Portugal, Tomar and The Convento de Cristo

Tomar Portugal Castle of the Knights

There was a steep path to be negotiated to get to the Convento and by midday it was really quite hot so it became quite uncomfortable just to get to the top of the hill.  Luckily it plateaued out by the time we got to the entrance and paid our €6 entrance fee and went inside.

This was becoming a perfect day and thanks to the distraction of the Festival we arrived later at the Convento than we had planned and this turned out to be a good thing because a lot of the coach tour parties were now gathering up their passengers and beginning to leave.  On the down side we just missed free entrance because we were a few minutes past one o’clock because before that it is free on a Sunday.

Convento de Cristo Tomar portugal

Tomar is one of the most historically important cities in all of Portugal with a history that stretches back to the Romans and probably even before that.   Fast forward a thousand years and after the capture of the region from the Moors in the Portuguese Reconquista, the land was granted in 1159 to the Order of the Knights Templar. In 1160, the Grand Master in Portugal, Gualdim Pais, laid the first stone of the Castle and Monastery that would become the headquarters of the Order in Portugal and from here they pledged to defend Portugal from any subsequent Moorish attacks and raids

The history is important so please bear with me here.  In 1314, under pressure from Pope Clement V, who wanted the Templars banned throughout Europe, the King of Portugal negotiated to transfer the possessions and personnel of the Order in Portugal to a newly created Order of Christ. In the 15th century by a compromise agreement the position of (cleric) Grand Master of the Order was nominated by the Pope, and the (lay) Master or Governor by the King.

Henry the Navigator (one of the most important people in Portuguese history) was made the Governor and he used the resources and knowledge of the Order to succeed in his enterprises in Africa and in the Atlantic. The cross of the Order of Christ was painted in the sails of the ships that crossed the seas and the Catholic missions in the new lands were under the authority of the Tomar clerics until 1514.

IMG_7941Fountain at Convento de Cristo Tomar

The Convento was a wonderful place to visit, so much better than the Palace at Sintra and at only two-thirds the price so much better value.  We spotted a coach tour party arriving so we started with the visit before we were overrun with tourist invaders.

And what a tour it was, through courtyards and grand rooms, all empty of course and I prefer it that way to places that are stuffed full of furniture and decorations.  Personally I prefer to see a place stripped bare rather than full of old tat.

Through corridors and chapels, great halls and kitchens, dormitories and medieval offices it was all completely wonderful, I could easily have gone through the place for a second time but I knew Kim wouldn’t like that so we left the Convento and made our way to the castle and climbed the walls and made a circuit of the complete site before returning to ground level and after a surprising three hours leaving again and making our way back down to the main square stopping on the way in a café for a drink.

convento de cristo 03

Here I reflected on the visit and I realise that it is easy to get carried away by the moment but I compared it to a visit to the Alhambra Palace in Granada a year ago and I concluded that this place was better.  If someone told me that I could visit only one of them ever again then I would choose the Convento de Cristo.

Eventually we arrived back in Praça da República and stopped for another beer.  We liked it, the weather was perfect and we were seamlessly adjusted to life outside of Lisbon, it had been a very good few days.  When we first arrived I worried about filling three days in Tomar but right now it really wouldn’t have bothered me if the trains went on strike and I had to stop for a fourth.

If you are planning a visit to central Portugal then you simply must stop over in Tomar.

As it happened I was becoming an expert now and I was confident in giving directions to Caminho Way walkers and giving restaurant recommendations to new guests at the Conde de Ferreira Palace. It was rather a shame to be leaving but eventually we left the square while Kim went back to the hotel I walked to the railway station to buy tickets for the next leg of our journey, this time to Coimbra.

Our preferred restaurant was closed tonight so we walked the small town looking for an alternative and eventually settled upon another local sort of place which was nowhere near as good but we enjoyed a good meal at a reasonable price before one last walk through Tomar and back to the hotel for suitcase packing.

Conde de Ferreira Palace Tomar

23 responses to “Portugal, Tomar and The Convento de Cristo

  1. Portugal is high on our must-visit list. Thanks.

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  2. Your posts keep showing how much older everything in the world is when compared with Australia. Magnificent!

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  3. That is praise indeed if it’s better than the Alhambra. I think you are absolutely right about not filling large expanses with furniture etc. Lincoln Cathedral is far more impressive with the chairs all cleared away and just the paving slabs to walk on.

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  4. My favourite part of the Convento was the chapel the Knights rode into to pray. So humble! 🙂 🙂 We were staying at Constancia so didn’t have time for more than a quick visit. Loved the place though.

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  5. Based on your experience and review, Andrew, I will definitely include Tomar and the Convento on any future visit I might make to Portugal. –Curt

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  6. Andrew definitely will keep this in mind as we would love to return to Portugal one day. It sounds like you should come along and we would welcome your restaurant suggestions and history lessons. If you loved the place this much it’s a recommendation I will definitely trust.

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    • Now there is a travel opportunity that I would not be able to turn down.

      I liked Lisbon and I liked Porto but if I was arranging another trip I would put smaller cities like Tomar, Guimareas and Coimbra top of the itinerary,

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  7. The photos and your description have me convinced! What a place to visit. I agree that I enjoy touring better when the place is empty. You were lucky with weather too. What is that pink room in the last photo? Is that the hotel?

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  8. Portugal never ceases to amaze me This place is definitely worth visiting. I love the scenery there.

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  9. The convento looks amazing. I had never heard of Tomar before. You train tour is right up my street!

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  10. Pingback: Travels in Portugal, Preparation and Arrival | Have Bag, Will Travel

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