What Is The Most Famous Portugal Templars Castle?

What Is The Most Famous Portugal Templars Castle?

With its ancient history and rich cultural heritage, Portugal is adorned with hundreds of castles dotting its scenic landscapes. These fortresses, often perched on high hills or craggy cliffs, tell tales of a time long past and a world vastly different from the one we live in today. Among the numerous castles that grace this beautiful country, those constructed by the Knights Templar, a medieval Christian military order, hold a unique allure. None more so than the Convent of Christ, the most famous Portugal Templars castle.

The Historical Significance of the Knights Templar

Before delving into the specifics of the Convent of Christ, it’s important to understand the role of the Knights Templar in Portugal’s history. Established in the early 12th century, the Knights Templar was a monastic military order dedicated to the protection of Christian pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land. Their power and influence spread across Europe, and Portugal was no exception. The Templars played a vital role in Portugal’s Reconquista, during which the Christians retook the Iberian Peninsula from Moorish control.

In 1319, years after the disbandment of the Knights Templar by Pope Clement V, King Dinis of Portugal created a new order—the Order of Christ. The assets and properties of the Templars were transferred to this new order, which included their most prized castle, now known as the Convent of Christ.

Knights Templar Sites in Portugal

With its rich history and architectural heritage, Portugal offers a treasure trove of sites associated with the Knights Templar. This legendary Christian military order played a pivotal role in the country’s medieval history. These sites are a testament to the Templars’ influence and a fascinating exploration of Portugal’s past.

  1. Convent of Christ, Tomar: The most famous Templar site in Portugal, the Convent of Christ, was the order’s headquarters in Portugal. The Templars constructed this magnificent complex in the 12th century. It blends architectural styles and houses the iconic round church or Charola, symbolizing the Templars’ spiritual devotion.
  2. Castle of Almourol, Vila Nova da Barquinha: This castle, perched on a small island in the middle of the Tagus River, is one of Portugal’s most evocative Templar sites. It was an important stronghold during the Templars’ efforts to reconquer and defend the territory from Moorish invaders.
  3. Castle of Monsanto, Monsanto: Situated in the quaint village of Monsanto, the Castle of Monsanto played a crucial role in the line of defense erected by the Templars along the banks of the Tejo River.
  4. Castle of Pombal, Pombal: Overlooking the town of Pombal, this castle was another key Templar stronghold. The castle’s keep is its most distinguishing feature and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding region.
  5. Church of Santa Maria do Olival, Tomar: Built in the 13th century as the burial place for the Knights Templar, this church is notable for its three-naved Gothic interior and the tombs of Templar Masters, including that of Gualdim Pais, the founder of Tomar.

These sites offer a journey into the past and an immersive experience of the world of the Templars. They stand as silent witnesses to the Templars’ era, echoing stories of bravery, faith, and architectural grandeur that continue to captivate visitors to this day.

Knights Templar Sites in Lisbon

Lisbon, Portugal’s capital city, is a history and culture treasure trove. This vibrant city is also home to several significant sites associated with the Knights Templar, bearing testament to the order’s considerable influence in the region.

  1. Convento da Ordem do Carmo (Carmo Convent): While not originally a Templar structure, the Carmo Convent, located in the Chiado neighborhood, has a strong connection to the order. It was built in the 14th century by D. Nuno Álvares Pereira, a former knight of the Order of Christ, the successor organization to the Templars in Portugal. Today, the ruins of the convent’s Gothic church, partially destroyed in the devastating 1755 earthquake, are one of Lisbon’s most iconic landmarks.
  2. Igreja de São Tomé (Church of St. Thomas): Located in the Alfama district, this church was built in the 12th century on lands donated to the Templars by King Afonso Henriques. Though the original Templar structure was destroyed in the 1755 earthquake, the current building still maintains a strong connection to its Templar past.
  3. Sé de Lisboa (Lisbon Cathedral): Known simply as the Sé, the Lisbon Cathedral is the oldest church in the city. Built in the 12th century, when the Templars were active in Portugal, the cathedral represents an important part of Lisbon’s Christian history. While it’s not directly tied to the Templars, its construction was contemporary with the Templars’ significant influence in Portugal, and it’s believed they played a role in the cathedral’s establishment.
  4. Castle of São Jorge (St. George’s Castle): This imposing fortress, perched on a hill overlooking the historic center of Lisbon, was a Moorish royal residence until King Afonso Henriques and his Christian forces, including the Knights Templar, conquered Lisbon in 1147.

Visiting these sites provides a glimpse into the fascinating history of the Knights Templar in Lisbon, illuminating the enduring influence of these medieval warrior monks on the city’s architectural and cultural landscape.

Where Did the Knights Templar Live in Portugal?

In Portugal, the Knights Templar held substantial territorial and political influence. Their presence was notably prevalent in various regions of the country, living and operating from a network of castles and estates that provided them with the necessary resources and strategic advantages.

Primarily, the headquarters of the Knights Templar in Portugal was in the town of Tomar, in the Santarém District. This is where the Convent of Christ, one of the most iconic and well-preserved Templar fortifications, stands today. Originally known as the Castle of Tomar, it was the Templars’ administrative and military center. The castle provided quarters for the knights, including sleeping quarters, a dining hall, and a kitchen, alongside chapels and a magnificent round church known as the Charola for spiritual practices.

Outside of Tomar, the Templars also established significant bases in the southern regions of Alentejo and Algarve. Key amongst these was the Castle of Almourol, located on a small island in the middle of the Tagus River. This strategic location served as a defense point against Moorish invasions and was a crucial residence for the Templars. The Castle of Pombal and the Castle of Monsanto were other notable Templar fortifications.

In addition to these castles, the Templars maintained a network of estates and smaller fortifications throughout Portugal. These territories provided the resources necessary for the order’s survival and helped the Templars exert their influence and power across the country.

The Templars’ presence in Portugal was so influential that, even after the order’s dissolution in the 14th century, their legacy continued through the formation of the Order of Christ, which inherited the Templar properties and maintained its important role in Portuguese history.

The Convent of Christ: Portugal’s Templar Jewel

Located in the historic town of Tomar, the Convent of Christ is arguably the most famous and impressive Templar castle in Portugal. Originally constructed in the 12th century as the Templar stronghold of Tomar, it was later transformed into the headquarters of the newly formed Order of Christ.

Architecture: A Harmonious Melting Pot

The architectural grandeur of the Convent of Christ is breathtaking, offering an amalgamation of different styles from Romanesque to Gothic, Manueline, and Renaissance, reflecting its centuries-long construction and modifications.

Perhaps the most iconic part of the castle is the Charola, the original 12th-century Templar oratory based on the design of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The Manueline window in the Chapter House, a masterpiece of late Gothic architecture, is another awe-inspiring feature, with its intricate marine motifs and elements from the Age of Discovery—a nod to Portugal’s seafaring history.

The Castle Grounds: Immersed in History

Visitors can wander through a maze of cloisters, chapels, and halls within the castle complex, each with its own story. The eight cloisters represent different periods and architectural styles, the most notable of which is the Claustro de D. João III, an outstanding example of Renaissance architecture.

The castle grounds also provide a glimpse into the everyday lives of the knights. Visitors can explore the dormitories, the dining hall, and the kitchens, visualizing the communal lifestyle these warrior monks led.

Role in the Age of Discovery

The Convent of Christ also significantly influenced Portugal’s Age of Discovery. Here, Prince Henry the Navigator, governor of the Order of Christ, conceived many of his pioneering maritime expeditions. The order’s cross was emblazoned on the sails of the ships that sailed to discover new worlds, symbolizing its crucial role in this exploration period.

Recognition and Preservation

In recognition of its historical and architectural significance, the Convent of Christ was declared a National Monument in 1910 and later inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983. These recognitions have led to significant conservation and restoration efforts to preserve the castle for future generations.

What Was the Last Templar Castle in Portugal?

The last bastion of the Knights Templar in Portugal is typically considered to be the castle known today as the Convent of Christ, located in the historic town of Tomar. Founded in 1160 by Gualdim Pais, Grand Master of the Templars, the castle initially served as a critical strategic point during the Reconquista, the Christian reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula from Moorish rule. Yet, its significance extends far beyond its initial role as a military stronghold.

When the Knights Templar was disbanded across Europe by Pope Clement V in 1312 under pressure from King Philip IV of France, the Templar Order’s Portuguese branch found refuge under the protection of King Dinis. Recognizing their importance in Portugal’s development and defense, King Dinis rebranded the Templars into a new order, the Order of Christ, in 1319. This transformation allowed the Templars to continue their operations in Portugal, escaping the widespread persecution elsewhere in Europe.

The Castle of Tomar, now under the Order of Christ, continued to serve as the order’s headquarters, witnessing a series of expansions and modifications over the centuries. From its walls, the order played a significant role in Portugal’s maritime explorations during the Age of Discovery. Prince Henry the Navigator, who served as the order’s governor, used it as a base for planning his expeditions.

Today, the Convent of Christ remains a symbol of the Templars’ enduring legacy in Portugal. Its structures, including the famous round church or Charola, the cloisters, and the fortified walls, stand as a testament to the order’s influence and its pivotal role in shaping Portugal’s history.

The last Templar Castle, in essence, continues to thrive, encapsulating a rich past and narrating the tale of an order that refused to disappear into oblivion, adapting instead to survive and flourish in a changing world.

What Is the Oldest Knights Templar Church in Portugal?

The oldest church associated with the Knights Templar in Portugal is the Church of Santa Maria do Olival, located in the historic town of Tomar. This austere yet beautiful structure dates back to the 12th century when it was founded as a burial place for the Knights Templar.

Built under the orders of Gualdim Pais, a Grand Master of the Templars, the Church of Santa Maria do Olival served as a spiritual refuge for the Templar knights and later the Order of Christ, which succeeded the Templars in Portugal. The church has seen several modifications and restorations throughout its history, but its core design remains intact, featuring Romanesque and Gothic architectural elements.

The Church of Santa Maria do Olival is unique in that it was the burial place for the Templar Masters of Portugal. The graveyard that surrounds the church holds several tombstones, but the most notable ones belong to the Templar knights, including that of Gualdim Pais himself.

The church houses a triple nave and a striking apse with impressive Gothic vaulting within its walls. Despite their worn condition, the windows in the main chapel exhibit the remnants of the original stained glass, one of the oldest examples in Portugal.

While not as glorious as other Templar sites like the Convent of Christ, the Church of Santa Maria do Olival carries immense historical and spiritual significance. The aura of reverence that permeates this ancient site, coupled with the centuries-old tombstones and the beautifully weathered architectural details, offer visitors a glimpse into the past and a deep connection to the Templar knights who once roamed the halls of this sacred place.

The Church of Santa Maria do Olival stands as a symbol of the early presence and influence of the Templars in Portugal, a silent reminder of a time when knights and faith intertwined to shape the course of history.

What Happened to the Knights Templar in Portugal?

The Knights Templar, despite their significant influence and power in Portugal and across Europe, could not withstand the political machinations of the early 14th century. In 1307, King Philip IV of France, heavily indebted to the order and threatened by their power, initiated a campaign to dismantle the Templars. With the assistance of Pope Clement V, Templars across Europe were arrested, their assets seized, and many knights were tortured and executed.

However, the situation in Portugal deviated from the narrative witnessed across the rest of Europe. Portugal’s King Dinis managed to shield the Templars from the worst of these purges. King Dinis refused to persecute the Templars, unlike other monarchs, recognizing their vital role in the Reconquista and Portugal’s defense.

Following the formal abolition of the Order of the Knights Templar by Pope Clement V in 1312, King Dinis negotiated with the Vatican to create a successor organization—the Order of Christ. In 1319, the Papacy officially recognized the Order of Christ, with the former Knights Templar in Portugal forming the core of its initial membership. Importantly, the Templars’ vast wealth, properties, and privileges in Portugal were transferred to the Order of Christ, including their symbolic stronghold, the castle in Tomar.

Thus, the Knights Templar’s legacy in Portugal did not end in dissolution and disgrace. Instead, they found a new life in the Order of Christ, which would play a crucial role in Portugal’s Age of Discovery in the 15th and 16th centuries.


The Convent of Christ, Portugal’s most famous Templar castle, stands as an enduring testament to the nation’s rich historical tapestry. It carries the echoes of the Templar knights, the Order of Christ, and the Age of Discovery, weaving them into a narrative that continues to captivate visitors from around the world. It isn’t just a monument of stone and mortar but a tangible connection to a past that shaped Portugal and, in many ways, the world we know today.

Whether you’re a history enthusiast, an architecture lover, or a curious traveler, the Convent of Christ offers an unforgettable journey into the heart of Portugal’s historical landscape—a journey worth taking.