Convento da Ordem de Cristo de Tomar, Tomar
Convento da Ordem de Cristo de Tomar View slideshowHistory of the OrderThe Order of the Knights of Christ (Ordem de cavalharia de Nosso Senhor Jesús Cristo) was founded by King Dinis in 1317 for the purpose of "defending the faith, fighting the Moors and enlarging the Portuguese monarchy", following the dissolution in 1314 of the order of Knights Templar which had been established at Tomar since 1159. The new order flourished, particularly under its famous Grand Master Henry the Navigator.The Order financed voyages of discovery to the west coast of Africa and thus began the process of colonial acquisition by the European nations. In the reign of King Manuel I (Grand Master from 1484) its possessions in Africa and the East Indies made it the wealthiest order in Christendom. The knightly order became a monastic order in 1523, was secularized in 1789 and dissolved in 1910.History of the buildingIn the 12th C., in order to defend the line of the Tagus, the Knights Templar built a castle high above the right bank of the Nabao, and some of this castle's walls, its keep and the round Templar church are still part of the complex.The Order of the Knights of Christ was first based in Castro Marim, when it was founded in 1317, then moved to Tomar in 1356. As Grand Master, Henry the Navigator was responsible for the building around the Templar castle in the early 15th C. of the Claustro da Lavagem and Claustro do Cemitério. The Order's next flowering was under Manuel I, who around 1500 had the Church of the Knights of Christ added on to the Templar church, and had the Claustro de Santa Bárbara and the new Chapterhouse built. Although the Order waned in political significance in the 16th and 17th C. there was further building during this period in the convent precincts, and four more cloisters were added, the Claustro dos Felipes, Claustro dos Corvos, Claustro da Micha and Claustro da Hospedaria. The buildings were restored by the Counts of Tomar in the mid 19th C., and the green setting for the convent castle was first landscaped in the 1930s.Tour of the complexThe entrance to the great complex of 12th to 17th C. buildings that go to make up the convent castle of the Knights of Christ, high above Tomar, is through two gates of the old Templar castle. Passing through gardens to reach the terrace of the Templar Church, access to the interior of the convent is through the southern door of the Church of the Knights of Christ on the western end of the Templar building.
Address: N113, Portugal
Convento da Ordem de Cristo de Tomar Highlights
Knights of Christ Church
The church of the Knights of Christ on the west end of the Templar church is one of Portugal's finest Manueline monuments. The work of Joao do Castilho, it was begun in 1515. Its exterior is sumptuously decorated. Statues of the prophets surround the portal on the southern facade, with the Virgin and Child under a baldachin in the center. The west front is no less impressive, where the splendor of the ornate window of the Old Chapterhouse shows the Manueline style at its most accomplished (best view from the terrace of the Claustro de Santa Bárbara, see below).Almost three quarters of the church interior is taken up by the Coro Alto (the choirstalls are 19th C.), once reserved for the monks at prayer. The rest was originally intended to be the vestry but later became the chapterhouse, while the Templar Church served as the choir for the Knights of Christ Church.
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Claustro do Cemiterio
The Gothic Claustro do Cemitério, or cemetery cloister, on the northeast of the Templar church, is the oldest of the convent cloisters, and has Mudejar azulejos. This is the resting place of Vasco da Gama's brother, Diogo da Gama, as well as other important members of the Order.
Claustro da Lavagem
East of the Claustro do Cemitério is the two story Claustro da Lavagem, the "ablutions" cloister, which, like its neighbor, dates from the time of Henry the Navigator.
Claustro dos Felipes
From the church of the Knights of Christ a richly ornamented doorway leads into the upper gallery of the Claustro dos Felipes, or Claustro de Joao III, a beautiful Late Renaissance building (1557-62). The terrace on the top of the cloister's two stories affords a view over the whole of the convent. While the ground level gallery has Tuscan columns, the upper story has Ionic pillars. The well proportioned fountain in the courtyard dates from the 17th C.A doorway on the east side of the Claustro dos Felipes leads into the so called "New" Chapterhouse which remained unfinished and was destroyed by the collapse of the vaulting.
Claustro de Santa Barbara
The little early Renaissance cloister of Santa Bárbara is next to the Claustro dos Felipes and from it can be seen the detail of the magnificent Manueline window on the west facade of the Knights of Christ Church. The window is set between two convoluted masts around which twine coral, ropes, seaweed, anchor chains, cables and other stonework motifs associated with the sea. It is crowned with the Portuguese coat of arms and, above it all, the cross of the Order of Christ.
Claustro da Micha
The Claustro da Micha, or bread cloister where bread was handed out to the poor contains a mission seminary and military hospital, and is not normally open to the public.
Claustro da Hospedaria
The Claustro da Hospedaria, or hostelry cloister, was, as its name suggests, for lodging noble guests visiting the convent.
Claustro dos Corvos
The Claustro dos Corvos, the cloister of the ravens, which used to hold the convent kitchen, storerooms and monks' cells is not normally open to the public.
Aqueduto dos Pegoes
The Convento da Ordem de Cristo de Tomar originally drew its water from springs and cisterns but from the late 16th C., with the building of an aqueduct, the Aqueduto dos Pegoes, it was brought here from outlying springs in the northeast.
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