Tomar is more than the nice convent with its famous window. Out of the easy circuit that allows “one day trips” from Lisbon, it needs a full day to be seen, but it deserves the day.
Would you believe if I told you that I went more than 50 times to Tomar and only three times to the Convento de Cristo?
Times enough to confirm that it really deserves the trip, no matter from where, and to get a few pictures to illustrate this notes.
The Castle of the Templars
Close to the Convent, and working as its entrance, allowing to see both monuments in a single visit, this stronghold from the 12th century still keeps some ow the ramparts and doors.
As a passing way to the marvelous Convent, I think that no one gives it the proper attention, but, in the way out, why not a closer look?
Old Chapter Room
The church and castle are part of a complex from different epochs and in different condition.
South of the main building, a ruined structure still shows the old “Capitulo” room.
Would it be possible to recover it?
Christ convent (Convento de Cristo)
World Heritage to UNESCO, this is the highlight of the town.
Special attention must be given to the main door, the “Charola”, a chapel inspired in eastern architecture, and above all, the Manueline window, considered the top of that Portuguese style.
Also the cloisters and the functional area of the convent deserve your attention, if you have a good guide to explain you how things used to work.
In my recent visit the Charola was closed to maintenance, and could only be seen from the entrance. I don’t know how long it will take, but you better be aware of that small drawback.
Though the highlight of the convent is the Manueline window, its more beautiful and surprising part is the Charola.
Inspired in the eastern mosques seen by the crusades, this chapel is absolutely fabulous in its shape and decoration.
Photos are somewhat restricted (no flash means dimmed light!) but I think that they may give an idea.
The Famous Window
One of my memories from school was the strangeness of the nomination of a window (yes… a window) as one of our more remarkable monuments.
Being part of a bigger (and beautiful) monument why was that window so special?
Well, it’s really special, and fairly considered the top example of Manueline style.
So, if you go to Convento de Cristo don’t miss it.
And BE careful about that, because in the maze of the convent’s corridors, and amidst so many interesting spots, you do risk to miss it.
You know – it’s only a window.
The Cloisters of Convento de Cristo
You’ll feel in a maze, passing from one cloister to another, but you will notice that they are all different, until you notice that you are in the upper floor of the same cloister you saw from below.
At the end you will not be able to count how many cloisters did you visit (five, I think!).
Don’t worry! You will not get lost, and at the end you will appreciate the adventure.
Tiles in Convento de Cristo
If you are keen of Portuguese traditional tiles, then this convent could not be your first destination (we have many fabulous tiles somewhere else).
However, as you are there (and you MUST be there!), then the corridors and some cloisters will delight you, with tiles that come from several periods and stiles, from the 12th century to the 17th.
What does it have so special?
Well… nothing for the moment!
But… If I succeed in my plans… one day… very soon, maybe… it will be the place for some live demonstration of glass manufacturing. And historic glass! And modern… excuse-me, and forget my deviation.
Enjoy the garden. (furthermore… my plans failed. A pity!)
Aqueduto dos Pegões
This old aqueduct, built in the 16th century and still visible from the convent and in some sections of its length of 6 km, was the supplier of water to the convent.
Church S. João Baptista
Right in the centre of town, this church dating from the 15th century has been enriched with artworks until the 17th century, with special notes to some original paintings from the 15th century.
Free visit from 8 to 19, except by lunchtime and Sunday afternoon.
The centre of the city is occupied by a nice park, dominated by the river.
A small island was used to locate it, and a complex of small dams and old watering devices control the rivers’s level.
A pleasant alternative to a cool stroll in summer.
Castelo de Bode
The lake made by Castelo do Bode dam, one of the bigger in Portugal, with its islands and sandy beaches, very close to Tomar, is a good place for water sports or fishing, or just for a stop after visiting the city.
However, if you have time, you may travel along it, with great landscapes, and a “hidden” beautiful village – Dornes whose page I’m starting.
Not exactly in Tomar but not very distant, this strange castle is often visited from Tomar.
Standing alone in a small island in Tejo river, it is close to Tancos, the best place to take a boat for a trip along the river.
If you’re short in time, you may watch the castle from the border of the river, or pay one euro to a popular driving the small local boats.