• Convent of Christ in Tomar

Visit: 6th December 2016

30630156134_a219191d52_b

Having spent the night in Elvas, we had a long drive ahead of us from the eastern half of Portugal to the west. We were heading 105 miles to a golden triangle of World Heritage monasteries. Each of these three is a WHS in its own right, and no more than 30 miles distant from one another. The first node turned out to be my favourite: the Convent of Christ, perched on a hilltop overlooking the small city of Tomar.

31100304670_4cf93c72cb_b

Before it became a convent the site was a castle built by the Knights Templar – soldier-monks who fought to expel the Moors from the Iberian territories they called the ‘Cordoba Caliphate’. It still retains its fortifications, which now protect orange trees and some of Portugal’s national treasures from nothing more deadly than stray dogs.

31471159615_0e29b2420c_b

In the 14th century the king of France, who was evidently in the ascendancy at the time, booted out the knights in order to seize their riches. It was after this that their church was extended and modified into a convent for monks.

31100275680_a7a8ecddfb_b

Its most impressive feature is this enormous octagonal altar beneath a 16-segment dome. Repeated references to the number 8 are examples of medieval Christian numerology. There were eight survivors of Noah’s Ark in the Old Testament, and in the New we are told that Jesus was resurrected on the first day of the week after he was crucified (interpreted to mean the eighth day).

31433888856_1dc4a9f79c_b

The Manueline (a Gothic/Renaissance mix unique to Portugal) nave is covered in ornate designs commemorating the Portuguese Age of Discovery. The elaborate sculpted ropes bring to mind the vessels that bore explorers including Vasco da Gama to far-flung places in Africa, Asia and South America.

30662979003_d7478310f0_b

The convent’s cloisters are full of details like the elegant spiral staircase, below. The Convent of Christ had been remarkably quiet, though I suppose that may have been because we visited on a Tuesday afternoon in December. After walking along the ramparts it was time to continue our journey onward to another monastery at Batalha.

30662972833_b2f9037b15_b

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “• Convent of Christ in Tomar

  1. Heather Leach

    Thank you Tom. This looks a very beautiful place. As usual, in these medieval religious buildings, what intricate and amazing sculpture.
    I was particularly interested in your reference to the religious numerology. I did not know the significance of 8. I did know about 7….7 years of famine and 7 of plenty……12 disciples and 12 sons of Jacob (including Joseph with his coat of many colours, leading to 12 tribes of Israel.
    I think that it is all fascinating and leant about it the first time I visited Chartres Cathedral.
    Heather

    Reply
  2. Pingback: • Monastery of Batalha | Tom's World Heritage Site travel blog

  3. Pingback: • Monastery of Alcobaça | Tom's World Heritage Site travel blog

  4. Pingback: • Cultural Landscape of Sintra | Tom's World Heritage Site travel blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s