This town was created and building began on the castle on the 1st of March in 1160 by order of the first Grand Master of the all-powerful Order of the Knights Templar in Portugal, Gualdim Pais. The Order consisted of knights whose main purpose was to help the Portuguese in defeating the occupying Moors.
In return for this service the knights received lands and political powers that in the end became their eventual undoing as their strength and wealth grew to become too much of a threat to the Church. The Pope Clement V together with King Philip IV of France in 1314 decided to act and suppressed the Order.
The Portuguese King Dom Dinis promptly reacted by creating a new Order of Christ and this organization was given the assets and power of the previous Knights Templar. The famous Portuguese Prince "Henry the Navigator" was made the Governor of this new Order in 1418 and liberally used their funds together with their logo of a white cross to finance his exploration voyages of the world.
The Igreja da Santa Maria dos Olivais was considered as the mother church of the Order of the Knights Templar in Portugal and it is the resting place of many of the past Masters.
The most important secret ceremonies of this Order took place in the "Charola", an octagonal chapel painted and carved in the Byzantine style and is the heart of the 12th Century Convento de Cristo much of which was built using the stone from Roman ruins.
Many of the frescos, statuary and paintings decorating the "Charola" have been carefully restored to their former splendour. The 12th Century Castle attached to the Convento looks down upon the lively streets and historic buildings of Tomar.
The 15th Century Igreja de São João Baptista contains paintings that include a remarkable work, the “Last Supper” painted by Gregório Lopes, painted during the 16th Century. In this town is one of the oldest synagogues in Portugal that was built between 1430 and 1460.
Last used in 1497 it is now a small Jewish Museum in honour of Abraham Zacuto who was a renowned astronomer and mathematician who lived in the 15th Century.
Also, beside the 15th Century bridge Ponte Velha is the Capela da Santa Ira built to celebrate the martyrdom of this 7th Century Saint.
This town has many other churches of interest, particularly the 16th Century Nossa Senhora da Conceição.
The Museu dos Fósforos in the former cloisters of the Igreja de São Francisco is possibly unique in that it is devoted to matches exhibiting some 43.000 matchboxes from 104 countries.
To the west of Tomar is the holy shrine of Fatima which attracts thousands of faithful pilgrims throughout the year. To the northeast of Fátima is the 15th Century impressive castled town of Ourém, the resting place of the Dom Afonso Álvares Pereira.
To the east is the National Dam, Barragem do Castelo de Bode, a sprawling lake with many islands lined by eucalyptus forests and now well exploited by the tourist industry. Further to the north is the pretty village Dornes. Another charming village is that of Sardoel that lies slightly further to the east. The inhabitants of this area were renowned in the 16th Century for their ability in visual arts, both as competent painters and as folk dancers.
To the south of Tomar is the 13th Century fortress town of Abrantes that served as a military headquarters for opposing armies during the Peninsular War (1808-1814). These is an interesting event that occurred during the invasion of the French army. Napoleon had created General Junot with the assumed illegal title of Duke of Abrantes.
Junot then ordered the habitants to provide within two days on the threat of death, 12.000 pairs of boots for his army. Working all hours and with the help of neighbouring towns they provided some 4.000 which proved sufficient to escape the blade.
To the west of Abrantes is the small pretty town of Constância and the birthplace of Portugal’s famous 16th Century poet Luís Vaz de Camões.
Close by is the romantic 12th Century castle of Almourol that is noted as never to have been successfully taken by any invading armies. Standing on its tiny island in the middle of River Tejo it abounds in fables and is reputed to be haunted by a lovely Princess.
Slightly further west is the 12th Century fortress town of Torres Novas with its many churches and its museum dedicated to its local artist Carlos Reis (1863-1940). Outside this town is Villa Cardíllo, the ruins of a important Roman villa that still shows some attractive mosaics, baths, and the under-floor central heating system. Also, close to the town is the Neolithic caves Grutas das Lapas that have been carved out of the rock.
To the south of Torres Novas is the quiet town of Golegã which explodes every November with thousands of horse lovers from many countries at its annual horse fair, Feira Nacional de Cavalo.
Not be overlooked in this small town is the two museums, one devoted to the photographic work of Carlos Relvas, and the other exhibiting the work from the artist Martins Correia.
|Festa dos Tabuleiros
||Every four years
|Festa da Aleluia
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|Support to Tourists
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