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London's Temple Church from the 'Da Vinci Code' Movie

By Catholic Online
March 28th, 2011
Catholic Online (

London's Temple Church is famous for its rare circular nave called "the Round." It was built by the Knights Templar in the 12th century. It is one of only three Norman round churches left in England, and figures heavily in the popular book and film "The Da Vinci Code."

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - In chapters 83, 85 and 86 of the novel, Robert Langdon, Sophie Neveau and Leigh Teabing arrive at the Temple Church pursuing the answer to their latest riddle: "In London lies a knight a Pope interred. His labour's fruit a Holy wrath incurred. You seek the orb that ought be on his tomb. It speaks of Rosy flesh and seeded womb."
After a careful examination of the ten knights, the group learns from an altar boy that there are no tombs in the church, only effigies. Eventually, they realize the riddle refers to the tomb of Sir Isaac Newton in Westminster Abbey, but not before they are held at gunpoint in the church by the bad guys.
Historically, in the mid-12th century, the Knights Templar or Red Knights had their London headquarters at a site in High Holborn. But by the 1160s, the order outgrew the original site and purchased property near Fleet Street for establishment of a larger monastic compound.

The Temple Church was consecrated on February 10, 1185 in a ceremony conducted by Heraclius, the Crusader Patriarch of Jerusalem. King Henry II may have been present at the consecration. The Knights Templar held worship services and their secret initiation rites in "the Round," the oldest part of the Temple Church.

The church was originally part of a large monastic compound that included residences, military training facilities and recreational grounds for the military brethren and novices who were not permitted to go into the city without the permission of the Master of the Temple.

The temple also served as an early depository bank, sometimes in defiance of the Crown's wishes to seize the funds of nobles who had entrusted their wealth there.

In Part I of the 16th century play "Henry VI," by William Shakespeare, the Temple Church is the scene of the start of the 15th century Wars of the Roses. In the play, the war was sparked by the plucking of two roses in the Temple garden. In 2002, the Shakespearian tradition was commemorated with the planting of new white and red roses in the modern gardens.

Today, the Temple Church is still the main chapel of those who work in the Temple area. It also functions as an Anglican parish church, with regular worship services and choir performances conducted there. The head of the church bears the title "Master of the Temple," after the head of the order of the Knights Templar.

While many expect the Temple Church to be dark and thickly atmospheric, later restorations have tamed its air of antique mystery. It's a lovely Gothic-Romanesque church, whose chancel ("the Oblong," dating from 1240) has been accused of perfection. The church is made entirely of beautiful cream-colored Caen stone.

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