The Templar Castle in Tomar, was constructed by Gualdim Pais in the mid 12th Century on a strategic location high on a hill close to the River Nabão. A designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Castle is a fine example of Templar architecture of great historic and cultural significance.
The castle was part of the defence system created by the Templar Knights to secure the border of the Christian Kingdom against the Moors and remained a major stronghold for nearly two centuries during the Middle Ages. Later it played a significant part in the New World explorations of the 15th Century, led by one of the Order’s most famous grand masters, Henry the Navigator.
The complex consists of an outer defensive wall and a citadel with a keep inside and boasts several architectural points of note. The concept of a keep was introduced to Portugal by the Templar Knights as a central tower with administrative and residential functions, and the example at Tomar is one of the oldest and finest in the country. Within the outer walls of the castle lie the remains of the residents’ dwellings that were located within the protective city boundaries. The rounded towers of the outer walls were another novelty of their time, introduced to Portugal at the Templar Castle in Tomar. The rounded towers proved more resistant to attacks than the traditional square towered format.
The Convento de Cristo Tomar is one of the key points of interest within the castle walls and boasts a unique mix of architecture spanning some five centuries. This is a place where gothic, renaissance and Moorish architecture sit side by side and combine with breath-taking results. The famous round church, located behind the keep, also dates back to the late 12th Century and was modelled after the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. It is characterised by its domed roof and bell tower and is a major feature of the castle skyline.
The castle is open 7 days a week and is free to enter on Sundays. Monday to Saturday a 6€ fee applies. Check with the local tourist office for holiday opening times.
Templar Castle, Tomar is a must-see destination for any visitor to Portugal’s Ribatejo region and provides a fascinating insight into the history of the Temple Knights and the Age of Exploration, when Portugal expanded its horizons and opened itself to the discoveries of the New World.