I’ve written about this magical place before but having gone back again this year, I just need to beg you all to book a ticket and go visit Tomar. It’s breath taking. The only place on earth where I really think you can feel the presence of the Knights Templar around you.
So – what is so great about Tomar?
- The Charola is an octagonal 12th century squat tower-like construction that was the Templar chapel. There are all sorts of theories about this enigmatic building. It’s most likely modelled to a degree on the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem – as most Templar chapels claimed to be. The absence of an altar is seen as unusual. Some people think the Templar master appeared theatrically from an underground chamber. And so on.
- Attached to the Charola is a sprawling 16th century convent built in what is called the Manueline style – after King Manuel. In order to link the Charola to the convent, one of its walls was taken out. This complex of buildings was intended to house the Order of Christ – the successor organisation to the Knights Templar in Portugal.
- Santa Maria Olival is the church where the Portuguese Knights Templar grand masters were buried. Most notable is Gualdim Pais – a heroic figure whose statue can be seen in the main square in Tomar. He fought with insane bravery against Muslim armies from the south. There are theories that the church is linked to the Charola and convent by a long tunnel.
I made a little iPhone movie while I was there and want to share it with you. Hopefully this conveys some of the Knight Templar glory of Tomar. I’ll tell you more about the History Channel programme in future blog posts.