January 24, 2020
If you want to get to the heart of the Knights Templar, then you must visit Tomar, Portugal. In 1159, Tomar was founded by the Knights Templar on land that was given to them by Portugal’s first king. The order set up a convent on the hill and then built the the last Templar town in the world on the river Nabão. The Convent of Christ and the Castle of Tomar are both World Heritage Sites.
You may walk around the grounds of the Castle complex and stroll along the ramparts of the Castle Wall free of charge. If you want to see the inside of the Convent of Christ and the round chapel (and you most certainly should), there is a €3 fee. Believe me, other than buying a couple cappuccinos and two natas, this will be the best €3 you will spend during your stay in Tomar.
Convent Of Christ
The Convent of Christ sits on top of the hill over looking Tomar. It is a spectacular sight and it houses a round chapel designed to replicate the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. The Convent is protected by the castle and it’s walls. It’s architecture is described as Gothic, Manueline and Renaissance (plus throw in a few of those beautiful blue Portugese tiles) and the combination is a sight to see. The cloister area is cross shaped and provides many simple rooms for the monks and friars. There is also a large “Hogwarts Style” dining room where the monks would eat together.
Castelo De Tomar
The Templar Castle is in the same compound and it was built to protect the Convent. The walls and towers are all adorned with the Cross of Malta and other more Templar symbols. It was the Knights Templar who brought Christianity back to Portugal from the Muslims during this period of time.
The Pope declared the Order of the Templar destroyed in the 14th Century and the Order of Christ was created. Henry the Navigator then restored Tomar as the headquarters for the Order of Christ and brought together the knowledge of astronomy, mathematics, trigonometry and numbers to discover new lands. These sciences were used to calculate the position of a ship at sea. Until Henry the Navigator achieved this success, no ship could tell with any accuracy where they were on the high seas. The Knights Templar castle was the centre of this discovery.
Directions: Tomar is 50 miles from Coimbra or 85 miles from Lisbon. You can easily drive from either location or use the local bus or train service. Once you are in Tomat, it’s very easy to find the Castle and the Convent of Christ, as they occupy the same space. If you are standing in the main square, all you have to do is look up. From the Statue of Gualdim Pais (founder of Knights Temlar) at Republica Square, walk behind behind the Town Hall Building and climb the Calçada de S. Tiago to the main entry point. It will take about 20 minutes to climb the hill, past the parking lot, and through the front gates.