The Capper Nomads Europe Adventure travel blog

Convento de Cristo

The ornate entrance

One of the many cloisters

Looking along the cloister

Work going on in the Charola

The spendid archway to the Charola

Another cloister

Detailed stone work

The famous windows

Close up on the bottom window

Close up on the top window

Yet another cloister

Final cloister

Cross on the entrance to the square in Fatima

The basilica and surrounding square Fatima

Looking to the basilica from the new church

Inside the new church which seats 9,000

Close up on the basilica

After another day of heavy rain we headed out to Tomar using the excellent Portuguese motorways. At Tomar is the Convento de Cristo which was founded in 1162 by Gualdim Pais the first Master of the Knights Templar. The main objective of the Order of the Knights Templars was to expel the Moors from Spain and Portugal. Convento de Cristo was the headquarters of the Order and their successors, the Order of Christ (1320 AD), acting as both a religious and military centre. Over time successive Grand Masters expanded the convent to reflect their wealth, power and prestige. It became a monastic community in the 16th century.

It was certainly an impressive place although now showing its age. It was unfortunate that the main centre of the complex the Charola, the 12th century rotunda temple used for worship by the knights was currently swathed in scaffolding due to an extensive restoration project. From what we could see and from a display of photographs this sixteen-sided chapel with a high central altar is magnificent. Two other aspects of the convento which were impressive were firstly the number of cloisters mainly added in the 15th and 16th centuries and the outstanding external facade of the windows of the chapterhouse. These windows were encrusted by elaborate carved stonework with a maritime theme in memorial to the sailors who established the Portuguese.

After leaving the Convento de Cristo in Tomar we headed to Fatima for a slightly different experience.

Fatima is the major place of Roman Catholic pilgrimage in Portugal. Its fame is based on a series of six supposed apparitions of the Virgin Mary to three village children the first in May 1917. Seeing the Fatima of today is like seeing Salt Lake City but the Roman Catholic kind. Approaching from the extensive car parking facility you are confronted by a huge esplanade, supposedly capable of holding more than a million people. At one end is the basilica at the other end is the modern circular church called Igreja de Santissima Trindade which according to our guide book can hold 9,000 people. There is also the Chapel of the Apparitions which marks the place where supposedly the Virgin Mary appeared. There were a few tourists around but we found it difficult to imagine the crowds in May and October when the annual pilgrimages take place. Certainly a place we wouldn’t want to be either for the crowds or from a belief point of view. We realised as we walked back to the car we realised from signs that we should not have walked Daisy through the esplanade. Never mind she is as much a creature of God as any human!

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