called by the old writers
which consists of an inner circular area formed by a round tower resting on six clustered columns, and of a circular external aisle or cloister, connected with the round tower by a sloping roof on the outside, and internally by a groined vaulted ceiling. The beauty and elegance of the building from this point, with its circular colonnades, storied windows, and long perspective of architectural magnificence, cannot be described—it must be seen.
From the centre of the Round, the eye is carried upward to the vaulted ceiling of the inner circular tower with its groined ribs and carved bosses. This tower rests on six clustered marble columns, from whence spring six pointed arches enriched with numerous mouldings. The clustered columns are composed of four marble shafts, surmounted by foliated capitals, which are each of a different pattern, but correspond in the general outline, and display great character and beauty. These shafts are connected together by bands at their centres; and the bases and capitals run into each other, so as to form the whole into one column. Immediately above the arches resting on these columns, is a small band or cornice, which extends around the interior of the tower, and supports a most elegant arcade of interlaced arches. This arcade is formed of numerous small Purbeck marble columns, enriched with ornamented bases and capitals, from whence spring a series of arches which intersect one another and produce a most pleasing and striking combination of the round and pointed arch. Above this elegant arcade is another cornice surmounted by six circular-headed windows pierced at equal intervals through the thick walls of the tower. These windows are ornamented at the angles with small columns, and in the time of the Knights Templars they were filled with stained glass. Between each window is a long slender circular shaft of Purbeck marble, which springs from the clustered columns, and terminates in a bold foliated capital, whereon rest the groined ribs of the ceiling of the tower.
From the tower, with its marble columns, interlaced arches, and elegant decorations, the attention will speedily be drawn to the innumerable small columns, pointed arches, and grotesque human countenances which extend around the lower portion of the external aisle or cloister encircling the Round. The more these human countenances are scrutinised, the more astonishing and extraordinary do they appear. They seem for the most part distorted and agonised with pain, and have been supposed, not without reason, to represent the writhings and grimaces of the damned. Unclean beasts may be observed gnawing the ears and tearing with their claws the bald heads of some of them, whose firmly-compressed teeth and quivering lips plainly denote intense bodily anguish. These sculptured visages display an astonishing variety of character, and will be regarded with increased interest when it is remembered, that an arcade and cornice decorated in this singular manner have been observed among the ruins of the Temple churches at Acre, and in the Pilgrim’s Castle. This circular aisle or cloister is lighted by a series of semi-circular-headed windows, which are ornamented at the angles with small columns.
Over the western doorway leading into the Round, is a beautiful Norman wheel-window, which was uncovered and brought to light by the workmen during the recent reparation of this interesting building. It is considered a masterpiece of masonry.
The entrance from the Round to the oblong portion of the Temple Church is formed by three lofty pointed arches, which open upon the nave and the two aisles. The mouldings of these arches display great beauty and elegance, and the central arch, which forms the grand entrance to the nave, is supported upon magnificent Purbeck marble columns.
Having passed through one of these elegant and richly-embellished archways, we enter a large, lofty, and light structure, consisting of a nave and two aisles of equal height, formed by eight clustered marble columns, which support a groined vaulted ceiling richly and elaborately painted. This chaste and graceful edifice presents to us one of the most pure and beautiful examples in existence of the early pointed style, which immediately succeeded the mixed order of architecture visible in the Round. The numerous elegantly-shaped windows which extend around this portion of the building, the exquisite proportions of the slim marble columns, the beauty and richness of the architectural decorations, and the extreme lightness and airiness of the whole structure, give us the idea of a fairy palace.
The marble columns supporting the pointed arches of the roof, four in number on each side, do not consist of independent shafts banded together, as in the Hound, but form solid pillars which possess vast elegance and beauty. Attached to the walls of the church, in a line with these pillars, are a series of small clustered columns, composed of three slender shafts, the central one being of Purbeck marble, and the others of Caen stone; they are bound together by a band at their centres and their bases, which are of Purbeck marble, rest on a stone seat or plinth, which extends the whole length of the body of the church. These clustered columns, which are placed parallel to the large central pillars, are surmounted by foliated capitals, from whence spring the groined ribs which traverse the vaulted ceiling of the roof. The side walls are thus divided into five compartments on either side, which are each filled up with a triple lancet-headed window, of a graceful form, and richly ornamented. It is composed of three long narrow openings surmounted by pointed arches, the central arch rising above the lateral ones. The mouldings of the arches rest upon four slender marble columns which run up in front of the stone mullions of the windows, and impart to them great elegance and beauty. The great number of these windows, and the small intervening spaces of blank wall between them, give a vast lightness and airiness to the whole structure.
Immediately beneath them is a small cornice or stringing course of Purbeck marble, which runs entirely round the body of the church, and supports the small marble columns which adorn the windows.
The roof is composed of a series of pointed arches supported by groined ribs, which, diverging from the capitals of the columns, cross one another at the centre of the arch, and are ornamented at the point of intersection with richly-carved bosses. This roof is composed principally of chalk, and previous to the late restoration, had a plain and somewhat naked appearance, being covered with an uniform coat of humble whitewash. On the recent removal of this whitewash, extensive remains of an ancient painted ceiling were brought to light, and it was consequently determined to repaint the entire roof of the body of the church according to a design furnished by Mr. Willement.
At the eastern end of the church are three elegant windows opening upon the three aisles; they are similar in form to the side windows, but the central one is considerably larger than any of the others, and has in the spandrels formed by the line of groining two small quatrefoil panels. The label mouldings on either side of this central window terminate in two crowned heads, which are supposed to represent King Henry the Third and his queen. These windows are to be filled with stained glass as in the olden time, and will, when finished, present a most gorgeous and magnificent appearance. Immediately beneath them, above the high altar, are three niches, in which were deposited in days of yore the sacred vessels used during the celebration of the mass. The central recess, surmounted by a rounded arch, contained the golden chalice and patin covered with the veil and bursa; and the niches on either side received the silver cruets, the ampullæ, the subdeacon’s veil, and all the paraphernalia used during the sacrament. In the stonework around them may be observed the marks of the locks and fastenings of doors.
These niches were uncovered and brought to light on the removal of the large heavy oak screen and altar-piece, which disfigured the eastern end of the church.
On the southern side of the building, near the high altar, is an elegant marble piscina or lavacrum, which was in like manner discovered on pulling down the modern oak wainscoting. This interesting remnant of antiquity has been beautifully restored, and well merits attention. It was constructed for the use of the priest who officiated at the adjoining altar, and was intended to receive the water in which the chalice had been rinsed, and in which the priest washed his hands before the consecration of the bread and wine. It consists of two perforated hollows or small basins, inclosed in an elegant marble niche, adorned with two graceful arches, which rest on small marble columns. The holes at the bottom of the basins communicate with two conduits or channels for draining off the water, which anciently made its exit through the thick walls of the church. In the olden time, before the consecration of the host, the priest walked to the piscina, accompanied by the clerk, who poured water over his hands, that they might be purified from all stain before he ventured to touch the body of our Lord. One of these channels was intended to receive the water in which the priest washed his hands, and the other that in which he had rinsed the chalice. The piscina, consequently, served the purposes of a sink.*
Adjoining the piscina, towards the eastern end of the church, is a small elegant niche, in which the ewer, basin, and towels were placed; and immediately opposite, in the north wall of the edifice, is another niche, which appears to have been a sacrarium or tabernacle for holding the eucharist preserved for the use of the sick brethren.†
In the centre of the northern aisle of the church, a large recess has been erected for the reception of the organ, as no convenient place could be found for it in the old structure. Below this recess, by the side of the archway communicating with the Round, is a small Norman doorway, opening upon a dark circular staircase which leads to the summit of the round tower, and also to
* A large piscina, similar to the one in the Temple Church, may be seen in Cowling church, Kent. Archoelogia, vol. zi. pl. xiv. p. 320.
† Ib p. 347 to 359.
THE PENITENTIAL CELL.
This dreary place of solitary confinement is formed within the thick wall of the church, and is only four feet six inches long, and two feet six inches wide, so that it would be impossible for a grown person to lie down with any degree of comfort within it. Two small apertures, or loopholes, four feet high and nine inches wide, have been pierced through the walls to admit light and air. One of these apertures looks eastward into the body of the church towards the spot where stood the high altar, in order that the prisoner might see and hear the performance of divine service, and the other looks southward into the Round, facing the west entrance of the church. The hinges and catch of a door, firmly attached to the doorway of this dreary prison, still remain, and at the bottom of the staircase is a stone recess or cupboard, where bread and water were placed for the prisoner.
In this miserable cell were confined the refractory and disobedient brethren of the Temple, and those who were enjoined severe penance with solitary confinement. Its dark secrets have long since been buried in the silence of the tomb, but one sad tale of misery and horror, probably connected with it, has been brought to light.
Several of the brethren of the Temple at London, who were examined before the papal inquisitors, tell us of the miserable death of Brother Walter le Bacheler, Knight, Grand Preceptor of Ireland, who, for disobedience to his superior the Master of the Temple, was fettered and cast into prison, and there expired from the rigour and severity of his confinement. His dead body was taken out of the solitary cell in the Temple at morning’s dawn, and was buried by Brother John de Stoke and Brother Radulph de Barton, in the midst of the court, between the church and the hall.*
The discipline of the Temple was strict and austere to an extreme. An eye-witness tells us that disobedient brethren were confined in chains and dungeons for a longer or a shorter period, or perpetually, according as it might seem expedient, in order that their souls might be saved at the last from the eternal prison of hell.† In addition to imprisonment, the Templars were scourged on their bare backs, by the hand of the Master himself, in the Temple Hall, and were frequently whipped on Sundays in the church, in the presence of the whole congregation.
Brother Adam de Valaincourt, a knight of a noble family, quitted the Order of the Temple, but afterwards returned, smitten with remorse for his disobedience, and sought to be admitted to the society of his quondam brethren. He was compelled by the Master to eat for a year on the ground with the dogs; to fast four days in the week on bread and water, and every Sunday to present himself naked in the church before the high altar, and receive the discipline at the hands of the officiating priest, in the presence of the whole congregation.‡
* Acta contra Templarios. Concil. Mag. Brit. tom. ii. p. 336, 350, 351.
† Jac. de Vitr. De Religione fratrum militiæ Templi, cap. 65.
‡ Processus contra Templarios, apud Dupuy, p. 65 ; ed. 1700.
On the opposite side of the church, corresponding with the doorway and staircase leading to the penitential cell, there was formerly another doorway and staircase communicating with a very curious ancient structure, called the chapel of St. Anne, which stood on the south side of the Bound, but was removed during the repairs in 1827. It was two stories in height. The lower story communicated with the Round through a doorway formed under one of the arches of the arcade, and the upper story communicated with the body of the church by the before-mentioned doorway and staircase, which have been recently stopped up. The roofs of these apartments were vaulted, and traversed by cross-ribs of stone, ornamented with bosses at the point of intersection.* This chapel anciently opened upon the cloisters, and formed a private medium of communication between the convent of the Temple and the church. It was here that the papal legate and the English bishops frequently had conferences respecting the affairs of the English clergy, and in this chapel Almaric de Montforte, the pope’s chaplain, who had been imprisoned by King Edward the First, was set at liberty at the instance of the Roman pontiff, in the presence of the archbishop of Canterbury, and the Bishops of London, Lincoln, Bath, Worcester, Norwich, Oxford, and several other prelates, and of many distinguished laymen; the said Almeric having previously taken an oath that he would forthwith leave the kingdom, never more to return without express permission.† In times past, this chapel of St. Anne, situate on the south of “the round about walles,” was widely celebrated for its productive powers. It was resorted to by barren women, and was of great repute for making them “joyful mothers of children!”‡
There were formerly numerous priests attached to the Temple church, the chief of whom was styled custos or guardian of the sacred edifice. King Henry the Third, for the salvation of his own soul, and the souls of his ancestors and heirs, gave to the Templars eight pounds per annum, to be paid out of the ex-chequer, for the maintenance of three chaplains in the Temple to say mass daily for ever; one was to pray in the church for the king himself, another for all Christian people, and the third for the faithful departed. § Idonea de Veteri Ponte also gave thirteen bovates of her land, at Ostrefeld, for the support of a chaplain in the house of the Temple at London, to pray for her own soul and that of her deceased husband, Robert de Veteri Ponte.*
* See the plan of this chapel and of the Temple Church, in the vetusta monumenta of the Society of Antiquaries.
† Acta fuerunt he in capellâ juxta ecclesiam, apud Novum Templum London, ex parte Australi ipsius ecclesiae sitâ, coram reverendis patribus domino archiepiscopo et episcopis, &c. &. Acta Rymeri, tom. ii. p. 193, ad ann. 1282.
‡ Anecdotes and Traditions published by the Camden Society. No. clxxxi. p. 110.
§ De tribus Capellanis inveniendis, apud Novum Templum, Londoniarum, pro animâ Regis Henrici Tertii. Ex regist Hosp. S. Johannis Jerus. in Angliâ. Bib. Cotton, f. 25. a.f
The custos or guardian of the Temple church was appointed by the Master and Chapter of the Temple, and entered upon his spiritual duties, as did all the priests and chaplains of the Order, without any admission, institution, or induction. He was exempt from the ordinary ecclesiastical authority, and was to pay perfect obedience in all matters, and upon all occasions, to the Master of the Temple, as his lord and bishop. The priests of the Order took precisely the same vows as the rest of the brethren, and enjoyed no privileges above their fellows. They remained, indeed, in complete subjection to the knights, for they were not allowed to take part in the consultations of the chapter, unless they had been enjoined so to do, nor could they occupy themselves with the cure of souls unless required. The Templars were not permitted to confess to priests who were strangers to the Order, without leave so to do.
“Et les freres chapeleins du Temple dovinent oyr la confession desfreres, ne nul ne se deit confesser a autre chapelein saunz counge, car il ount greigneur poer du Pape, de els assoudre que un evesque.”
The particular chapters of the Master of the Temple, in which transgressions were acknowledged, penances were enjoined, and quarrels were made up, were frequently held on a Sunday morning in the above chapel of St. Anne, on the south side of the Temple church, when the following curious form of absolution was pronounced by the Master of the Temple in the Norman French of that day.
“La manere de tenir chapitre e d’assoudre.”
“Apres chapitre dira le mestre, ou cely qe tendra le chapitre. ‘Beaus seigneurs freres, le pardon de nostre chapitre est tiels, qe cil qui ostast les almones de la meson a tout e maie resoun, ou tenist aucune chose en noun de propre, ne prendreit u tens ou pardoun de nostre chapitre. Mes toutes les choses qe vous lessez a dire pour hounte de la char, ou pour poour de la justice de la mesoun qe lein ne la prenge requer Dieu, e de par la poeste, que nostre sire otria a sein pere, la quele nostre pere le pape lieu tenaunt a terre a otrye a la maison, e a noz sovereyns, e nous de par Dieu, e de par nostre mestre, e de tout nostre chapitre tiel pardoun come ieo vous puis fere, ieo la vous faz, de bon quer, e de bone volonte. E prioms nostre sire, qe issi veraiement come il pardona a la glorieuse Mag-daléyne, quant ele plura ses pechez. E al larron en la croiz mis pardona il ses pechez, e a vous face les vos a pardone a moy les miens. Et pry vous que se ieo ouges meffis oudis a mil de vous que vous depleise que vous le me pardonez.’”†
* Ibid., 30. b.
† Acta contra Tempiarios. Concil. Mag. Brit., tom. ii. p. 383.
At the close of the chapter, the Master or the President of the chapter shall say, “Good and noble brethren, the pardon of our chapter is such, that he who unjustly maketh away with the alms of the house, or holdeth anything as his own property, hath no part in the pardon of our chapter, or in the good works of our house. But those things which through shame-facedness, or through fear of the justice of the Order, you have neglected to confess before God, I, by the power which our Lord obtained from his Father, and which our father the pope, his vicar, hasgranted to the house, and to our superiors, and to us, by the authority of God and our Master, and all our chapter, grant unto you, with hearty good will, such pardon as I am able to give. And we beseech our Lord, that as he forgave the glorious Mary Magdalene when she bewailed her sins, and pardoned the robber on the cross, that he will in like manner mercifully pardon both you and me. And if I have wronged any of you, I beseech you to grant me forgiveness.”
The Temple Church in times past contained many holy and valuable relics, which had been sent over by the Templars from Palestine. Numerous indulgences were granted by the bishops of London to all devout Christians who went with a lively faith to adore these relics. The bishop of Ely also granted indulgences to all the faithful of his diocese, and to all pious Christians who attended divine worship in the Temple Church, to the honour and praise of God, and his glorious mother the Virgin Mary, the resplendent Queen of Heaven, and also to all such as should contribute, out of their goods and possessions, to the maintenance and support of the lights which were kept eternally upon the altars.*
The circular form of the oldest portion of the Temple Church imparts an additional interest to the venerable fabric, as there are only three other ancient churches in England of this shape. It has been stated that all the churches of the Templars were built in the circular form, after the model of the church of the holy sepulchre at Jerusalem; but this was not the case. The numerous remains of these churches, to be met with in various parts of Christendom, prove them to have been built of all shapes, forms, and sizes.
We must now say a word concerning the ancient monuments in the Temple Church.
In a recess in the south wall, close to the elegant marble piscina, reposes the recumbent figure of a bishop clad in pontifical robes, having a mitre on his head and a crosier in his hand. It rests upon an altar-tomb, and has been beautifully carved out of a single block of Purbeck marble. On the 7th of September, 1810, this tomb was opened, and beneath the figure was found a stone coffin, about three feet in height and ten feet in length, having a circular cavity to receive the head of the corpse. Within the coffin was found a human skeleton in a state of perfect preservation. It was wrapped in sheet-lead, part of which had perished. On the left side of the skeleton were the remains of a crosier, and among the bones and around the skull were found fragments of sackcloth and of garments wrought with gold tissue. It was evident that the tomb had been previously violated, as the sheet-lead had been divided longitudinally with some coarse cutting instrument, and the bones within it had been displaced from their proper position. The most remarkable discovery made on the opening of this tomb was that of the skeleton of an infant a very few months old, which was found lying at the feet of the bishop.
* E registro mun. eviden. Prior. Hosp. Sanc. Joh. fol. 23, b.; fo. 24, a.
Nichols, the antiquary, tells us that Brown Willis ascribed the above monument to Silvester de Everdon, bishop of Carlisle, who was killed in the year 1255 by a fall from a mettlesome horse, and was buried in the Temple Church.*
All the monumental remains of the ancient Knights Templars, formerly existing in the Temple Church, have unfortunately long since been utterly destroyed. Burton, the antiquary, who was admitted a member of the Inner Temple in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, on the 20th of May, 1593, tells us that in the body of the church there was “a large blue marble inlaid with brasse,” with this circumscription—“Hic requiescit Constantius de Houerio, quondam visitator generalis ordinis militiæ Templi in Angliâ, Franciâ, et Italiâ.”† “Here lies Constance de Hover, formerly visitor-general of the Order of the Temple, in England, France, and Italy.” Not a vestige of this interesting monument now remains. During the recent excavation in the churchyard for the foundations of the new organ gallery, two very large stone coffins were found at a great depth below the present surface, which doubtless enclosed the mortal remains of distinguished Templars. The churchyard appears to abound in ancient stone coffins.
In the Round of the Temple Church, the oldest part of the present fabric, are the famous monuments of secular warriors, with their legs crossed, in token that they had assumed the cross, and taken the vow to march to the defence of the Christian faith in Palestine. These cross-legged effigies have consequently been termed “the monuments of the crusaders,” and are so singular and interesting, that a separate chapter must be devoted to the consideration of them.
* Nicholls’ Hist. Leicestershire, vol. iii. p. 960, note. Malcolm, Londinium Redivivum, vol. ii. p. 294.
† Burton’s Leicestershire, p. 235, 236.