It seems fitting to have ended my latest journey to England in Temple Church, London. Built for the England headquarters of the Knights Templar 800 yrs ago, the church is more recently known through Dan Brown’s book The DaVinci Code.
There is a small fee of five pounds to enter the church, which saw a large spike in visits in the months after the publication of Brown’s famous book. There were fewer than a dozen tourists inside the church when Larissa and I stopped by on my way to Gatwick. Had I not had the burden of my luggage, I would have taken a few more glimpses into the more hidden areas and perhaps a few more photos. The layered history of the church is palpable, even in the newer, restored areas. Like the sphinxes guarding Cleopatra’s Needle, the Templar Church suffered (more severe) damage from German bombs in WWI.
The templars, considered “holy warriors” of their time, certainly hold an air of intrigue that can be felt inside the walls of their church in London. Although their order was only active for two hundred years their temples can be found throughout Europe and the Middle East. Founded in Jerusalem during the Crusades, the Knights Templar was formed to protect pilgrims visiting the holy city. Later, in battle, the Knights were known for their fearless valor as well as their financial prowess. They came to a rather gruesome end under King Philip IV of France after the Crusades ended in the loss of the Holy Land.
Despite being a rather small church, there is much to see, including the myriad faces of men in often leering and hideous expression peering out from the walls. I, though, was more drawn to the faces of women found beneath the pillars, as though lending a feminine balance and support to the masculine structure. The Knights, after all, were all men. Christian monks.
And then there was the impish figure sitting on the skull…
I’m no expert on the Templar order, not its churches, and walking through the Templar Church in London brought more questions than answers. More than the history, though, I am draw to the feel of these holy places and I was only too pleased to discover that we could go upstairs.
It was a bit of a colossal feat to get up, and then down, these old stone stairs lugging a suitcase. You can imagine my dismay when I needed to maneuver around a visitor going down as I was going up. It’s heady stuff, especially when you get to the top and start walking the circle…(I was so caught up in the walk, I didn’t take any photos)
It wasn’t a long visit. Just long enough to walk the floor below and above and pause a few times to take it in. I was expecting it to feel more haunted and weighed down by the ghosts of the past. Instead it felt inviting, drawing you into its mysteries. The echoes of power and ritual call out to you, especially from the more hidden places.
A few more photos: