Convent of Christ, living history
Convent of Christ, situated in the city of Tomar, is one of the most emblematic and singular Portuguese monuments and also a World Heritage site since 1983.
The Convent of Christ, situated in Tomar, is one of Portugal’s most important historical and religious monuments. Its importance was acknowledged by UNESCO when in 1983 designated it as a World Heritage site. The Convent of Christ was originally a Templar stronghold, built-in the 12th century by Gualdim Pais, the Master of the Order of the Temple. The building ended up being the headquarters of the Order and played an important role in the defense of the Kingdom against the Moors, who attacked the Convent in 1190 without success.
The history of Convent of Christ
The Templars are responsible for one the most emblematic highlights of this monument, namely the Charola, a Romanesque round church built-in the second half of 12th century, following the style of several other churches the Knights came across during their travels to East, such as the Mosque of Omar and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
However, The Templar order was dissolved in Europe during the 14th century. In Portugal both members and assets where integrated into the Knights of the Order of Christ created by King Dinis in 1319. As previously had happened with the Templars, Convent of Christ became the headquarters of the Order in 1357.
The Order of Christ was fundamental for the Portuguese Discoveries, mainly due to Prince Henry, the Navigator, who ruled the Order between 1418 and 1460 and was one of the greatest mentors of the 15th century Portuguese expeditions. He commanded the construction of several new cloisters, improving the monument. King Manuel I, who became Master of the Order in 1484, was responsible for the addition of a new nave to the Charola and for the magnificent inner decoration under the late Gothic/Manueline style.
The Manueline style is depicted at its most on the famous Janela do Capítulo (Window of the Chapter House). For its grandiosity, expressed on the amazing and unprecedented sculptures of ropes, corals and vegetal motifs, this Window is worth a visit just for itself.
Under the orders of King John III the Order became more religious and less militarized. This new course is expressed on the John III cloister, a magnificent example of the Portuguese Renaissance architecture, considered by many as the most beautiful and monumental work of the architect Diogo de Torralva.
Due to the many improvements done throughout centuries, the Convent offers influences of Romanesque, Gothic, Manueline and Renaissance styles. Besides its architectural richness, Convent of Christ is also special for still being a devotional building, thus with a unique ambience. I advice you also to enjoy the peace and quiet of the gardens surrounding the building.