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The Knight’s Templar in Tomar, Portugal

When the Knights Templar were abolished, arrested and disbanded in 1307 only one king defied the Papal Bull, refusing to move against them. Denis I of Portugal simply told them to change their name to the Order of Christ and to continue their duties unhindered.


This makes the city of Tomar in Portugal the only continous seat of the Templars in the world, its castle and incredible Romanesque convent protected from changes, and gives us an insight into the reality of the warrior-monks and their daily lives.


The Order of Christ became the "marine corps" during Portugal's Age of Discovery, providing security for Henry the Navigator's ships as they made their way around the world. The riches from this explosion of trade were reflected inside and outside the old Templar convent as incredibly detailed decoration was applied to the traditional round church in the Manueline style.


The carvings and paintings here are dazzling, an overload for the senses, and all one has to do is imagine the sound of Gregorian chants and the smell of incense to transport oneself back to the medieval heyday of the Order. An interesting detail is that an image of the decapitated head of John the Baptist sits right at the top of each facet of the central octagon, seemingly reinforcing the idea that the Templars possessed his actual head and worshipped it above all else.


Another marvel is a window and wall carved completely with sea themed shapes, anemones, tentacles, anchor chains and coral, the only one of its type in the world.

Finally, a small detail that can be found by exploring the semi-tropical forest behind the castle. Down in a shaded clearing is the Fountain of the Cave of Blood, a very suggestively shaped feature that is thought by some historians to have been the final part of the Templar initiation. The prospective warrior-monk would make his way through a series of catacombs under the stronghold then emerge from this metaphorical womb, reborn as a knight of Christ.


Tomar is a must-see for anyone visiting Portugal but an essential pilgrimage for anyone interested in the history and culture of the Templars.



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