How Dan Brown Spoiled A Church, and How Demons Didn’t Get Raised

London

Temple Church

As a plethora of new London books appear in the stores, I thought we’d take a look at Lincoln’s Inn and its surroundings, one of the most fascinating and least explored areas of Central London.

At one edge is the Temple Church, a late-12th-century church located between Fleet Street and the Thames, built for and by the Knights Templar as their English headquarters. It has a round nave, which is unusually enough, but its pews are also the wrong way round, being side on, and it has interior gargoyles running all the way around it. The Round Church was consecrated in 1185 by the patriarch of Jerusalem. It was designed to recall the holiest place in the Crusaders’ world: the circular Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem (the church built on the site where Christ was crucified).

There are nine effigies of Medieval Knights arranged on the floor of the church, which feature in the The Da Vinci Code, and there are always one or two visitors who are there via its association with the book and film. As a result of noisy tourists entering for purposes other than worship the church now charges a fee for entry. So thanks for that, Mr Brown.

In modern times, two Inns of Court both use the church. It was heavily damaged during WWII, but has been restored. The area around the Temple Church is known as the Temple and nearby is Temple Bar. The Inner and Middle Temple have some of the most striking architecture and peaceful gardens to be found in any modern city, and are usually quiet, partly because they look so private you think you can’t walk through them, but in fact they’re open to the public.

london_guide_temple_church

It’s not an area you’d associate with magic. ‘Image magic’ involves sticking pins in effigies, but in 1899 another method of cursing someone was discovered when a small lead tablet was dug up in Lincoln’s Inn. On one side was a magic square, nine columns by nine all adding to the same figure in any direction (our maths master’s party trick on Parents Day involved getting the school’s tiniest child to fill in a gigantic version of a magic square in under two minutes. I can still do it). On the tablet’s reverse was the curse, in this case:

‘That nothinge maye prosper Nor goe forward that Raufe Scrope takethe in hande, together with the names Hasmodai, Schedbarschemoth and Schartatan, and three astrological symbols. Scrope worked at Lincoln’s Inn from 1543 to 1572.

The names were found to be those of demons. This is not the only surviving version of a lead cursing square, and there was a full history in Agrippa’s ‘Three Books of Occult Philosophy’. However, it’s known that Scrope ended his days happily as one of the Lincoln’s Inn governors. And we now think we know why.

The squares should all add up to 369, but whoever cut the tablet made two errors (no number may be used twice) so the demons didn’t appear and Scrope survived.

5 comments on “How Dan Brown Spoiled A Church, and How Demons Didn’t Get Raised”

  1. Ken Mann says:

    Oddly enough I just came across a reference to Temple Church in a biography of Bernard Herrmann – it was used to make concert recordings because of the good acoustic, the recordings starting at midnight to reduce traffic noise.

  2. pheeny says:

    A weird and wonderful place indeed.

    And they say today’s children don’t know their sums …

  3. Henry Ricardo says:

    As a math professor, I once gave a talk on magic squares, which I illustrated with PowerPoint slides showing La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona and a reference to one of Dan Brown’s books.

  4. jan says:

    So thats where they invented Sudoku then?

  5. Steve says:

    Theoretically (It’s been years since I read Agrippa so I’m not sure if he agreed) if there’s an error in a curse it bounces back to the one who originated it. Might be interesting to know what happened to him. Probably nothing since the silly things don’t work. Or, uh…so I’ve been told….

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