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People have long sensed the high strangeness of London. That some of its nodal points appear to be the foci of arcane secrets; that the Monument and Nelson's column – can it be a coincidence that they're both 202 feet high? – cast significant shadows at the summer solstice; that there appears to be "intelligent design" in London's alignments and angles; that there could well be a secret gnosis incorporated into the architecture of some of our most famous buildings; that a 1960 mural of Jean Cocteau in a hidden little London church suggests that he and Leonardo da Vinci were collaborators across the centuries – and that their religious beliefs were not nearly as orthodox as the history books would lead us to believe. Dan Brown's best-selling novel lifts the lid on some of these matters. As does Gerard de Sede's The Templars Are Among Us. And if they're right...it's a live rail running right through our culture. "Heretical beliefs", the goddess mystery, sexual alchemy secrets, mastery over time itself, gateways where the human and divine worlds meet; a church that's allegedly denied its true roots...it's, well, dangerous to touch
Birch's strikingly rampant "griffin" (as it is traditionally known) crowning the Temple Bar Memorial is really a dragon, the symbol of the City of London. The mythical griffin, as anyone familiar with Tenniel's illustration of the "Gryphon" in Alice in Wonderland knows, is half-eagle, half-lion, and so has feathery rather than webbed and scaly wings, and a heavy rather than a reptilian body. Dragons feature on the City arms in association with the Cross of St George, and are featured on boundary markers in the City, presumably in their positive role as guardians of the City's treasure
In the Middle Ages, the authority of the City of London Corporation reached beyond the city's ancient walls in several places (the Liberties of London); to regulate trade into the city, barriers were erected on the major roads wherever the true boundary was a substantial distance from the old gatehouse. Temple Bar was the most famous of these, since traffic between London (England's prime commercial centre) and Westminster (the political centre) passed through it. Its name comes from the Temple Church, which has given its name to a wider area south of Fleet Street, the Temple, once belonging to the Knights Templar, but now home to two of the legal profession's Inns of Court), which is located nearby.
A sword of state is a sword, used as part of the regalia, symbolizing the power of a monarch to use the might of the state against its enemies, and their duty to preserve thus right and peace.
It has long been the custom that the monarch stop at Temple Bar before entering the City of London, so that the Lord Mayor may offer him or her the City's pearl-encrusted Sword of State as a token of loyalty. This historic ceremony has often featured in art and literature, as well as shown on television when it occurs at special occasions in the present era. However, the popular view that the monarch requires the Lord Mayor's permission to enter the City is incorrect.