Home » Destinations » Portugal: Catholic Shrines & Places of Interest » Tomar, Portugal: The Convent of Christ

Tomar, Portugal: The Convent of Christ

About the Knights Templar:

To appreciate the Convent of Christ in Tomar, you need to know a bit about the Knights Templar, whose seat was in Tomar.   It was the Knights Templar who protected pilgrims on their journeys to the Holy Land, which were fraught with danger from robbers and kidnappers along the route.  Their financial expertise was among their other accomplishments.  Its mission lasted roughly 200 years – during this period Palestine was under domain by the crusaders and the Knights Templar´s power grew thanks to their military discipline and logistics organization. The fall of Jerusalem in 1291 marks the beginning of the tragic history of the Knights Templar. They ran afoul of King Philip IV of France, who was deeply in debt to the order. As a way of ridding his kingdom of such a financial burden, in 1307 he pressured Pope Clement V to have many of the order’s members in France arrested, tortured into giving false confessions, and then burned at the stake. Apparently even this was not enough, and Pope Clement V disbanded the order in 1312.

The story does not end there, however. King Denis of Portugal brought the Templars of Tomar back as the Order of Christ in thanksgiving for their aid during the Reconquista and in the reconstruction of Portugal after the wars. King Denis negotiated with Clement’s successor, John XXII, for recognition of the new order and its right to inherit the Templar assets and property. This was granted in a papal bull, Ad ea ex quibus, on 14 March 1319.

About The Convent of Christ in Tomar, Portugal:

The Convent of Christ was founded in 1160 by Gualdim Pais, grand master of the Knights Templar, who chose this hill upon which to build a fortress. Built continually for over 500 years, the Convent of Christ is a combination of Romanesque, Gothic, Manueline, Renaissance, Mannerist and Baroque features. Gualdim Pais, Master of the Order in Portugal, chose the hill on which to build the fortress in 1160.  The construction was based on the fortifications in the Holy Land.

The Knights built an octagonal church, the charola, based on the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The Charola was the original Romanesque Templar church and dates to the foundation of the Convento de Cristo in the late 12th century.  The convent buildings grew up around it when the Order of the Temple was transferred to the Order of the Knights of Christ, which took over all its property. At the same point in history, Prince Henry the Navigator was to lead the Portuguese nation to the maritime Discoveries, taking the Templar Cross to the seven corners of the world.

The 15th and 16th centuries are known as Portugal’s Age of Discoveries (Era dos Descobrimentos) when the country became known for maritime exploration and colonization of parts of Africa, the Americas, the Middle East, Asia and the Far East.  No doubt this inspired King Manuel I (reigned from 1495 to 1521) to sponsor a new series of art inspired by the sea was created here, in honor of the age of exploration.  The west façade of the chapter house contains an amazing window, depicting waves, ropes, fantastic animals, angels, kings, armillary spheres and the Cross of the Order of Christ, all carved in stone.

Here is a great video by Father Leo Patalingug describing both Tomar and Santarem.


Visiting the Convent of Christ in Tomar, Portugal:

Tomar is about 17 miles east of Fatima. To get there from Fatima you would be best advised to take a taxi.   If you are traveling from Lisbon, there is train service from Lisbon directly to Tomar, most trains take about one hour and 30 minutes.  Find train and bus schedules here.

Address: JH3J+99 Igreja do Castelo Templário, Estr. do Convento 8, 2300-000 Tomar, Portugal

Tel: +351 249 315 089

There is an admission charge.  Check their website for fees and hours.

Click here for the official website of the Convent of Christ in Tomar, Portugal

⇐ Back to Catholic shrines and places of interest in Portugal.