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A little bit of history
The Order of the Knights Templar founded the Convent of Christ in Tomar in 1118. It was the seat of the Knights of Templar in Europe, and surprisingly it was never occupied in all those centuries. As a matter of fact, the next-door Tomar Castle was an integral part of the defence system. Tomar is also known as Cidade dos Templários or the Knights Templar city. The historic centre of Tomar was once designed in the shape of a cross, with a convent at each cardinal point.
The Castle of Tomar and the Convent of the Knights Templar were the Order’s headquarters in Portugal. After the Knights of Templar dissolution in 1319, the name changed to Order of Christ in 1356. The Tomar Convent of Christ, as well as Tomar Castle, have been UNESCO World Heritage since 1983.
A selection of architectural styles
The building of the Convent of Christ in Tomar has been spread over five centuries. This results in many different architectural styles combining Romanesque, Gothic, Manueline, Renaissance, and Baroque elements. The stunning round church of the castle of Tomar was built in the 12th century.
In the 15th century, the Tomar Convent of Christ became a significant construction for Portugal’s maritime discoveries. Two cloisters were added; the Washing Cloister (Claustro das Lavagens) and the Cemetery Cloister (Claustro do Cemitério). Other parts of the convent got expanded, such as the Hall of Passage, the Chapel of São Jorge, and the choir. The aqueduct was added during the Iberian Union, and construction finished in 1614.
Templar Carola (The Rotunda)
When you first see the Templar Carola or Rotunda, you might grasp for air as it’s so beautiful! The Templar Carola was built in the 12th century, and eight pillars support the octagonal building. Inside you’ll discover many paintings by Portuguese artists and historic wooden sculptures.
A Janela do Capítulo
A Janela do Capítulo, or the Chapter Window, is one of the stunning examples of Manueline style at the Convent. It was sculpted between 1510 and 1513 (currently under renovation in 2022/2023) and designed by architect Diogo de Arruda. The organic shapes are made of coral, chains, and natural motifs. On top, you’ll spot the coat of arms of King D. Manuel II and the Cross of the Orden of Christ.
All in all, the Tomar Convent of Christ consists of no less than eight cloisters. They were all built between the 15th and 16th centuries. Aside from the previous ones, you can visit Saint Barbara’s Cloister (Claustro de Santa Bárbara), the Cloister of the Philips (Claustro dos Felipes), the Hospice cloister (Claustro da Hospedaria), the cloister of the Crows (Claustro dos Corvos), and the Cloister of John III (Claustro de D. João III).
Opening times to the Convent of Christ in Tomar
The opening time to the Convent of Christ are as follows:
From October to May: 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM (last entry at 5:00 PM)
From June to September: 9:00 AM to 6:30 PM (last entry at 6:00 PM)
The Convent of Christ is closed on January 1st, March 1st, Easter Sunday, May 1st, December 24th, and December 25th.
You’ll need approximately 2 hours to visit all the cloisters and the convent. It’s also recommended to visit Tomar Castle, which will make it the perfect half-day sight in Tomar.
Tickets and prices to visit the Tomar Convent of Christ
You can buy your ticket at the desk at the Convent of Christ itself. However, getting your ticket online is advisable to skip the queue. The entrance is € 6,00 per person and free for children up to and including 12 years old.
How to get to the Convent of Christ in Tomar
Tomar is a city in the Santarém district of Portugal. Tomar was created within the walls of the Convento de Cristo in the late 12th century. Tip: combine a visit to Tomar with a visit to Óbidos, Batalha or Santarém.
You can follow the A1 motorway from Lisbon until exit A23 towards Abrantes/C. lo Branco/T.res Novas. Continue on the A23 and follow the N110 towards Tomar and the Convent of Christ. The drive from Lisbon to the Tomar Convent of Christ takes around 1 hour and 50 minutes. There is a paid parking lot next to the Castle in Tomar. Please note there are toll roads on the motorway to Tomar. You can avoid them, but your travel time will significantly increase.
The drive from Porto takes just over 2 hours, and you can easily follow the A1 towards Lisbon. Then take exit 11 to the A13-1 towards Codeixa/Tomar/Lousã. Exit 19 will take you to the IC9 and the N110 to Tomar.
From Santa Apolonia train station in Lisbon, there are regular trains to Tomar. The journey by train takes around 1 hour and 45 minutes. From Porto, the train takes anywhere between 4 to 6 hours to Tomar. Therefore, a car or bus might be faster when travelling from Porto.
With a tour
If you don’t want the stress of driving yourself, you can book a fabulous tour from Lisbon! A trip to Tomar is often combined with a visit to Constância, Óbidos or Almourol Castle. You’ll enjoy a Knights Templar Day and learn all about history. Currently, there are no tours from Porto available.
Where to stay in Tomar
Tomar lies on the shores of the river Nabão, and especially with nice weather, it’s a lovely place for a walk or cycle ride. There are many other sights to see in Tomar, such as the Aqueduto do Convento de Cristo, Tomar Castle, the Seven Hills National Forest, and the lovely city centre. And to enjoy Tomar to the next level, you can stay overnight.
A trip to Tomar can easily be combined with visits to Almourol Castle, Santarém, Casa dos Patudos, Óbidos, Fátima, Buddha Eden Garden, or Batalha.
The Convent of Christ in Tomar is the perfect place to visit when you want to learn more about the Knights Templar and the city of Tomar. A visit to the Convent is easily combined with a visit to Tomar Castle. It’s one of the most majestic monuments in Portugal and not to miss when visiting Tomar. A visit is also perfect on a rainy day in the city, and the Convent is mostly indoors.
Great article! Adding to my 2023 travel plans right now ✅
Love this guide to the Convent of Christ in Tomar. The architecture is stunning and especially love that spiral suitcase.
I have not visited Portugal yet, but it is in my bucket list. The convent of Christ in Tomar and the Tomar Castle seem to be the places I would like to visit to learn about history and see the unique architecture. The spiral staircase looks amazing,
Wow – so beautiful! I loved seeing the the olive oil storage room – for some reason that fascinated me. The architecture is gorgeous. Adding the Tomar Convent of Christ to my list!
I haven’t spent much time in this part of the world so never knew this existed. So interesting and very beautiful. I hope to visit one day.
Tomar looks like another good place to visit. Great article and great pictures.