I’ve been lucky to have visited many of Portugal’s Unesco World Heritage Sites, and one that I’ve driven quite close to but never actually visited, until recently, was the Convent of Christ in Tomar. With its origins as a stronghold during the time of the Templar knights, according to Unesco:
“The Convent of Tomar, originally conceived as a symbolic monument of the Reconquest, became, from the Manueline period, an inverse symbol: that of the opening of Portugal to external civilizations.During the second half of the 12th century, the Knights Templar were called to Portugal where they were of considerable assistance in the Reconquest. Their first and principal fortress was Tomar. When, in the 14th century, the Order of the Knights Templar was abolished and replaced by the Knights of the Order of Christ, Tomar lost none of its importance. Successive embellishments rendered it one of the most prestigious monuments of Portugal.” Unesco
The picture below shows the Round Church in the Convent of Christ, and the interior of this building is quite spectacular, although undergoing renovation so the central octagon in the main room of the church was covered up.
Unlike many of the other Unesco sites in Portugal, there were very few visitors here, which I think contributed to what made this such a nice site to visit – free to explore and imagine what it would have been like during the time of the Templars.
For more information about this site, visit the Unesco World Heritage website.