An idyllic church in Cornwall

An idyllic church in Cornwall

You wouldn’t know it from looking at it today, but one of Cornwall’s most idyllic churches was originally built by the Knights Templars.

Temple Church, or the Church of St Catherine to give it its proper name, is today an oasis of calm, despite being a stone’s throw from the busy A30.

Built in a valley in the foothills of Bodmin Moor, it is hard to imagine that this lovely little church was once seen as a den of iniquity; Cornwall’s own Gretna Green where marriages were allowed to take place without banns or licence.

Adding to its intrigue is the fact it was originally built in the 12th century by the Knights Templar, the “soldiers of Christ” who were the most skilled fighting unit during the Crusades.

The Knights established churches and hostels for travellers all over Europe and the church at Temple could have offered refuge to pilgrims from the west of Britain and Ireland crossing the moors to sail from harbours on the south west coast en route to Santiago de Compostela, Rome and the Holy Land itself.

On the suppression of the Catholic order in the 14th century, their land and property were passed to the Knights Hospitallers, also known as the Order of St John, until the Reformation and their confiscation by Henry VIII.

Soon afterwards the church became notorious as a place where marriages could be performed without banns or licence.

The church then fell into disuse and became derelict for over 100 years.

In the 1850s a service was held in its ruins and plans made to rebuild the church on the existing foundations in the original style.

Silvanus Trevail, who was considered the leading Cornish architect of the 19th century, and was president of British Royal Society of Architects, was given the job to reconstruct the church upon its original foundations and was building work was completed in 1882-83.

Part of the ancient tower remained and original stones were used for the new church. The base of the Norman font was built into the porch above the door.

A number of engraved crosses of the Knights Templar were later built into the roof and wall of the small stone store which stands beside the church.

Today, Temple Church is one of the gems in Cornwall’s crown; small but stately among the moor, its whitewashed interior and arched roof is something to behold.