<p>(by Juntas, CC BY-SA 4.0 Wikimedia Commons)</p>
  • Europe /
  • Portugal /
  • Tomar

An itinerary that aims to discover Tomar, a small town with a strong connection to the ancient Templar Order.

Gualdim Pais’ Statue
(by Filipefirix, CC BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons)
(by Ingo Mehling, CC BY-SA 4.0 Wikimedia Commons)
Heritage place of interest.

(by Filipefirix, CC BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons)

Decades after its establishment, the Templar Order, apart from its military and religious connotation, was also dedicated to other activities such as agriculture and economy. From the initial few members, the Order became a powerful organisation boosting hundreds of fellows across Europe and the Middle East. 

The Templars created an extensive production system supported by financial activities, managing the pilgrims’ goods. They rapidly expanded and developed their business to establish the most advanced and powerful banking scheme of the time. 

The Templars’ presence on the territory of both Asian and European continents was ensured by the various Templar headquarters: the Preceptories, Mansions and Fortress Houses or “Captaincies,” which were largely autonomous in terms of management.

They allegedly came to have nearly 10,000 properties at the height of their splendour.

Organizationally, the Templars were divided into four types of brethren.

The knights were equipped as heavy cavalry; the sergeants equipped as light cavalry, coming from humbler social classes; the trade brothers (or factors), who administered and worked on the Order’s properties; and finally, the chaplains, who were priests and cared for the spiritual needs of the Order.

Various degrees of command and administrative responsibility were given to the Commentators, Siniscalcs, Marshals, Gonfaloniers, and most importantly, the Masters. They were in charge of the Templar province in which they were stationed.

In this case, here in the province of Tomar, it was Gualdim Pais, the master who controlled all the territories in the Portuguese region.

Pais fought for Alfonso Henriques, Count of Portugal, against the Moors and participated in the Battle of Ourique in 1139 CE, an occasion where he distinguished himself by earning the title of Knight.

He then participated in the Second Crusade to Palestine, where he fought for five years as a Knight Templar. In particular, he took part in the victorious siege of the city of Gaza and participated in the battles in defence of the Principality of Antioch.


Returning to Portugal, he was appointed Grand Master of the Templars for the province of Portugal in 1157. In 1160 he founded the Convent of the Order of Christ in Tomar, which became the Order’s Portuguese headquarters. In 1190 he successfully defended Tomar from a siege by the Almohad troops of Caliph Abu Yusuf Ya’qub al-Mansur, thus preventing the invasion of the rest of the country.

He died on October 13, 1195, in Tomar. His body was interred in the church of Santa Maria dos Olivais.

The templars distinguished themselves among other crusaders because of their strict discipline and rigour. The red cross the Templars wore on their robes was a symbol of martyrdom, and to die in combat was considered a great honour that assured a place in heaven.

New members had to willingly sign over all their wealth and goods to the order and take vows of poverty, chastity, piety, and obedience.

In the popular imagination, the figure of the Templars remains controversial because of the many legends that arose between the 18th and 19th centuries that speak of strange rituals and infamous rumours still shrouded in mystery.

In the same square lies the Church of St. John the Baptist (in Portuguese Igreja de São João Baptista), erected in the 15th century by order of King Manuel I of Portugal. It is dedicated to St. John the Baptist, considered a saint and among the Gospels’ most influential personalities, whom all Christian churches venerate.

The church, apparently without connection to the Templars, is rich in many artistic details, such as the dazzling Gothic portal, the Manueline tower with a 16th-century clock, the gilded capitals of the interior columns of the nave, and numerous interior paintings from the 1530s by Portuguese Renaissance artist Gregório Lopes.


1. Church Santa Maria do Olival

2. Gualdim Pais’ Statue

3. The stronghold

4. Convent of Christ