Not yet spoiled by mass tourism

Not yet spoiled by mass tourism

You'll find here what the Algarve is missing

You'll find here what the Algarve is missing

The beach resorts are still authentic

The beach resorts are still authentic

You can reach it from Lisbon in no-time

You can reach it from Lisbon in no-time

The weather is nice, all year round

The weather is nice, all year round

Costa de Prata

Templars left Tomar an impressive castle

Tomar is located east of Fátima, in the valley of the river Nabão. Already from quite some distance you can see why Tomar is so famous: the templar castle and convent (Castelo dos Templários and the Convento do Cristo) on top of a hill. This is the main monument of the city and one of the most important in Portugal. It is a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Other places of interest

  • On the main square, the Praça da República, with a statue of great master Gualdim Pais, is the church Igreja de São João Baptista. The main aspect of this 15th century late-gothic manuelino church is the manuelino belltower with octagonal top and pyramid shaped peak.
  • Not far from the square you can find a 15th centrury synagogue in the former jewish quarter. There are not many synagogues left in Portugal, this one is one of the few that remained.
    The museum Luso-Hebraico 'Abraão Zacuto' is still small, but will be enlarged to be a cultural and religious centre. Next to the synagogue the ritual baths (mikveh) from the 15th century were excavated.
  • The 16th century chapel Ermida de Nossa Senhora da Conceição is a very good example of early renaissance.
  • Igreja de Santa Iria, also a renaissance chapel. Every year at the end of the month October is the Feira de Santa Iria, to commemorate the holy Irmé/Irene. She was a nun who lived in Tomar. The munk Remigo killed her and threw her body in the river Rio Tejo. Her body was found in Santarém.
  • Igreja de Santa Maria dos Olivais, the mother church of the order of the templars. This early gothic church was built in the 12th century, but was renovated quite a few times since then. Almost every master of the order was buried here.

Festa dos Tabuleiros

Every 2-3 years (the people of Tomar decides when the next one will be) there is an important festival, the Festa dos Tabuleiros.

The organisation of the festival is in the hands of the 'Brotherhood of the Holy Ghost', founded in the 14th century by queen Isabel, the Rainha Santa. This brotherhood gave bread, wine and meat to the poor. The party is on for 4 days and has fireworks, music, dance, and other folklore acivities. The main event of this Festa is the spectacular procession on Sunday. Fourhundred youg men accompany fourhundred young women in a procession. The women have a “tabuleiro” on their heads (board or basket) which carries 30 loafs of bread. The tower can weigh up to 15 kilos, and often has the same height as the women. On one of the squares you can see an example of a 'tabuleiro'.

Tomar area

Arise of the Castelo dos Templários and Convento de Cristo

After the conquest of the region from the Moors in the Portuguese Reconquista, the land was granted in 1159 as a fief to the Order of the Knights Templar. Its Grand Master in Portugal, and Tomar's somewhat mythical founder, Gualdim Pais, laid in 1160 the first stone of the Castle and Monastery that would become the headquarters of the Order in Portugal.

The feudal contract was granted in 1162 by the Grand Master to the people. The Templars ruled from Tomar a vast region of central Portugal which they pledged to defend from Moorish attacks and raids. Like many lords of the unpopulated former frontier region of central Portugal, the villagers were given relatively liberal conditions in comparison with those of the northern regions of Portugal, in order to attract new immigrants. They were not allowed the title of Knight which was reserved to the monks. Women were also admitted to the Order, although they didn't fight.

In 1190 a Moroccan caliph and his army attacked Tomar. However the crusader Knights and their leader kept them at bay. A plaque commemorates this bloody battle at the Porta do Sangue at the Castelo Templário (Castle of Tomar).

Castle and Convent of the Knights Templar of Tomar (transferred in 1344 to the Knights of the Order of Christ)

In 1314, under pressure from the Pope Clement V, who wanted the Templars banned throughout Europe, King Dinis negotiated instead to transfer the possessions and personnel of the Order in Portugal to a newly created Order of Christ. This Order in 1319 moved south to Castro Marim, but in 1356 it returned to Tomar. In the 15th century the position of (cleric) Grand Master of the Order was henceforth nominated by the Pope, and the (lay) Master or Governor by the King, instead of being elected by the monks.

Henry the Navigator was made the Governor of the Order. The cross of the Order of Christ that was painted in the sails of the caravels that crossed the seas, and the Catholic missions in the new lands were under the authority of the Tomar clerics until 1514. Henry, enriched by his overseas enterprises, was the first ruler to ameliorate the buildings of the Convento de Cristo since its construction. He also ordered dams to be built to control the river Nabão and swamps to be drained. This allowed the burgeoning town to attract more settlers. Henry ordered the new streets to be designed in a rational, geometrical fashion, as they can still be seen today.

(source: Wikipedia)

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