Built in the late 12th century by the Knights Templar and standing on the north shore of the River Themes and what is now Fleet Street is the Temple Church. One of the oldest buildings in London, the Temple Church served as the English headquarters for the Knights Templar, a group of warrior monks who protected travelers to the Holy Land and fought in the Second, Third and Fifth Crusades. Today, the Temple Church is still in use as place of worship and is one of London’s top historic sites for visitors and locals. The cost to visit the church is £3.00 for adults and is free for those under 21, senior citizens, members and staff of the Inns or of Chambers and for those who come to say a prayer. The Waldorf Hilton-London and the Crowne Plaza London-The City are the closest hotels to the Temple Church.
Before the Temple Church was built, the Knights Templar of London met in a building that was owned by Hugues de Payens in the High Holborn area of the city. Due to the rapid growth of the order, this site became too confined by the 1160s and it was clear that a new site was needed. Around the same time, the Templar’s purchased the land that the temple sits on and started construction of the Temple Church. Apart from the church, the new compound initially held residences, military training facilities and leisure grounds for both the military brethren and novices. The Temple was consecrated on February 10th, 1185 by Patriarch Heraclius of Jerusalem with Henry II in attendance. From 1185 until 1307, the Knights Templar had extensive power in England, with the Master of the Temple sitting as the first baron of the realm in parliament. This power came to a halt in 1307 when the Templars were forced to disband after members of the order were forced into signing false confessions that included charges of, according to the papal bull Pastoralis Praeeminentiae, “renouncing and spitting on the cross during initiation.” After the disbanding of the Knights Templar, another famous Christian Military order, the Knights Hospitaller, took control of the Temple Church and rented the space out to lawyers.
Over the next few hundred years, the church would shift from being under control of the Knights Hospitaller to under the control of Henry VIII when he broke away from the Catholic Church and formed the Church of England. Years later, during the Second World War, the Temple Church was set on fire on May 10th, 1941 when the Germans dropped incendiary bombs during an air raid on the city. Although the Temple suffered major damage, it was rebuilt and would be rededicated in November of 1958. In recent years, the Temple was used featured in Dan Brown’s novel “The Da Vinci Code” and in the 2006 film adaptation and also offers regular music performances. All of this makes the Temple Church a must see London landmark.