The Convent of the Order of Christ (Portuguese: Convento de Cristo) is a religious building and Roman Catholic building in Tomar, Portugal, originally a Templar stronghold built in the 12th century. After the Order of the Knights Templar was dissolved in the 14th century, the Portuguese branch of the order was turned into the Knights of the Order of Christ, which supported Portugal's maritime discoveries of the 15th century. The Convent of Christ of Tomar is one of Portugal's most important historical and artistic monuments and has been in the World Heritage list of UNESCO since 1983.
The castle of the Knights Templar of Tomar was built by Gualdim Pais, provincial Master of the Order of the Temple, around 1160. Later in that century, the castle was chosen as the headquarters of the order in Portugal. The castle of Tomar was part of the defence system created by the Templars to secure the border of the young Christian Kingdom against the Moors, which at the time (mid-12th century) corresponded approximately to the Tagus river.
Seat of the Order of Christ
The Templar order was suppressed throughout most of Europe from 1312–1314, but in Portugal its members, assets, and partly its membership were transmitted to the Order of Christ, created in 1319 by King Dinis. The Order of Christ moved to Tomar in 1357, which became its headquarters. One of the most important Grand Masters of the Order was Prince Henry the Navigator, who ruled the Order from 1417 up to his death in 1460. Prince Henry gave great impulse to the pioneering Portuguese expeditions during the Age of Exploration. In the Convent, Prince Henry ordered the construction of various cloisters and other buildings. He also sponsored urban improvements in the town of Tomar itself.
Art and Architecture
Castle and walls
The castle of Tomar was built around 1160 on a strategic location, over a hill and near river Nabão. It has an outer defensive wall and a citadel (alcáçova) with a keep inside. The Keep, a central tower of residential and defensive functions, was introduced in Portugal by the Templars, and the one in Tomar is one of the oldest in the country. Another novelty introduced in Portugal by the Templars( learned from decades of experience in Normandy and Brittany and elsewhere) are the round towers in the outer walls, which are more resistant to attacks than square towers. When the town was founded, most of its residents lived in dwellings located inside the protective outer walls of the castle.
The Romanesque round church is a Roman Catholic Church from the castle (charola, rotunda) was built in the second half of the 12th century by the Knights Templar. From the outside, the church is a 16-side polygonal structure, with strong buttresses, round windows and a bell-tower. Inside, the round church has a central, octagonal structure, connected by arches to a surrounding gallery (ambulatory). The general shape of the church is modelled after similar round structures in Jerusalem: the Mosque of Omar and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Manueline Nave of The Church
During the administration of Prince Henry the Navigator (first half of the 15th century), a gothic nave was added to the round church of the Convent, thus turning the round church into a church apse. From 1510 onwards, King Manuel I ordered the rebuilding of the nave in the style of the time, a mix of late gothic and renaissance that would be called Manueline style by art historians. The architects involved were the Portuguese Diogo de Arruda and the Spaniard João de Castilho.
- Claustro da Lavagem
- Claustro do Cemitério
- Claustro de Santa Bárbara
- Claustro de D. João III