Located in the Central region of Portugal about an hour and a half north of Lisbon is the historic town of Tomar. This charming and culturally rich town was the last Knights Templar town to be commissioned, and played a significant role during the Portuguese Renaissance and the overseas expansion during the Age of Discovery.
The town itself is picturesque, with well preserved architecture, attractive streets and the River Nabão that runs through it. The focal point and historic gem in town is the 12th C. castle that contains one of the country’s most significant and impressive monuments, the Convent of Christ, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The round church was modeled after the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.
When the Templars were banned in Europe, the Order of Christ was created. Henry the Navigator was made Governor of the Order in the 15th C., and it was from the Convent of Christ that he directed Portugal’s expansion overseas. The Convent was also the site where the short-lived formation of the Iberian Union took place in 1581, when Philip II of Spain was also recognized as Philip I of Portugal.
Other important sites in Tomar include:
- Praça da República – elegant main square
- Church of São João Baptista – 15th C. church on the main square
- Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Conceição – 16th C. church on the hill leading to the castle
- Church of Santa Maria do Olival – 12th C. church that was the burial place of Knights Templar and Knights of the Order of Christ
- Synagogue of Tomar – one of Portugal’s oldest synagogues, built in 1430
- Castle of Almourol – a 12th C. Templar castle located on a small island in the middle of the Tagus River, 20 km. south of Tomar
Photo Credit: © Joaquim Alves Gaspar. Photo of Convent of Christ.
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