What can one say about the Convent of Christ in Tomar? It is one of those places, when you get inside, you just are like “I can’t even right now.” I may have said that at one point during the visit. I probably did.
On our fifth day in Portugal, Emily and I had a five-hour drive from Porto to Lagos, spanning the length of almost the whole country. We knew we needed to pick a pit stop and originally decided on getting lunch in Coimbra, since it was another major city. Neither of us were particularly enthused, though, so I pulled out of LP and started going through the Top 20 to see if anything seemed reasonably distanced. First, I was interested in Evora, but it was too far inland, and then we saw this other listing for Alcobaça, Batalha, and Tomar. By the description, they all seemed to be churches and castles, and were all not too far off the route we were taking to Lagos. We ended up deciding on Tomar because it was descriped as “labyrinth-like” so we were sold.
When we showed up after grabbing lunch, we started walking around the castle grounds. I thought it would be kind of a rinky-dink castle, but quickly I was like wow this is kind of cool. And that was just from looking at the façade. Little did I know that was only the beginning.
The castle was original founded by the Knights of the Templar in 1118 (omg that is old af), but construction continued for many centuries, under multipl “Grand Masters” who were the leaders of the order. The Templar used the castle as it’s seat to help protect the boundaries of their empire from the Moorish empire. After the demise of the Templar Order in the 14thcentury, the Pope transferred the castle to The Order of Christ. At this time, Henry the Navigator became the leader of the Order and started more construction on the castle including two cloisters.
This place truly was Labyrinth-like. We got lost multiple times in the cloisters and the dormitories. Here are a few of the highlights from this place.
I have NEVER seen a church like this. It was so cool! I think Church if the Holy Sepulchre was probably the coolest church I have ever visited (I mean, that is gonna be really hard to beat), but this was just so unique. The church was sixteen sided, with massive pillars is a close circle in the middle of the church. It is believed that they used the Dome of the Rock and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre as inspiration for the construction. The believe the circle shape may have been to allow the knights to attend mass on horseback! So randomly interesting. The pictures, really don’t do it justice because, I can’t capture every little angle of the church in just one shot.
We somehow found our way to the dormitories. There was a huge section of the building with just halls of doors to dorm rooms. Some of the rooms were open and we could go inside. Some were bigger, some were smaller. It was so cool to see this little glimpse in to the life of the Knights Templar and walking around were they lived.
There were so many different cloisters, and they were all really beautiful. Each of them were constructed at a different time period, so they all have very different, distinct architectural styles.
Kitchen and Dining Hall
We were so obsessed with the castle that we ended up going out of our way to visit Alcobaça and Batalha Monastery. Those were also awesome and will need to be revisited in a later post. It is worth noting, however, that This Convent of Christ Castle in Tomar was my favorite of the three.
Also, side note. After our two hour visit in the castle we came back outside and could not get our car to turn on. We had no idea why the battery dies. (ugh I always have an issue with Sixt). After asking multiple people in the parking lot if they have jumper cables, and no success, some kind old Italian man came to take a look at our car. After realizing the battery is dead, he puts the car in neutral and motions for Emily to drive, and for me to push the car. So there I am pushing our mini car through the parking lot outside some Knights Templar castle in front of all these Portuguese people, when suddenly the car engine starts! It was so strange, but also we learend a good lesson, because that was not the only time we had to jump start the car like that. So janky. Thank you, Sixt. First a blown out tire, then a battery that no longer works.