Nicknamed the ‘Leaning Tower of Bristol’, Temple Church dates all the way back to the 12th century. Though nowhere near as iconic as the Italian tower it derives its name from, its legend is no less interesting. Built on the site of a previous church of the Knights Templar, it has a long and strange story.
Work on the tower of this now-ruined church (which was bombed to bits during the Bristol Blitz) did not begin until the 1390s. Following the completion of the lower three sections, work was halted when the giant lean was noticed. In 1460, however, work resumed to add the top section and deliberately correct the lean. Today the bell tower still leans one degree less than the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Fast forward to 1778, Temple Church was the scene of the controversial exorcism of George Lukins. The Yatton-based tailor was alleged to be possessed by a demon, who sang and screamed in various non-human sounds – he himself even said that he was possessed by seven demons that could only be driven out by seven clergymen.
On Friday 13 June, seven clergymen took George Lukins to Temple Church where they performed an exorcism and the demons were allegedly cast out. Some claimed that George actually suffered from epilepsy, while others called George an imposter. Even so, he was said to be both calm and happy following the exorcism. And the story has attracted a lot of interest as a modern success story of the controversial practice.
The Grade II* listed building was largely destroyed in the Blitz, however, coming under the guardianship of English Heritage in 1958. Closed to the public for nearly 30 years, the historic church reopened to the public earlier this year. Its grand restoration took over two years to make safe and cost more than £1 million. This involved stabilising the masonry and re-securing thousands of pieces of stone.
Its grand reopening coincided with Bristol Light Festival back in February. Becoming home to Illumaphonium’s Continuum – a maze of mirrored monoliths. Currently, there is no access to the interior of the Church. But you can get a good sense of the atmosphere through the wrought iron gates. While the former graveyard is now a public garden and perfect for a picnic.