<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.

The stronghold
(by Sanrafae, CC BY-SA 4.0 Wikimedia Commons)
(by Xiquinho Silva, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons)
(by Xiquinho Silva, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons)
(by Sanrafae, CC BY-SA 4.0 Wikimedia Commons)
(by Juntas, CC BY-SA 4.0 Wikimedia Commons)
Heritage place of interest.
(by Juntas, CC BY-SA 4.0 Wikimedia Commons)
(by Juntas, CC BY-SA 4.0 Wikimedia Commons)

(by Sanrafae, CC BY-SA 4.0 Wikimedia Commons)

The order chose those places with intense templar activity as a strategic point at which to establish its deployment that had military and economic advantages. The Templars used a substantial portion of their wealth to build numerous fortifications. Each templar settlement was usually, as in this case, to be equipped with a place of worship and fortification. Within these veritable Templar citadels, the members could carry out governance duties and administrate all the lands of the relevant province.

The Templar castle in Tomar was built by Gualdim Pais, the provincial head of the Templar Order, around 1160 CE. At the end of the same century, the castle was chosen as the Order’s headquarters in Portugal. Tomar Castle was part of the defensive system created by the Templars to defend the borders of the fledgling Christian kingdom from Moorish aggression, which at that time (mid-12th century) reached approximately the Tagus River.

Notably, according to historians, Tomar Castle withstood in 1190 CE the attacks of Caliph Abu Yusuf Ya’qub al-Mansur, who had already conquered the southern fortresses, thanks to the tenacity of the defenders led by Gualdim Pais. A plaque near the entrance commemorates these events.


The castle has external defensive walls and a citadel (alcáçova) with the main tower inside. The Templars introduced this central tower in Portugal, and the one in Tomar is among the oldest in the state. Another innovation introduced by the Templars is the round towers that dominate the outer walls, which are more resistant to attack than the square ones. Many residents lived in houses within the defensive walls when the city was founded.

With their military mission and extensive financial resources, the Knights Templar funded countless building projects around Europe and the Holy Land. Many of these structures are still standing, like this incredible example in Tomar. It was a vast laborious network, so powerful that several European kingdoms used the Order’s services to obtain funding and manage accounts and public finances.

The Order, independent from the church of Rome, grew in power and wealth until it became a real threat antagonising the Pope and the most influential king of Europe, the king of France, Philip the Fair. This point was the beginning of the Templar’s end, accused publicly of heresy and crimes against the Church. The Order members went through a dramatic process that began in 1307 CE and culminated with its dissolution in 1312 CE, following Pope Clement V’s bull “Vox in excelso”, which administratively suspended any activity.

The Christian Inquisition persecuted all the Templars. The highest seats of the order ceased their regular activity altogether, and the Templar brothers had to suffer the yoke of the French king, the promoter of hatred against them. Many knights began a period of clandestine activity, enshrined from that fateful day when the Grand Master of the Templar Order, Jaques De Molay, was burned alive at stake in Paris in 1314 CE.

All Templar possessions were confiscated, and only some places, such as Scotland and Portugal, were identified as allied territories, as their respective kings supported their exodus by siding with them. As a result, many of the Order’s members fled here in Portugal. 

Following the dissolution of the Knights Templar, the Order of Christ was erected in 1319 CE and absorbed many of the Knights Templar into its ranks, along with Knights Templar properties in Portugal. Its headquarters became this castle in Tomar, a former Knights Templar castle.

The Military Order of Christ considered itself the successor of the former Knights Templar. The Order of Christ was under the protection of the Portuguese king Denis, who refused to persecute the former knights as in most other states under the influence of the Catholic Church. Denis revived the Templars of Tomar as the Order of Christ, grateful for their aid during the Reconquista and in the reconstruction of Portugal after the wars.

Prince Henry the Navigator (1394 – 1460) led that order for twenty years until his death, using its money to organise the first school for navigators, paving the way for Portuguese maritime supremacy that would lead to the tremendous sixteenth-century explorations.


1. Church Santa Maria do Olival

2. Gualdim Pais’ Statue

3. The stronghold

4. Convent of Christ