Fountains Cort, Middle Temple

Coat of Arms - Argent; on a cross gules a Paschal lamb or, carrying a banner argent charged with a cross gales. Translated—A silver field ; on a red cross a Paschal lamb (gold) carrying a silver banner charged with a red cross. In ancient times, says Pearce, the lamb referred to, symbolizing our sacred Redeemer, was embroidered on cloth, and, after episcopal benediction, was worn by the faithful, with the words of the Evangelist St. John : Agnus Dei qui tollis peccata mundi (The Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world). The lamb was also employed in the decoration of churches, and is yet to be met with in many of our provincial and metropolitan churches. In Roman Catholic countries, the Agnus Dei is still very generally worn by the peasantry. This Agnus Del was assumed as one of the appropriate ensigns of the Knights Templars; their bearings being a shield argent, a plain cross gales, and (brochant sur le tout) the holy lamb bearing the banner of the order, surmounted by a red cross :

"And on his brest a bloody crosse he bore, The deare remembrance of his dying lord, For whose sweete sake that glorious badge he wore, And dead as living ever him ador'd, Upon his shield the like was also scor'd, For sovereign hope, which in his help he had."

" The holy lamb," proceeds Pearce, "seems also to have been borne by the Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem, for I find one in the groined roof of St. John's Gate, Clerkenwell. If this be so, as this order succeeded the Knights Templars in the possession of their house, at Temple Bar, and afterwards demised it to the professors and students of the common law, we have an additional reason why this glorious badge ' should have been assumed as the armorial ensign of the legal fraternity on the Temple."

The precise date at which the Middle Temple assumed these Arms must be left to conjecture. Being the ancient Arms of the Temple, it seems probable that they were at a very early date adopted by the lawyers, who became tenants of the place, and successors of many of the immunities of the Knights Templars. But, for some cause, these Arms fell into oblivion ; for when Sir George Buc (who had been, he tells us, a student of the Middle Temple) wrote his view of the " College of London," 1612, it would appear that the Middle Temple did not bear any armorial ensign. Possibly the holy lamb and cross may have been removed by zealots as a relic of ancient superstition, much as in the same way crosses and figures of the saints were subsequently mutilated in many churches and public places.

The Hall of the Middle Temple is one of the finest structures in the Metropolis. It was commenced in the year 1562, the fifth year of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, under the auspices of the learned Plowden. It was completed in the year 1572. On the accession of King William III. it appears that His Majesty was entertained at a banquet in the Middle Temple Hall, followed by a masque, which was the last ancient performance of the kind in the Inns of Court of which any account has been preserved.

Site Copyright The text was first written in 1910 by an anonymous diarist.