The Templars of Tomar

Tomar is the most important place of the Templar History in the whole world, since it has preserved an imposing castle and church, practically intact. The Order of the Temple existed from 1118 to 1308, when the Pope extinguished it and deprived it of its assets.

The Portuguese King D. Dinis ruled in those times and obeyed to the Pope command, however he kept the assets for the Crown and founded the Order of Christ. And so the Knights of the Temple remained in Portugal. A century after, in 1415 with the conquest of Ceuta, Infante D. Henrique became the Grand Master of the Order of Christ and lived for over a decade in Tomar. It was actually here that he designed the project of the Portuguese Discoveries.

In Tomar, apart from the Convent of Christ, there are other testimonies of the influence of the Knights Templar, such as the woods Mata dos Sete Montes, where initiating rituals took place, and the Church of Santa Maria do Olival – the ancient Roman Sellium, donated by the first King of Portugal, D. Afonso Henriques to Master Gualdim Pais, as he returned from the Crusades.

Tomar downtown was planned according to the vision of Infante D. Henrique and it also inspired other Portuguese cities as Angra do Heroísmo and Lisbon. At the center of this beautiful square there is the statue of Grand Master Gualdim Pais, placed between the City Hall and the Church of Saint John, the Baptist.

In the street Rua Joaquim Jacinto, the former Rua Nova, parallel to Corredoura street, there is the Jewish quarter of mid-15th century, the oldest one in Portugal, nowadays skillfully converted into a museum.


The Convent of Christ In 1983, UNESCO awarded the classification of world heritage to the Templar Castle and the Convent of the Knights of Christ in Tomar, a unique monument in the history of the western world. Built on a site that was originally used for Roman worship, this vast monumental complex illustrates seven centuries of Portugal’s history and contains several important mementoes of decisive moments in the history of the western world.

Afonso Henriques, our first king, bestowed upon the Knights of the Temple of Jerusalem vast tracts of land between the Mondego and Tagus rivers. Legend has it that, on reaching this region, the Knights were inspired by favourable omens to choose a hill on which to establish a castle and the name that they were to give to it: Tomar. The year was 1160 and D. Gualdim Pais, the Provincial Master of the Order of the Temple, ordered the castle to be built and the region to be settled.

The Order of the Temple was disbanded in 1314 as a result of its persecution by the French king Philip IV, the Fair. However, at the wishes of the Portuguese king D. Dinis, the members of the order, its property and privileges were all totally integrated into a new order – the Militia of the Knights of Christ in 1319. The Templars were thus able to continue their sacred mission of Chivalry in Portugal. Outwardly, the main sign marking the change was to be seen in the Order’s cross, which now had straight arms instead of the curved arms of the Templar cross.

Together with Prince Henry the Navigator, the new military Order began to prepare the Portuguese nation for the great enterprise of the maritime discoveries of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Tomar Castle was by then a Convent and the headquarters of the Order, and Prince Henry was made its governor and perpetual administrator. The lay master transformed the knights into navigators whose mission it was to expand the kingdom and spread the faith through the maritime discoveries. This was why the caravels bore the Cross of the Knights of Christ on their sails, and this sign was to be carved into various stone landmarks all around the world.

The Templars of Tomar can be reached within a 85 minute drive from Quinta da Palmeira – Country House Retreat & Spa.


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