Tomar - Tomar Living Statues

Tomar

The municipality of Tomar has 11 civil parishes, 352 square kilometers and 43 000 inhabitants. It was the seat of the Orders of the Temple and of Christ. “Convento de Cristo” (Convent of Christ), the city's main monument, was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1983.

  

In the 1st century AD the Romans founded the city of Sellium in this area. It was the capital of a roman “district” and it was crossed by the main Roman road on our territory. That road ran from Olissipo (Lisbon) to Bracara Augusta (Braga).

In the mid-7th century, during the Visigothic period, there were already Christian convents in the area. The legendary martyrdom of Santa Iria, the patron saint of Tomar, dates back to that time.

  

The Master Templar D. Gualdim Pais built the castle in 1160. When its walls became too confining the population spread along the mountain and slope all the way to the bank of the Nabão river in Villa de Baixo. The Templar city was born.

    

On the other side of the river D. Gualdim erected a watchtower to protect the primitive church he had built. In the 13th century the Templars replaced this church with the Gothic temple of Santa Maria do Olival.  This was the 1st temple  of three naves to be built in Portugal.

    

In order to defend the territory and the population in the north of “Rio Tejo” (Tagus river) from the Moors to the south, Gualdim Pais built a network of castles with headquarters in Tomar.

    

After the Order of the Temple had been abolished in 1312, King D. Dinis obtained permission from Pope John XXII to create a new order of chivalry. The new order, which inherited all the Templars' assets and privileges, was called the Order of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

  

In the 15th century “Infante D. Henrique” (Prince Henry the Navigator) was the Governor of the Order of Christ. The Order and its knights were at the service of the Prince providing the necessary capital for all the voyages of the Age of Discoveries.  Taken by the sails of the Portuguese caravels and vessels the Cross of Christ was the first to arrive at the newly discovered lands.

  

During this period Tomar experienced a significant urban growth. Buildings that are unique in the country, such as the “Estaus” or the Synagogue of the old Jewish quarter, can still be seen today.

  

Around the "Charola", the Templars' oratory tower, D. Henrique began giving shape to the Convent of Christ building the cloisters of the Cemetery and of the Washing in addition to building his own residence, “Paço do Infante” (Palace of the Prince).

    

In 1510 D. Manuel I, king and governor of the Order of Christ, granted a new "foral" (charter) to his villa de Thomar. The construction of the Chapterhouse Window (“Janela do Capítulo”) - our Manueline masterpiece - began in that year. 

In the main square D. Manuel I built the Royal Palace. Opposite this building is the church of S. João Batista with its flamboyant Manueline tracery.

    

The convent's largest expansion took place during the reign of D. João III in the mid-Renaissance period.   Architects, sculptors, painters and other artists such as Diogo de Arruda, João de Castilho, Diogo de Torralva, Gil Vicente, João de Ruão or Gregório Lopes turned Tomar into an important artistic centre.

    

The Iberian Union emerged in the Convent of Christ in the Courts (“Cortes”) of 1581. An empire with two languages would be spread over all the continents.

To show their gratitude the Spanish Kings (Philip I and Philip II) continued the expansion of the Convent. Besides magnificent smaller additions, such as "Sacristia Nova", the major work was “Aqueduto dos Pegões” with a total length of 6 kilometers. The creation of “Feira de Santa Iria” also known as “Feira das Passas" (market where raisins and other dried fruits are sold) also dates from those times.

    

The Civil War, which had started in 1832, ended at the battle of Asseiceira, Tomar. The army loyal to King D. Miguel was defeated in May of 1834. This battle marked the end of the absolutist regime and the triumph of the constitutional monarchy.

Without any delay the liberal government decreed the extinction of the religious orders such as the Order of Christ. Their assets were incorporated in the National Treasury.

In 1844, during a visit by Queen D. Maria II, Tomar was designated a city becoming the first village in the district of Santarém to be awarded that title.

    

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