The Temple Church, or Church of St. Mary, belonging to the Middle and Inner Temple in common (the former takes the north, the latter the south part), is the largest and most important of the four remaining round churches in England. It is a ï¿½peculiar,ï¿½ i.e. exempt from episcopal jurisdiction. The round part of the church was consecrated in 1185, and is in the transition-Norman style, with handsome ornamentation. The choir ('oblong'), an admirable example of Early English, was added in 1240. The ceiling paintings were covered with whitewash during the Protectorate, and the whole building was drastically ï¿½restoredï¿½ in 1840-42. We enter the church (open 10-1 and 2-4 or 5; visitors knock; closed on Saturday) by a fine Norman porch at the west end, with half-length figures of Henry II., Queen Eleanor, and others. Services on Sunday at 11 (by ticket) and 3.
INTERIOR. Both the Round Church (on which the porch opens) and the Choir are borne by clustered marble pillars. The floor is laid with tiles bearing the Agnus Dei (Lamb with the Flag) and the Winged Horse. The same emblems reappear in the fine Gothic ceiling, the painting of which has been renewed: in the original style. Most of the stained glass is modern. In the Round Church are nine ï¿½Monuments of Templarsï¿½ (or, rather, of ï¿½Associates of the Temple'), of the 12-13th century, with recumbent marble figures in full armour (all ï¿½restoredï¿½ and symmetrically arranged in 1842). One of these on the south side is believed to represent William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke (died 1219), Regent of England during the minority of Henry III. (1216-19; glove with fingers, slab with conventional foliage beneath head).
Near the east end of the south wall of the choir is a recess with a good effigy of an ecclesiastic (13th century), discovered during the restoration of 1840-42. At the south-west corner of the choir are a modern bust of Richard Hooker (1563-1600), author of ï¿½Ecclesiastical Polity,ï¿½ by Alfred Galley (1851), and a black marble tablet to John Setden (15841654), ï¿½the great dictator of learning to the English nation.ï¿½ Most of the old monuments were removed to the triforium of the Round Church (not shown) when the church underwent renovation. The most noteworthy are those of Richard Martin (1618), Edmund Plowden (1585), and James Howell (died 1666), the letter-writer and ï¿½author of the first Continental Handbookï¿½ (Instructions for Forreine Travel, 1642). On the winding stair leading to the triforium is the so-called ï¿½penitential cell,ï¿½ with slits through which the services in the choir could be followed.
The lawyers used to await their clients in ï¿½the Round,ï¿½ just as the serjeants-at-law did in St. Paul's Cathedral. The incumbent of the Temple Church is known as the Master of the Temple. The best-known Master is Richard Hooker (see above), of whom various relics are preserved in the Master's House to the north-east of the church. This house was re-erected after the Fire, probably by Wren; the east wing was added in 1764.
In the churchyard, to the north of the choir, is a slab marking the whereabouts of the grave of Oliver Goldsmith (1728-74).
To the south of the Temple Church is the block containing the Inner Temple Hall (open 10-12 and 3-5; 10-2 in August and September) and Library. The former, entered by a carved-oak door (1575), is a modern building, designed by Sydney Smirke (1870), with a fine open oak ceiling, after the pattern of that of Westminster Hall (bronze statues of Templars and Knights Hospitallers by H. H. Armstead and some interesting portraits by Kneller and others). Under the west end is the ancient crypt. The library (1862; 72,000 volumes; visitors accompanied by a member admitted 1-2 p.m.) overlooks the Terrace; it already existed in 1507. To the east is King's Bench Walk, with two houses ascribed to Wren (Nos. 4 and 5). The Terrace is adjoined by Crown Office Row, with the gateway (1750) to the Inner Temple Gardens (not generally open to the public). Across the south end of Middle Temple Lane are the Gardens of Middle Temple. In one of these, according to a well-known scene in ï¿½Henry VI.ï¿½ (Pt. I. ii. 4), were plucked the white and red roses, assumed as the badges of the Yorkists and Lancastrians in the Wars of the Roses.
The roosting of thousands of starlings in the trees of the Temple is a feature of interest on the approach of twilight in June. The sundial, supported by a kneeling Moor (Italian; 17th or 18th century), in the Inner Temple Gardens, was brought from Clement's Inn.