Effigy of Knights Templar

Effigy of Knights Templar is in Monumental Effigies of Great Britain.

THE Templars, whose house (the old Temple) was in Holborn, removed thence to Fleet-street, in the reign of Henry II., when, it is most probable, the erection of the Church [Map] commenced; for we find by an inscription now destroyed, that in 1185 it was dedicated to the Virgin Mary by the Patriarch Eraclius. In 1240, it is recorded, another Church was finished and dedicated. From the two distinct styles of architecture of the above periods, now existing in the budding, it seems highly probable that the circular part was the original Church, and it is here we find the effigies generally known by the name of the Knights Templars.

Matthew Paris says that William Marshal, the elder Earl of Pembroke, was buried in the middle of the church of the New Temple; and near their father were also interred two of his sons, William and Gilbert, successive Earls of Pembroke. And from other authorities, we learn that Geoffrey Magnavide, Earl of Essex, and William Plantagenet, fourth son of Henry III. [Note. Henry III only had three sons. Possibly fourth son of Henry II?], were likewise buried in this Church [Map]. The effigies, the subject of the present investigation, occupy the centre of the pavement, and are parted off within two enclosures, each surrounded by a low iron railing: the figures are laid side by side, as close to each other as it is possible to place them. In this arrangement it will be seen that there is not that succession in the order of their dates we should have found had this been their original situation. In the South enclosure it may be particularly noticed, where the only three knights, with emblazoned shields are placed together, although of all the figures thus enclosed, they are, in point of date, the most remote from each other. That they have been displaced receives confirmation from a recent circumstance, for during the late repairs of the church, by excavating the ground beneath the S. enclosure, it was discovered that merely these coffin lids (of which the figures, according to ancient custom, were a part) remained, neither the bodies they inclosed, nor the coffins to which they were attached, being found. This want of original locality is probably the cause that we are now unable to identify with certainty any of the persons said to have been here entombed. From the evidence of Camden, Stow, and Dugdale, it appears these changes have taken place since their time. Camden, who does not allude to their situation or arrangement, says, that William Marsha!, the elder, and his two sons, William and Gilbert, were here buried, and that upon the tomb of William the elder, he read on the upper part "Comes Penbrochiae," and upon the sides this verse, "Miles eram Martis, Mars multos vicerat armis was a soldier of Mars, Mars had conquered many by arms]." Stow speaks of "eleven monuments of noblemen in the round walk of this church; eight of them images of armed knights, five lying cross-legged, as men vowed to the Holy Land against the Infidels and unbeleeving Jews; the other three straight-legged; the rest are coaped stones, all of gray marble." Dugdale says, "within a spacious grate of iron in the midst of the round walk under the steeple do lye eight statues in military habits each of them having large and deep shields on their left armes, of which five are cross-legged. There are also three other grave stones lying about five inches above the level ground; on one of which is a large escocheon with a lion rampanta graved thereon." It is clear from Dugdale's account that the whole of the effigies were in his time within one enclosure, and he likewise agrees with Stow in their number and positions, and also to the number of coped stones. There are now, however, six of them cross-legged, and but one coped stone. This discrepancy is accounted for by a record somewhere existing, which states that the cross-legged figure bearing on his shield the arms of Ross, was brought from Yorkshire, and placed with the other effigies in the Temple Churchb, and it is almost conclusive from the situation of this figure, that whenever its removal took place, the whole of these statues received their present arrangement, and the two coped stones wanting were taken away or destroyed. Upon examining the effigies, to whom the inscriptions given by Camden could possibly be applied, it was found that they were carved in a stone best known under the name of Sussex marble, upon the surface time had effected scarcely any change, and the sides (where inscriptions are sometimes found) buried below the pavement, were ascertained to be as smooth and perfect in most places, as when finished by the sculptor; consequently had the inscriptions ever existed on these coffin lids, they must have been detected. This contradiction to Camden's account cannot readily be reconciled, unless the inscriptions in question were found elsewhere, or on the coped stone wanting, described by Dugdale as having graved upon it an escutcheon, charged with a lion rampant.

Note a. The Marshal Arms Earls of Pembroke were, party per pale or, and vert, a lion rampant gules.

Note b. The note containing the authority for this fact has been mislaid and lost.

The most ancient of these statues are Nos. 1, 4, and 7. The first is said to represent Geoffrey Magnaville; and the other two appear to be of the same date with each other. The most remarkable circumstance that distinguishes these three figures arises from their wearing the sword on the right side; the repetition argues against its being accidental, and it is possible this may have been a fashion peculiar to the early Knights Templars borrowed from their near neighbours, the infidels. If the effigy called Geoffrey Magnaville, really represents that nobleman, this distinction in him on this ground would be easily accounted for, as he received from the Templars, when dying, the habit of their order. It may be added, as an argument for the high antiquity of these statues, that they are not like any others at present known. The most remarkable will he found in this work, arranged with the other subjects in chronological order; and first,