Tomar, Portugal

Tomar
Detail of the Convento do Cristo, a fortified monastery of the Knights Templar. Photo Creative Commons License Mick L.

Located 85 miles NE of Lisbon in central Portugal, Tomar is a historic town best known for its connections to the intriguing Order of the Knights Templar. The Templars first built a castle here in the late 12th century. By 1314, the Templars had amassed great riches and many enemies, leading to their suppression by the pope. King Dinis, however, allowed them to regroup under the new name of "Order of Christ." Henry the Navigator became the most famous of the order's grand masters, using much of their money to fund his explorations. The undisputed star attraction is the Templar Convento da Ordem de Cristo, but the city is worth a look as well, with a handful of churches, narrow cobblestone streets, shops selling dried codfish, and wrought-iron balconies decorated with birdcages and flowerpots.


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Convento de Cristo
A World Heritage Site, this fortified monastery offers some fascinating Templar history and the astounding stone carvings characteristic of Manueline architecture.
São João Baptista
This attractive 15th-century church is worth a quick look for its fine Manueline architecture.
Portuguese-Jewish Museum
The Museu Luso-Hebraico is housed in a 15th-century synagogue that is the oldest in Portugal. Displays include many medieval tombstones with Hebrew inscriptions.