6 May 2015

Legal London And The Knights Templars

Tucked away between Fleet Street and the Embankment is an oasis of beauty and tranquility, a place where the outside world and the modern age are kept firmly at bay - The Inns of Court. Charles Dickens observed "who enters here leaves noise behind". London's lawyers train and work in one of the most picturesque parts of the city, and have been doing so since medieval times. There are four Inns of Court (the professional associations for barristers and judges) in London. To be called to the Bar in England and Wales an individual must belong to one of these Inns. The Inn is a professional body that provides legal training, selection, and regulation for members. It also provides office accommodation (chambers) for many barristers. 
The four Inns are: Middle Temple or to give it its full title The Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, The Inner Temple - The Honourable Society of the Inner Temple, The Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn and The Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn.
Temple takes its name from the Knights Templar, a medieval order of soldier monks who were founded in 1119 by a French Knight Hugues de Payens, to protect the pilgrim routes and the various religious sites in Jerusalem. The Order, with about nine knights, most of whom were related to Hugues, had few financial resources and relied on donations to survive. Their emblem was of two knights riding on a single horse, emphasising the Order's poverty. Their shields bore a red cross on a white background, which was the origin of the flag of St. George.

High Holborn was the site for the first Temple Church in London, chosen because it was cheap, being outside the then City walls of London. The Templars' impoverished status did not last long though. In 1129 endorsement by the Church made them a favoured charity across Europe. Their fundraising campaigns were a huge success, with donations of money and land, with the implication that donations would help both to defend Jerusalem, and to ensure the charitable giver of a place in Heaven. Noble-born sons joined the Order and by 1161 the Templar's numbers had increased considerably. They decided to move and sold the site to the Bishop of Lincoln, who founded Lincoln's Inn and Lincolns Inn Fields.

                                                                                      Around Staple Inn and Lincoln's Inn

Despite their huge popularity The Order were strongly criticised by many who objected to religious men carrying swords. In response to these critics, the influential Bernard of Clairvaux wrote an article entitled "In Praise of the New Knighthood", in which he championed their mission and defended the idea of a military religious order by appealing to the long-held Christian theory of just war, which justified “taking up the sword” to defend the innocent and the Church from violent attack.  Bernard wrote: A Templar Knight is truly a fearless knight, and secure on every side, for his soul is protected by the armour of faith just as his body is protected by the armour of steel. He is thus doubly-armed, and need fear neither demons nor men. The Templars were legitimised and became the first "warrior monks" of the Western world. 

The Knights Templar were the elite fighting force of their day, highly trained, well-equipped and highly motivated, one of the doctrines of their order was that they were forbidden from retreating in battle, unless outnumbered three to one, and even then only by order of their commander, or if the Templar flag went down. Even their horses were trained to fight in combat, fully armoured. The combination of soldier and monk was a powerful one, and martyrdom in battle was a magnificent way to die.

They were also very shrewd bankers. When members joined the Order they often donated their own cash or property and had to take an oath of poverty, giving them the strength of a large and trusted international infrastructure. Joining the Crusades usually involved being away from home for many years so many of the nobles would place all their wealth and businesses under the control of the Templars. Having done this they had no further resources to call on during their travels, so the Templars introduced a kind of traveller’s cheque system. Pilgrims would visit a Templar house in their home country to deposit their deeds and valuables and the Templars would then give them a letter confirming those holdings. While traveling, the pilgrims could present the letter to other Templars along the way to "withdraw" funds from their accounts. This kept the pilgrims safe since they were not carrying valuables. It also further increased the power of the Templars.

Coming next ......... The Demise of The Templars


  1. What an interesting post, Polly! Love the history.
    I've just come back from a London visit, now I'll have to go back :-)

    1. Thank you Amalia, that's a good excuse to return! It's beautiful in the summer x

  2. Thank you for the fascinating post! Interesting history facts, wonderful architecture, and really beautiful photos.
    Have a lovely weekend!

    1. Thank you for your lovely comments Sara. The whole place is steeped in history. I would like to visit in the summer time.

  3. I really enjoyed this Polly. I have always seen the Knights Templar as a fascinating order (and a bit gory after seeing Ironclad!). Here in Peterborough precincts we have 'The Knights Chamber', where they used to meet. This will one day be refurbished and turned into a visitors centre so that people can learn more about them. Have a great weekend x

    1. Hello Chel, I'm so glad you enjoyed it, I enjoyed writing it. Funnily enough as I was finishing the draft for the demise of the Templars I was watching "Season of the Witch" which was about knights transporting a suspected witch, it too was very gory. I'm glad I didn't live in those days, I wouldn't have lasted long!! Although I wouldn't have minded being a damsel in distress rescued by Nicholas Cage :-) I was born in Peterborough, there is a lot of medieval history in that area and the Cathedral in particular x


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