Sunday, 8 February 2015

The Temple Church & Magna Carta

12th Annual Derek Melluish Lecture
Monday 2 February 2015

Photograph by MissB (c)

The Melluish Lecture is an important event in the City of London Guides' Calendar as well as an occasion which encourages the Masters of the Worshipful Companies to gather in great numbers. It was opportune that I had a meeting with one just before Evensong and was invited to join their number on the front row. 

The lecture is always held in a choice venue somewhere in the City, but The Temple will prove to be a hard act to follow. The site that started as an orchard was to bear the foundations of the Round of the Temple Church, in place by 1162. The Round also evokes two of the most scared buildings in medieval Christiandom, the other the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem (the site of Jesus’ own burial). Awe inspiring and sublime, its essence is palpable.

Before the lecture we are invited to join together for Choral Evensong – Candlemas – The Presentation of Christ to the Temple. It was also the anniversary of the Consecration of the Round Church by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Candlemas 1185. This may not be of interest to anyone other than those of us immersed hopelessly in the joy of historical research but, Heraculius actually visited here, and walked the aisles.  

Fleet Street, The Temple (from Aggas Map 1563
(Old and New London 1897)

The congregation was seated in the chancel, which was built by the Templars as the burial-chapel of Henry III and his Queen and was consecrated in the King’s presence in 1219.

An excellent service with enthusiastic hymn singing led by the magnificent choir. The highlight was The Anthem, sung by the choir to music by Francesco Cavalli (1602-1676). So moving I sure there was not dry eye in the Church once the last note floated away.

(Picture  Old and New London 1897)

The service was taken by Reverend Robin Griffiths-Jones, Master of the Temple who was also giving the Lecture, no surprise as to the subject then, ‘The Temple and Magna Carta’.  William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke was one of the most powerful knights of King John’s reign, who had remained loyal to the King throughout the crisis of 1214-15. It was Marshal who ensured the sealing of the Magna Carta by the King. Marshal became regent to the boy-King Henry III and made sure that the powers bestowed to the country at large were upheld in 1216 and again 1217.  Henry III’s own re-issue of the Charter in 1225 ensured its survival for ever after.

William Marshal and his close friend Aymeric, Master of the Temple died within days of each other and were buried side by side in the Temple Church. The effigy of William still lies there next to his son and heir William Marshal II. The Victoria and Albert Museum have lent four C19th effigy-casts of the protagonists of the Magna Carta – King John, William Marshall,  William Marshall II and of Henry III. They are cast in bronze and show the ancient effigies before the damage inflicted in 1941.

(Old and New London 1897)

The lecture was brilliant, the Reverend Robin Griffiths-Jones deserves his own TV show. What a raconteur! He does of course know everything there is to know about his subject(s) and is highly entertaining in his delivery.  He also knew he could not get away without mentioning the ‘Da Vinci Code’ and its impact on the visitor numbers. As he said ‘How could he not be involved when people came in droves wanting questions answered about Jesus?’  The Reverend has also written a short but detailed book about all that is not 'quite right' with Dan Brown’s book.

I would recommend that you make a note to:
  • Visit The Temple Church soonest – Entry £5
  • Go to a service – Evensong
  • Buy the brochure and the book!
  • Attend any lecture that the Reverend Robin Griffiths-Jones may give
  • Pay to visit the church when the Reverend gives a tour
See the website for more details  There is also a detailed history on the site which is well worth a read.

The Round
Photograph taken by Miss B (c)

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