Tomar, Portugal : A magnificent Old Town

When we arrived in Lisbon, Portugal, we had to walk the airport to unkink our legs. We have now accumulated enough Delta Miles to fly first–class, half money and half earned miles (But not in time for this trip). Reason: for 11 hours of flying, the couple ahead of us put their seats ALL the way back! (Except when the trays were put down for meals.) I didn’t want to do the bathroom shuffle so I said I wasn’t feeling well and if they moved their seats a bit forward, we wouldn’t disturb them. And they did.

Unkinked and rental ready, we drove the hour to Tomar just as the sun came out.

Town view of castle You can just see the top of the Knights Templar Castle over the bridge, above the buildings and guarding the village.

Knight Templar 1160 - Copy - CopyThis ancient structure was a combination of Gothic, Manueline and Renaissance architecture integral to Portuguese history. “Convento de Cristo”  was founded In 1160 by Gualdim Pais, Grand Master of the Templars. They defended Portugal from invaders. In the 14th century the order was banned in Europe…but they were supported by the Portuguese Royals and re-established as the new “Order of Christ” and continued as such.

 

Hotel Dos Templarios, Tomar

One of those rare but wonderful accidents….the hotel was hosting a conference and only a suite was left…which we got at the double rate. Unbelievable. Upstairs and down stairs, one bed room, bath and patio on each…and complimentary bottle of Port. Life is good!

After bathing and checking out the Port wine, we headed downtown for dinner.

corredoura-in-tomar-portugal

A well kept pedestrian  street with the Castle hovering above.  We found a restaurantwith a riverside patio where we enjoyed watching the pedestrians crossing the bridge. The next morning we were switched to an even better room  on an upper floor, with our patio facing the Castle…. lit up at night!

 

The next morning off to see Portugal-Castle-de-Almoural.

Portugal-Castelo-de-AlmourolYou had to take a ferry to visit the ruins on a tiny island in the Tagus River. The Grand Master Gualdim Pais also built this Templar Castle in 1171…over a Roman fortress…and it was never taken by invading forces.  45 minutes  climbing  to see the fantastic view (and catching your breath) but only 15 back to the ferry.

 

Returning to town, we wanted to checkout some of the 15th century additions to the 1160 Castle.

Tomar_Portugal_6

 

Wonderful entrance through the old Castle walls.One of the Cloisters

Inside we visited one of the Cloisters. This is the area where the monks, and in this case, the Templars would come for prayer and worship.

Begun in the 15th century, this “Cloister” reflects the Italian art of the time. There were concealed spiral stairways in the corners leading to the, “Terrace of Wax”. But- they were sealed off.

We were tempted to climb up the outside walls and find out what the “Terrace of Wax” was.

 

 

Synogue de Tomar

This synogue was built in 1430 and is one of the oldest synagogues in Portugal. It was last used as a place of worship in 1497, after Emanuel I closed it to all Jews who didn’t convert to Christianity, and consequently it was used as a prison, a hayloft and a warehouse. Today it holds a small Jewish museum. You can see the original columns and a vaulted ceiling in the back of the picture.

As we left Tomar we stopped just over the bridge to view the top of the Templar castle as we saw it in the beginning.

Town view of castle

 

About carolinebotwin

Caroline Botwin and her husband Mike are retired educators who have always had a yen for travelling: he with a PH.D and teaching Architectural Engineering plus California wine education, and she having taught high school English, speech and drama. Both wanted to learn first hand about other cultures. While Mike predominately studied buildings and structures and met with winemakers, Caroline hunted for ancient sites and peoples. And kept journals of all their travels. Kevin Klimczak, extraordinaire, is the website designer and editor of the blogs.
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