The secret of the Templars - Tomar, Portugal


This time I went to visit the Convent of Christ in Tomar, which is actually a set of monuments spread over forty-five hectares, encompassing different buildings built over seven (!) centuries of history and where the medieval castle and the Templar Charola, the 15th-century cloisters, the Manueline church, the Renaissance convent, and Pegões Aqueduct! It's almost a city on the right bank of the Nabão river!

The north facade of the Convent of Christ in Tomar was built on military remains from very ancient times that are lost in time from Roman times to the Visigoth and the Muslim era!

The first medieval building was a Templar castle with a chapel in the center, the "Charola". This monument's construction began in 1160 by order of D. Gualdim Pais, Master of the Knights Templar in Portugal, after a donation made by King D. Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal, to the Templars of Tomar and the lands ranging up to Santarém as a way of consolidating the territories that had been reconquered from the Arabs and as part of a system of fortifications between the Tejo and Mondego rivers.

This entire complex can be divided into 3 spaces with different characteristics: The first is the ruins of the Templar castle and the Templar house, partially adapted to a palace and convent by D. Henrique. The second is the convent area, with its five cloisters with their respective bedrooms, dining rooms, kitchens, and scriptorium. Finally, the remaining spaces were used for "monastic life".

The area of the Templar Castle is an exceptional example of military architecture of the time, where three walls delimit a primitive "within walls" city called Almedina, and its interior area presents the courtyard of weapons, the housing area of the Knights Templar, the Alcazaba, the tribute tower, and the Charola, which is a Templar chapel that was a symbol of the medieval European world, the crusades and the defense of the faith.

The castle is a fortification that incorporates technical solutions unprecedented in Portugal at the time and presumably imported from the Middle East, such as the reinforcement slope at the base of the wall to keep enemies at a distance and thus increase security.

Completed in 1190, the Charola was the private oratory of the Knights, inside the fortress. Its typology is common to byzantine churches, which once again integrated the Romanesque style with the movement of the Crusades.

Even if you are not passionate about history and religion, I believe that Charola do Convento de Cristo will impress you. It's something unique.

The greatest transformation of this monument begins in 1515 when King Manuel I nominate the architect Diogo de Arruda to convert the Roman Temple into a Church with a longitudinal plan, which made it necessary to break through the west wall.
The old Charola was transformed into the main chapel and thus the concept of centrality was changed, but without breaking the symbolic idea in relation to the Holy Sepulchre.

This room began as a sacristy and later became a chapter hall. It is illuminated by two windows, one to the south, partially covered by the main cloister, and another in the western part, with excellent exterior decoration and known as "Window of the Chapter", one of the most famous elements from the convent.

In front of the south entrance of the church, at the end of the 15th century, the new Chapter House began to be built, where the Cortes called by Felipe II would meet, and where he was legitimized as king of Portugal.

"Claustro da Lavagem" has a quadrangular shape with two floors with a wooden roof. The lower floor was where the kitchens, storerooms, and servants' rooms were located.

The upper gallery was where the bedrooms were located and from where the Cemetery Cloister was accessed. The tiles in both cloisters are from the 16th century, from the Manueline period.

In this area, there is also the São Jorge Chapel, which was at the end of the 19th century. XV, already in the reign of D. Manuel I, began to perform the functions of a sacristy.

In summary, it is well worth visiting this area that sends us back to very remote times!

Castelo de Bode Dam

The Castelo de Bode dam (belonging to Tomar) is located in the Zêzere river basin and was just built in 1951. This is one of the most important Portuguese dams, supplying water to the city of Lisbon. In addition to being a water reservoir, it produces electricity and is also used for leisure and water sports such as windsurfing or sailing.