The Temple Church in London – History, Architecture, Art

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The Temple Church in London – History, Architecture, Art

 Edited by Robin Griffith-Jones and David Park

Publisher: Boydell Press

First published 2010

Paperback edition Nov 2017

Price £19.99

It is impressive to allot 219 pages to a single church – the Temple Church – which has stood between Fleet Street and the River Thames hard by the Inns of Court, London, since the late 12th century.

It was built by the Knights Templar as their London headquarters and is characterised by having a round nave modelled on the fourth century Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, and because of that a favourite choice of the Templars for their churches.

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The Templar Churches round nave beloved of its makers.

The book is a collection of nine essays by academics from the universities of London, Oxford, Leicester, Cardiff, York, and Santa Cruz in California. With a chapter each, they trace the evolution of this remarkable church which boasts among other treasures an important collection of 13th-14th century stone effigies.

Not surprisingly the church, one of the most important medieval churches in London, has been changed, rebuilt in parts, adapted and refurbished over time, including work by Sir Christopher Wren reflecting changes in the perception of the church’s significance in the 18th century.

It underwent a major overhaul in the 1840s. Then came the bombing of May 1941 and the devastating fire that ensued, making extensive re build and restoration necessary.

The 109 black and white photographs are interesting, particularly a group taken in 1885 taken by the architectural photographers Bedford Lemere, which give some idea of what the church looked like in high Victorian times.

The fact that the book sprang from a conference experts on the Temple church held at the Courtauld Institute explains why it is shaped as it is with versions of the papers presented at the symposium.

6. Military effigies x 4 since 1842, photos by Bedford Lemere, c.1885

Some of the Templar Church’s 13th-14th century Knight effigies.

Robin Griffith-Jones, Master of the Temple at the Temple Church and David Park professor, Courtauld Institute of Art, are the book’s editors and they also contribute a chapter apiece. The books was partly inspired by the fact that Temple Church has not attracted much literary or scholarly attention to date, despite its importance.

This is a book for church and church architecture scholars, there is not much ‘popular’ about it with its ample detail and extensive foot notes. There is little orienteering for the ordinary reader but there is a welcome summary at the very start of the book.

However, the lay person interested in the church itself, ancient London churches, the Templars, Wren, Victorian refurbishment and the Blitz – should find it  full of information and interest with the text greatly enhanced by a generous number of colour and black and white photograph.

 

Hilaire Gomer

 

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