The Monastery of the Order of Christ in Tomar, Portugal

The Monastery of the Order of Christ in Tomar, Portugal

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Tomar. Monastery of Order of Christ (port. Convento de la Orden de Cristo, Tomar, Portugal).

Bus to Tomar. To the mystical city of the Templar Knights, whose unforgettable spiritual stamp is on the face of the city where every stone bears witness to the ancient Portuguese history. Tomar is a mystical place of power. It is said that the Holy Grail was (or perhaps still is) hidden somewhere here.

There is a special charm in Portugal. In the mornings all the coast is shrouded in mists. The red tiled roofs are slightly visible, the sounds are muffled. Cities wake up leisurely. The first passersby are careful not to slip on the damp paving stones and go about their business. The colors are getting brighter and brighter.

. The wind, smelling of the sea, has scattered the remaining wisps of fog. The sun begins to climb to the zenith. The shadows grow shorter and shorter, and by ten in the morning there is no escape from the sun. Only parks and awnings over the windows of numerous stores and cafes save the traveler.

In the cool gloom of the cafes delicious dishes from just caught fish are waiting for you. Cod, salmon, tuna and other fish are delicious. On the table in a bucket with ice fogged bottle of white wine.

Houses lined the streets in every conceivable shade. Tanned people peek out of the open windows and call over each other. Couples kiss on benches. Tourists, cyclists, vendors, these people are in constant motion.

In the evening, as the working people rush home, you sit in an open cafe in the middle of a busy street. Thousands of faces pass by. Who are these people? Fishermen? Office workers? Those are definitely tourists! There’s no mistaking them.

The shadows are getting longer and longer. The heat is finally gone. A pleasant warmth remains. Another day has passed, tomorrow will be the same day, and it’s great.

В 1119 г. Восемь рыцарей-крестоносцев образовали братство для защиты паломников в Святую землю от мусульман. Братство стали называть рыцарями Храма (храмовниками). Позже их называли тамплиерами (от франц. [/I]Tample[/I] – храм).

TOMAR, this picturesque city lying on the banks of the river Naban, 140 km north of Lisbon and 200 km south of Porto, only 30 km from Fatima, was founded in 1157 by Gualdin Paes, the first Grand Master of the Knights Templar in Portugal. It is dominated by a majestic castle-monastery perched on a high hill.

The heart of this pretty town is a network of narrow old streets. The main shopping street, Rua Serpa Pinto, leads to the Gothic church of São João Baptista in the main square, Praça da Republica, in the middle of which stands a monument to Gualdin Pais.

Plaza da República Statue of Gualdim Pais, founded by Tomar in 1160, Câmara Municipal or Tomar City Hall Castle of Tomar on the background

The Igreja de Santa Maria do Olival

The Treasure of Joe Baptista.

Por la Rua de Serpa Pinto en Tomar

The Templar Castle in Tomar was built in the 1160s. The castle was later rebuilt into the Convento de Cristo Royal Monastery and served as the center of the Order of Christ.

Portugal was the first country in Western Europe in which the Templars settled. In 1160 they began the construction of the impregnable castle of Tomar, which in 1190 withstood a siege of the Moors led by Yaqub al-Mansur.

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Since its foundation it has survived five centuries of construction, including the era of Manuel I (Lucky). It has also been the victim of destruction, especially in 1810 when Napoleonic troops turned the monastery into a barrack. The remains of the monastery, preserved atop the hill, are the most striking architectural achievement of Portugal.

The Manueline-style portal of the Temple of the Templars depicts everything from leaves to round-faced cherubs. Inside is an octagonal church with eight columns, said to have been modeled on the Temple of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The mosque-like church links Christian and Muslim cultures. Author Howard La Faye called it “a muted echo of Byzantium in bright red and gold.”

The architecture of the monastery, in which the Templar insignia can be seen everywhere, encompasses a variety of different styles. The most significant is the structure, created in the 12th century, which embodies perfect symmetry. You can see here the common dormitory where the monks lived, who were also warriors at the same time.

King Manuel, who was elected Grand Master of the Order even before he ascended the throne, started a large-scale construction in Tomar. After the new nave was erected, the Templar’s round church became its apse. His successor João III added an elegant Renaissance cloister to the Manueline nave, which was completed under Philip II by the Italian Filippo Terzi. Altogether eight cloisters were preserved from the XV-XVI centuries. The monastery’s aqueduct is a monument from the time of the Spanish-Portuguese union.

In the monastery there are the greatest Portuguese masterpieces of Manueline stone engravings. A fine example of this is the western window of the building where the members of the monastic order gathered. At first the shapes emanating from the window may confuse you, but closer examination will reveal carefully engraved symbolism and literal depictions of Portuguese power and maritime knowledge. Knots and ropes, sailors and seafaring tools, silky sails and coral landscapes are subtly intertwined here.

The fortress in the town of Tomar sheltered the Templars when the Order was destroyed by order of the Pope “on Friday the 13th” in 1307. Umberto Eco called the castle “the most Rastamplier” – a defensible road leads to the giant fortress, loopholes are made in the shape of a cross and Baphomet is everywhere.

The dissolution of the order in 1312 was a great blow to the Portuguese monarchy, which had hoped to rely on the knights for help in continuing the Reconquest. As early as 1318 King Diniz organized the idle knights into the “militia of Christ” and a year later the Holy See sanctioned his undertaking with a bull.

With the death of Jacques de Molay, Grand Master of the Templar Order, it seemed that the Templar Knights would disappear from history forever. But the Order did not cease to exist; indeed, the French King Philip the Fair, despite his best efforts, failed to spread the persecution of the Templars throughout Europe. Many European monarchs supported the French king, but not all, for example, the Germanic Templar Knights joined the Teutonic Order or went over to the Johannites. The Portuguese King Dionysius (Dinis) was obliged Templars not only to liberate their land and the throne itself, but also needed their continued assistance in the fight against the Moors, so in that country, the Knights Templar were generally justified by the court. Moreover, the king believed that the disgraced knights were no longer a danger to him and might even still serve him. He could have seized their riches, but he preferred to make use of their secrets. The Portuguese king not only took no punitive action against the Templars, but granted asylum in his country to those of them who escaped arrest in their homeland.

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During the thirteen years of knights-tampliery continued to live in Portugal for their own laws, but the position of the Pope was unbending, and because in 1318 (or 1320) year Portuguese tampliery, changing its name, became the Knights of the Order of Christ. Almost nothing has changed in their lives: the same statutes, the same organizational structure, the same people who have inherited all the state of the Templars located in Portugal. Except for one thing: now the Grand Master was not chosen by the knights, but appointed by the king.

Pope John XXII, who succeeded Pontiff Clement V, allowed the Order to transfer all Portuguese Templar estates, including the Castle of Tomar, which became the Grand Master’s residence in 1347. Hence the Order’s second name, the Tomar Order.

Portugal’s King Dinis was a talented administrator and economist who cleverly used both the disgraced Templars and the papal throne. The Templars had no property in Portugal; their treaty with the Crown merely gave them perpetual possession of the land in return for their service. The legal owner was the Portuguese Crown. Having played in the two-year trial, Diniz amnestied and created from 69 former Templars sworn to him the Order of Our Lord Jesus Christ (Ordem de Nosso Senhor Jesus Cristo). The Master of which was Gil Martins, who had not previously been a Templar, but a Benedictine and Master of the Order of St. Bennett of Avis. The Order of Avis was the first Portuguese “national” ecclesiastical knightly order. It was also called in the early period the Fraternity of the Virgin Mary of Évora. I think it is useful to recall that Portugal was the first European kingdom to call for the Templars back in 1228. But in Portugal, the Templars were not engaged in trade, but the war with the Moors.

Pope John XXII fully supported the policy of King Dionysius in relation to the Knights and in 1319 approved a new Order, but has negotiated for himself the right to partial control it and the dedication of the Knights. Under the new name, the Order of Christ existed until the 16th century and played a very prominent role in Portugal’s military successes. In the XVI century, the Order of Christ had already directly to the Portuguese monarch, after which Pope Alexander VI had released Knights of the vows of poverty and abstinence. Subsequently, the Order became so strong that the king was forced to take measures restricting its autonomy.

The Order of Christ was a military knightly order, the successor of the Templars, which continued the struggle against infidels initiated by the Templars.

The Order of Christ was knighted by the famous navigator Vasco da Gama, and Prince Enrique the Navigator was Grand Master of the Order.

Originally, the Master’s main headquarters was the vast Castro Marim in the south of the kingdom, in the Algarve. The knights were obliged to follow the vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience to the monarch. After the end of the Reconquista, they were again left idle and threatened to become a burden on the state. Prince Henry the Navigator, as Grand Master of the Order, turned them against the Muslim rulers of Morocco by requiring merchants to pay a levy on all African goods to the Order. The funds were used to reconstruct the monastery-castle of Tomar.

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The prince himself never sailed, but he founded a nautical school and observatory in Sagres and generally promoted the development of shipbuilding in Portugal with funds from the Order of Christ. At that time it took a lot of courage to dare to sail the unknown seas, about which stories were told the most incredible. There were tales of monstrous octopuses, ship-destroying whirlwinds, bloodthirsty cannibals, and the mysterious bishop of the sea, who emerges from the water with a luminous mitre on his head.

The Infante Enrique assembled shipbuilders, Arab and Jewish scholars who understood ancient maps and books, sailors and pilots from all over Europe, without regard to even their religious affiliation, at the academy of Sagres. Modern ships were built in Portuguese shipyards, the model for which was the perfected aisles of the Templars. At the initiative of the prince were equipped with ocean expeditions of P. Cabral, A. Kadamosto and other seafarers who reached Madeira and the Azores and already exported ivory and black slaves from Senegal. All the ships of the Order of Christ sailed under the eight-pointed red Templar crosses.

The Knights of Tomar, like their Avicenna brethren, took a very active part in the overseas voyages of the Portuguese navigators. Vasco da Gama and other itinerant Tomar knights sailed under sails bearing the order’s emblem. The commercial aspirations of cassock-clad negociants struggled to reconcile with the vestiges of medieval military chivalry. Many members of the order cohabited with women, which prompted Pope Alexander Borgia to replace the vows of celibacy and poverty to the vows of marital fidelity and deduction of a certain part of the income to the Order’s treasury.

Under flags bearing the same crosses, the caravels of Christopher Columbus (Santa Maria, Pinta and Niña) crossed the Atlantic and reached the island of San Salvador in the Bahamian archipelago. Christopher Columbus himself was married to Felipe Moniz Perestrello, the daughter of one of the Knights of the Order of Christ, who gave him his naval charts and lochs.

Manuel I the Lucky – port. Manuel I o Venturoso May 31, 1469 – December 13, 1521. King of Portugal from 1495 until his death.

King Manuel, who saw in the Tomarians one of the pillars of royal power, successively secularized the Order of Christ as Grand Master. His successor João III declared the office of grand master hereditary among the kings of Portugal. The departure from religious beginnings was of concern to the Vatican. Some popes, referring to the active role of the papacy in establishing the order, began to confer their own supreme order of Christ. The Portuguese monarchy initially resisted this; there were known cases of papal knights of the Order being placed under arrest in Portugal.

During the years of the Spanish-Portuguese union another reform of the Order took place. Henceforth any nobleman who had served two years in Africa or three in the Navy could join the Order. In 1789 the order was finally secularized, and in 1834 its property was nationalized. From 1822-90, the Brazilian Order of Christ existed separately from the Portuguese. After the fall of the Portuguese monarchy (1910) all ancient orders were abolished, but in 1917 the president of Portugal restored the order as a purely civilian award.

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The fortress-monastery was also built under subsequent kings. As a result, the complex includes a mass of different buildings and different styles: Romanesque Templar art, Gothic and Manuelineau of the period of the Great Discoveries, and then Renaissance art. In 1983 UNESCO included the Templar Castle and Monastery of the Order of Christ in the World Heritage List as a unique historical monument. There are many other attractions in Tomar. The heart of this pretty town is a network of narrow old streets. The main shopping street, Rua Serpa Pinto, leads to the Gothic church of São João Baptista in the main square, Praça da Republica, in the middle of which stands a monument to Gualdin Pais. The area around the square becomes the center of the colorful festival of Festa dos Tabuleiros, which still has pagan roots and is held every four years in July.

During it, girls dressed in white carry towers of bread and flowers on their heads.

One of the oldest synagogues in Portugal is also located in the old part of town, on Rua Dr. Joaquim Jacinto. Built between 1430 and 1460 it was used as it was before 1497 when Manuel I expelled from the country all Jews who had not converted to Christianity.

Museu Luso-Hebreico Abraham Zacuto

Today it is a small Jewish museum named after Abraham Zacuto, a famous astronomer and mathematician of the 15th century. Nearby is the unique Museum of Matches (Museu dos Fosforos – Largo 5 de Outubro). It has the largest collection of matches in Europe – more than 43 thousand boxes from more than 100 countries.

Convento de Cristo&Castelo de Tomar, Tomar, Portugal

This is the famous manuelino window, reproduced in all architecture textbooks:) For this window in the 19th century the English even offered Portugal to write off the entire national debt. The problem with debts is not new for them. But the Portuguese have refused to part with the national heritage. There is a legend that codified a plan of world domination of Portugal, it was made by the Templars and King Manuel I.

The monastery-castle itself is deservedly known as an interesting architectural monument. The whole complex is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

I will show you the castle-monastery exactly as if you were walking there with me:)

From afar you can see the walls of the Templar Castle, the construction of which began in 1160.

The first thing we saw on the way to the monastery-castle was the monastery aqueduct, a monument from the time of the Spanish-Portuguese union (late 16th to early 17th centuries). Quite a new construction compared to the castle itself. Before that the wells must have been used.

A small village of Tomar turned into a city by the construction in 1169 of the residence of the Grand Master of the Order of Portuguese Templars Gualdin Paix. The Order was composed of knights whose main aim was to help liberate Portugal from the Moors. In return for this service, the Order was allowed to retain a third of all lands conquered south of the Tagus.

In 1357, Tomar was declared the capital of the Order.

The walls are quite imposing.

The walls have these beautiful loopholes.

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Little remains of the castle itself are either ruins or rebuilt parts that became a monastery.

It is very difficult to see the monastery as a whole and the point was not found and it is very big. Here I tried to take a picture of it in the mirrors to turn the cars:).

Under the walls were blooming poppies.

In flowerbeds – irises.

The round church Charolais, which you see entering the gates of the castle.

This is the first courtyard – cloister, where you get after buying a ticket to the museum:).

Pay attention to the tiles – azulejo.

In the sides depart such beautiful corridors, fully tiled.

The second floor of this cloister.

Wall cladding.

From here you have a view of the circular church.

The ceiling in one of the rooms next to the first cloister on the way to the round church.

The round church from the inside.

The church is very richly decorated, and there is such a layering of styles from Romanesque to Renaissance, that it is hard to separate one from the other:)

Especially actively everything in the monastery was decorated under Manuel I, at the beginning of the 16th century, and as you understand, it was in the Manuelino style:).

The sculpture in the church.

Since the monastery was built from the 12th to the 17th century, the architectural styles were laying on top of each other, something was completed, something was rebuilt and something was just decorated. Therefore, walking around the museum you can find many different details.

Here is a manuelino element.

Nearby is a Gothic room.

But not only have been rebuilt and remodeled, something has been added:). So, one of the two exterior, Manueline-style street windows was inside the room and you can see it only in fragments.

Top of the window

Bottom of the window

Separate elements of the manuelino.

This is what the Manuelino-style part of the church looks like from the outside.

My feeble attempt to cover this whole part:)

The individual manuelino-style fragments.

The round window – note the convex “frame”.

The surviving manuelino sculpture.

Now the famous window, from different angles and angles to admire the detail work:) See how the knots and ropes, exotic plants, sailors and nautical tools are intertwined. It is said to have been created from 1510 to 1513.

Another attempt to take a picture of the building from the outside.

How can you take a picture of it? It’s not only huge, it stands on one of the cloisters.

The upper part of the church in the Manueline style.

The corridor of the monastery. Doors lead to the rooms where the monks lived.

Facing of the wall.

One of the rooms, I do not know what it is from, but I think it is Renaissance.

Another cloister, rather late in my opinion. There are 8 cloisters in total in the monastery.

The most famous one is the João III cloister, in the Renaissance style. And on top of it looks the church in Manuelino style:)

The museum is open: October-May Mon-Sat 9am-17.30pm, June-September Mon-Sat 9am-18.30pm, admission: 6€ (adults), 3€ (children) Official website

Arrived by car in Tomar, left the car in the parking lot and there we walked through the park to the monastery.

You can see how we got to Tomar in the itinerary description.

I wrote about another monastery with a layering of architectural epochs and Manuelino style here.

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