If one has read the book or seen th movie “The Da Vinci Code” or the stories of King Arthur then I am sure the Kinghts Templar would be a mystical group who inspire in you a sense of awe. These were the source of my mystical impressions of the Knights Templar and so I was all enthusiastic to visit Tomar which was the last Templar town to be commissioned. Although there was this fascination, I had really not studied about the Templars before my visit to Tomar. So it was sort of an anticlimax to realise that the glorification of them was just that, while yes they were crusaders (some reading lead you to comparing them to the current ISI and related organisations of the modern world 🙂 ) their main function was providing financial services, sort of the deposits and withdrawal functions of current banking system. Ha ha … so there ends the mystical part.
But no doubt visiting the Convento de Cristo (Convent of Christ) which is the main legacy of the Knights Templar in the town of Tomar does take you back a little to this mystical charm of the Templars. You can easily spend around 2-3 hrs in this complex. You can either pick up a self instructured audio at the entrance or even if not the layout is very well defined highlighting each portion in a map as you walk through the complex with a small information about these parts.
The outside view of the Round church of the Convent of Christ, Tomar
Tomar can also be done as a one day trip from Lisbon either by yourself or by signing up with a tour company. It is well connected to Lisbon by train and from the railway station its an easy walk to the Convent of Christ or the old town center part. Yes, one day for the town itself will do however if you have an additional day, do checkout the closeby Castle at Almoroul or the town at Santarem (link to my earlier post)
From the railway station if you check out the walking path map on google it will take you through the old gates and cobbled uphill pathway, walking through here is pretty charming and you can easily imagine the monks to have treaded these paths in their time.
Cobbled pathway to Convent of Christ, Tomar
The convent was founded by the Knights Templar in 1118 with Tomar becoming the main seat of the Templars in the 13th century. They ruled vast regions of the central Portugal from here defending the region against the Moors attacks and raids. In 1319 when the Templar Order was dissolved throughout Europe the Portugal order was transferred to the Order of Christ with the Grand master of the Order being nominated by the Pope and thee Gvernor by the king instead of elected by the monks. This can also be seen in the Architecture of the convent with some early 12th century parts designed by the main Grand master Gaulim Pais to the Manuline Gothic-Renaissance style of the 14th century.
As you start your tour of the castle you walk down several Cloisters with beautiful tile works and naves
A view from the Cemetery Cloister of Convent of Christ, Tomar
Beautiful tiles at Chapel of Antonio Portocarriro, Convent of Christ, Tomar
One of the main focal part of the convent is the Round Church built by the Templars in the late 12th century. The outside structure is a 16-sided polygonal structure that we see as we enter the complex (first photo in this post). Inside, the round church has an octagonal central structure and this entire area is magnificently decorated. From the tile work on the walls and pillars to the paintings, the sculptures, the upper roof area , every inch of this church is just beautiful.
The Round Church at Convent of Christ, Tomar
The octogonal struture inside the Round Church at Convent of Christ, Tomar
Walking through the Main Cloister with its beautiful windows you start seeing the Mauline Gothic Renaissance style with the other main part of the convent the Mauline Window with the sides having the rope like structures which symbolizes the Tree of Life and Tree of Jesse (from the scriptures)
The Manuline Window lower portion at Convent of Christ, Tomar
The Manuline Window upper portion at Convent of Christ, Tomar
Touring the Dormitories having some beautiful Azulejos tiles you can climb up to the various levels of the Main cloister and see some more of the Gothic influence on the outside structure of the building.
Convent of Christ, Tomar
There is one part where you get onto the terrace and as you turn back you see this beautiful Gothic arch with Virgin Mary, just takes your breath away. The same arch we see as we enter the castle grounds (first photo of the post) however from this level its just something.
These are the main parts , there are several Dormitories and Cloisters that you walk through, the aqueducts, the ruined rooms area etc. Once you complete the tour you can also walk on the walls of the castle and get some great views of the Tomar town.
The old town area of Tomar
The main square of the town Praca de Republica has the statue of Gauldim Pais the Grand Master of the Knights Templar and one end is the Church of Saint Jhon the Baptist. Several cafes, restaurants and shopping outlets along the alleys of this square.
Praca de Republica, Tomar
You can spend your time just walking down the streets or walk down to the Nabao River. The riverside again has several restaurants and also a park area. One of these Alleys has the old Synagogue, in the 15th century when Jews were expelled from Spain they found a need for thier skills here during the Discoveries age. A little away on th other side of the river is the Gothic Church of Santa Maria do Olivia built as the burial ground for the Templars and here rests Gaudim Pais too.
A shot at Nabao River, Tomar