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Convent of Christ in Tomar
Site number:
Type of site: Cultural
Date: 14th century
Date of Inscription: 1983
Location: Europe, Portugal, Tomar (Santarem)
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Six official UN languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, Spanish
Other languages: Japanese, Portuguese
Description: The Convent of the Knights Templar of Tomar, which was originally designed as a monument symbolizing the Reconquest, was transferred to the Knights of the Order of Christ in 1344; during the Manueline period it became a symbol of just the opposite – Portugal’s opening up to other civilizations. --WHMNet paraphrase from the description at WHC Site, where additional information is available.
  The Convent of the Order of Christ (Portuguese: Convento de Cristo), in Tomar, Portugal, was originally a Templar stronghold built in the 12th century. After the Order of the Knights Templar was dissolved in the 14th century, the Portuguese branch of the order was turned into the Knights of the Order of Christ, which supported Portugal's maritime discoveries of the 15th century. The Convent of Christ of Tomar is one of Portugal's most important historical and artistic monuments and has been in the World Heritage list of UNESCO since 1983. The castle of Tomar was built around 1160 on a strategic location, over a hill and near river Nabão. It has an outer defensive wall and a citadel (alcáçova) with a keep inside. The keep, a central tower of residential and defensive functions, was introduced in Portugal by the templars, and the one in Tomar is among of the oldest in the country. Another novelty introduced in Portugal by the templars are the round towers in the outer walls, which are more resistant to attacks than square towers. When the town was founded, most of its residents lived in houses located inside the protective outer walls of the castle. The castle of the Knights Templar of Tomar was built by Gualdim Pais, provincial Master of the Order of the Temple, around 1160. Later in that century, the castle was chosen as the headquarters of the order in Portugal. The castle of Tomar was part of the defence system created by the Templars to secure the border of the young Christian Kingdom against the Moors, which at the time (mid-12th century) corresponded approximately to the Tagus river. The famous round church (rotunda) of the castle of Tomar was also built in the second half of the 12th century. The church, like some other templar churches throughout Europe, was modelled after the Mosque of Omar in Jerusalem, which was mistakenly believed by the crusaders to be a remnant of the Temple of Solomon. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem may also have served as model. According to Christian chroniclers, the castle of Tomar resisted in 1190 the attacks of caliph Abu Yusuf al-Mansur, who had previously taken other Portuguese strongholds to the South. A plate near the entrance of the castle church remembers the feat. --Wikipedia. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.
Reference: 1. UNESCO World Heritage Center, Site Page.
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