Knights TemplarsNovember 15, 2018 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C
An hours bike ride from our base was Tomar, with its historic centre, riverside park complete with swans and ducks and natural setting adjacent to the Seven Hills National Forest is also home to the Convento de Cristo, a monastery that is the headquarters of the legendary Knights Templar.
Wrapped in power and mystery, the Knights Templar held enormous power in Portugal from the 12th to 16th centuries. Gualdim Pais, Grand Master, founded the monastery in 1160. Successive Knights and Grand Masters added to the building over the centuries which is reflected in the multitude of architecture on display.
Before we set foot inside, we climbed onto the 12th century crenellated walls and walked around some of the perimeter, looking down onto the town below, the views in the distance and passing the orange grove where the scent of the oranges on the trees proved too much for Chris who brought one back as a souvenir.
Once inside, the size of the building and all of its rooms was amazing. The highlight was the Charola, the 16-sized Templar church. It is said that the circular design enabled the Knights to attend Mass on horseback. The rich embellishment of the centre and views of some original wall paintings was fabulous.
The Manueline window on the western side of the church is apparently its most famous and fantastical feature. In celebration of the Age of Discoveries, which was largely bankrolled by the Knights, the window surround features stone carved snaking ropes, seaweed and cork boats atop of which is the Cross of the Order of Christ and the Royal Arms. To the right is a twisting belt seemingly buckled around a turret.
We wandered up and down, then in and out of all the different rooms that served as accommodation, offices, stores and then through several cloisters. We have visited many churches on our travels but this one was truly unique and well worth the visit.Read more