Friday, May 16, 2008

Too much Ivanhoe as a child

When one of my professors told me about a church in London that had effigies of Knights Templar on the floor, I had to find it the next time I was there. So on my first day in London, I grabbed my friend and headed off to find the appropriately named Temple Church, in the midst of the Inns of Court that feature in so many of the novels I love. These are the law societies in London, and you can still get a kick out of their very formal name plaques.

Temple Church is a relatively unassuming building, stone with a low round crenellated tower. Inside, it's a beautifully restored building with tons of new stained glass (to replace the WWII losses) and a ferociously loud organ for its small size--and, of course, the effigies, which date from the 12th-13th centuries, I think. Oddly enough, right next to the effigies are beautifully made casts loaned from the V&A, which is all very well, but I kind of don't see the point. The originals are still in great shape.

Around the nave are famous little grotesque heads. I was particularly taken by this one with the monkey chewing on his ear. They reminded me a lot of the grotesque wooden heads on the coffered ceiling of the royal throne room in Wawel Castle, Krakow, and that's a connection you don't get to draw every day.

Oh, and yes, it was in the Da Vinci Code, though I prefer to think more of the Knights Templar in Ivanhoe (though that was a bit earlier than this church) or of Shakespeare's Henry VI.

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