The monastery built by the Knights Templar in the 11th century in the valley of the Nabão is one of the most important monastery complexes in Europe. The core building is the round church modeled on the Holy Sepulcher rotunda in Jerusalem. The huge complex was expanded several times and was later a knight’s castle.
Christ Monastery in Tomar: facts
|Official title:||Christ Monastery in Tomar|
|Cultural monument:||Convento de Cristo; Monastery fortress with the Torre de Menagem and 16-sided church building from the Wilhelminian era, in the middle of the church an octagonal Templar sanctuary (“Charola dos Templários”), cloisters from the time of Henry the Navigator: the Claustro da Lavagem (the one of the ablution), the Claustro do Cemitério (that of the tombs) and the Claustro dos Felipes|
|Country:||Portugal, see anycountyprivateschools|
|Location:||Tomar, in the valley of the Nabão|
|Meaning:||Symbol of the Reconquista and the worldwide, mostly bloody mission of the crusaders|
Christ Monastery in Tomar: History
|1147||Conquest of Santarém with the participation of the Templars|
|1160||Construction of the order castle|
|1312||Abolition of the Order of the Templars|
|1319||Swearing-in of the first Grand Master of the Portuguese Order of the Knights of Christ|
|1356||Tomar, monastery castle of the Christ Knights|
|1515||Manueline portal of the double church|
|1797||Secularization of the possessions of the Knights of Christ|
|1810||Devastation by French troops, destruction of the choir stalls|
|1834||Expropriation of the Order of the Knights of Christ|
In the nerve center of world conquest
“It was in 1160 during the reign of King Dom Afonso Henriques of Portugal: Gualdim Pais, Master of the Templars, began with his knights on the first day of March with the construction of this fort, which the King approved of God and the Knights Templar,” read an inscription in the fortress-like monastery. Like a warhorse going to war, it has seized the hill above the city of Tomar. The builders were the Knights Templar, a rich order of arms who made the place, protected by river and hill, their seat in the 12th century.
At that time, the border between the Occident and the Orient ran in Western Europe, right through the Iberian Peninsula. After Coimbra came back into Christian hands in the course of the reconquest of the areas occupied by Moors in 1064, the Mondego River formed the border. Almost a century later, the line of defense between the cross and the crescent to the Tagus had shifted. In order to secure the Mondego and to be grateful for the war aid in the conquest of Santarém, the king of Portugal donated the building site strategically located on the Nabão River to the religious military order for a knight’s castle with a monastery.
A society of men moved into its walls, who saw their chief task in spreading the Catholic faith and defending Portuguese independence. In the tradition of the Crusaders, they called themselves “the best of the best”. There was a close connection to the Portuguese royal family, which was not infrequently expressed in the personal union of king and order grandmaster. Unusual privileges, extensive donations and skillful financial policies quickly transformed the order into a powerful, independent institution. When the Pope dissolved the Knights Templar, which had become too powerful for him, in 1312, all of its possessions were to fall to Rome. Dinis I circumnavigated the papal instructions by renaming the order and placing it under royal patronage. Six years after the papal ban on the Templars, they resided under a new name, the “Knights of Christ”, in the monastery at Tomar. Its best-known grandmaster was Heinrich the Navigator in the 15th century, who organized Portugal’s maritime expansion and financed it from the monastic coffers. The Christ Convention became the nerve center of the world conquest. The caravels of Vasco da Gama, Bartolomeu Dias and Pedro Álvares Cabral, who conquered four continents in a century on behalf of the Crown, Cross and Capital, all sailed under the red cross of the Knights of Christ. The investments turned into immeasurable riches in the form of spices, gold and slaves.
The warlike intentions of the order could hardly be staged more clearly than with this stone monster over Tomar. The Christ Convent is the largest monastery in Portugal, which was still being built in the 17th century, when the order had long been an order of monks. Remains of the fortification with a double wall ring date from the founding period. A huge, 16-sided rotunda forms the core of the complex. A richly worked portal from the Manueline construction phase in the 16th century leads to the old Templar church, which presumably even had an entrance for horses, and the octagonal Charola, the actual sanctuary of the Templars. The Manueline Christ Knight Church and a total of seven cloisters adjoin this complex. The famous Tomar window (“Janela de Tomar”), a prime example of the Manueline architectural style named after King Manuel I, who ruled during Portugal’s golden age of maritime expansion, was placed on the outside of the chapter house. Thick rigging entwines the window, entwined, knotted and overgrown with seaweed. Sea creatures such as shells and corals are lovingly carved into the stone, and the armillary sphere, astronomical measuring device and symbol of discoveries, is not missing. Above everything, the coat of arms of the royal family and the cross of the Knights of Christ are unified. knotted and overgrown with seaweed. Sea creatures such as shells and corals are lovingly carved into the stone, and the armillary sphere, astronomical measuring device and symbol of discoveries, is not missing. Above everything, the coat of arms of the royal family and the cross of the Knights of Christ are unified. knotted and overgrown with seaweed. Sea creatures such as shells and corals are lovingly carved into the stone, and the armillary sphere, astronomical measuring device and symbol of discoveries, is not missing. Above everything, the coat of arms of the royal family and the cross of the Knights of Christ are unified.