Temple Church – An unusual round church in London with a Templar past

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WHETHER OR NOT YOU’VE READ The Da Vinci Code and subsequent thrillers, you may have heard of the Knights Templar. A few facts can be confirmed about the Knights. A group of pilgrims traveled to Jerusalem in 1119, and some of them were armed and followed a strict, religiously inspired code. Here’s where the facts get muddy. According to the story, nine among them took vows to become monks and were trapped in the Temple of Solomon. Or so the story goes…

Named Knights Templar because of the Temple of Solomon (“templar” meaning of the temple) their group quickly blossomed as more pilgrims began traveling to Jerusalem from Europe. Muslim–Christian tensions in Jerusalem rose, and it became very expensive to protect the Christian pilgrims. Funds were raised from Europe as the Knights grew in number and prestige.

Back in London, the Knights began to influence politics. With wealthy friends and their Church in central London, the Templars became intertwined in the financial and domestic concerns of the burgeoning English nation. The Master of the Church was an ex officio member of Parliament: separation of Church and State was more than five hundred years away.

Temple Church

With a distinct round nave, the Temple Church was consecrated in 1185. The round church is modeled on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. (In a twist of fate, that church may originally have been a temple to Aphrodite in the second century.)

But by the late 1200s, the Crusades weren’t going so well, and, with other troubles in France, the clout of the Knights waned. When they eventually fell in 1307, their land was seized by the Crown. King Edward II used the land and buildings for law colleges that developed into the present-day Inns of Court.

During World War II, German firebombs damaged the roof of the Temple Church, but it has since been restored. Visit the website for details about when the sanctuary is open for services and musical performances.

Side note: the library at Middle Temple owns valuable antique maps. These maps depict land we now know not to exist, but they are fascinating, nonetheless. A 1570 edition Abraham Ortelius’ Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (Theater of the World). Check the Middle Temple Library website for times.


Exorcism and the Catholic Church

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Although the Catholic Church strayed from exorcisms during Pope John Paul II, the practice has received renewed focus in recent years. Information has recently hit the news that Mother Teresa actually underwent an exorcism. Even the venerable Pope John Paul II performed exorcisms. According to the Italian news channels, he attempted an exorcism on a 19-year-old girl.

Compared to previous years, exorcisms are growing at an alarming rate in the United States. There are ten official exorcists known to be working in the United States. A decade ago, there was just one. These exorcists report experiencing supernatural behaviors like wounds, levitation and unusual scars.

For a Catholic exorcism, the ritual is planned out in advance and takes several hours to finish. It involves sacred objects, holy water and the cross. To carry out the exorcism, priests use a manual that was recently updated by Pope John Paul II in 1998.

In early July, the news began reporting on Pope Francis’ stance on exorcism. He has recently given his support to priests who exorcise demons. Altogether, there are 250 priests who are a part of the International Association of Exorcists. Pope Francis has stood out from previous popes due to his focus on personifying Satan and his works. Video footage from 2013 shows Pope Francis praying over a boy in a wheelchair. Within moments, the boy exhaled and slumped deeper into his chair. Although the incident was downplayed by the Vatican, further reports showed that Pope Francis used a prayer to rid the boy of evil.

Dealing with exorcisms is not new for Protestants and Catholics. In the United States, there are more Protestant exorcists than there are Catholic exorcists. Many Protestants who believe in exorcisms believe that it is a natural way to deal with evil. Unfortunately, the techniques used by some Protestant ministers has resulted in death. In 1997, a 5-year-old girl was forced to swallow ammonia and vinegar that ultimately killed her.