Tomar Castle was founded by the Knights Templar in 1160 and housed the town within its walls. The space was an example of the effectiveness of military architecture, with the enclosures of the town and the knights separated by a courtyard, its wall protected by an alambor and the entire perimeter dominated by the imposing keep and the fortified oratory, the Charola.
The Charola is one of the rare and emblematic centrally planned rotunda temples of medieval Europe. The entrance used to face east towards the interior of the fortification but King Manuel I made a new entrance to the south. To add a nave to the church, he created a grandiose triumphal arch with the partial demolition of the Charola, enlarging the old oratory. The aim was to give continuity to the Charola, with a new entrance to the south, a Chapter Hall, and above this a storey was created for the church choir, the Coro Alto. It is in this body of the church that we find the famous Janela do Capítulo, incorporated in the Western Façade.
Flanked by two gigantic buttresses, the Janela do Capítulo is decorated with exuberant figurative motifs where the nautical themes are present - the wood, the rigging, the buoys, etc. the insignia of the Order - the heraldic cross, the armillary sphere, the coat of arms of the kingdom - and symbolic figurations, particular to the mystique of Spiritual Chivalry and to the mission of the Order of Christ in the Discoveries.
The Main Cloister is the Renaissance convent's masterpiece. Built by King João III and completed in the Philippine period, it surrounds the church designed by King Manuel I. The cloister flanks the southern façade of the Manueline nave. This cloister then received a magnificent fountain fed by water from the convent’s aqueduct.
With an area of about 45 hectares, the Cerca Conventual was the monks' retreat and leisure area during the reform of the Order of Christ under King João III. It is a walled enclosure and occupies the entire mountainous massif of seven small hills that extend from west to east in the shape of a horseshoe. To the North it borders the convent area and several watercourses flowing from springs and the aqueduct after reaching the great tank situated on a hill at the western top.
The Reform of the Order of Christ ordered by King João III and carried out by friar António Moniz de Lisboa in 1541 brought the city of Tomar a jewel of the Renaissance: the Ermida da Imaculada Conceição. It is a square-shaped chapel, whose volumetry gives it an austere exterior appearance and whose interior architectural composition is of grandiose and subtle harmony.
The Convent Aqueduct appeared in the convent architecture and landscape by the hand of the monarchs Philip I and his son Philip II. It covers a length of about 6 kilometres with a total of 180 arches. It first feeds the large tank at the Cerca do Convento and then reaches the convent itself to irrigate some of the washbasins and the fountain in the Main Cloister.
During the Restoration period, in 1641, King João IV continued the works in the Convent, which lasted throughout the second half of the 16th century until the completion of the New Infirmary and the new apothecary, the Botica, in 1690. These were the last major works that would give the north/north-east flank of the Convent its current monumentality. These constructions enclosed the convent building, respectively on the northern façade, from the Philippine gatehouse to the eastern top, to be followed by the Botica, whose construction extends south-eastwards to the wall of the former royal palace and alcazar.
Photos and videos - Christopher Pratt and Orlando Oliveira in service of Next Solution Lda.