Discover the magnificent Unesco site of Convento de Cristo in Tomar, Portugal. This fascinating Convent of Christ and castle have a unique atmosphere that will make you travel back in time. It is one of my favorite buildings in Portugal. Below is my guide to help you plan your visit.
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Why visit the Convento de Cristo Tomar?
In my opinion, the Tomar Convent is one of the most fascinating places to visit in Portugal.
Of all the incredible monasteries in Portugal (e.g. Jeronimos Monastery, Alcobaca Monastery, Batalha Monastery...), it has neither the most beautifully balanced and decorated cloisters nor the best views, but it definitively has the best atmosphere. There is so much to see from various periods of history. It is quite a labyrinth and you will learn more about how people were living there. It was not just 'pretty', you can feel the history.
I loved it because of:
- Its location on top a hill
- Its many, many cloisters (I love cloisters...)
- The various part of the complex that are still intact (church, living quarters, gardens...)
- The Manueline decors
- The history (more on that later)
Below is a short video of what a visit of the site looks like:
More photos and details after the tips to help you plan your visit.
PLANNING TIPS - Convento de Cristo, Tomar, Portugal
How to get to Convento de Cristo in Tomar Portugal
- North of Lisbon
- Lisbon to Tomar - 1h30 drive
- Lisbon to Tomar by Train - 2 hours
- Batalha (and its famous monastery) to Tomar - 40min drive
- Parking can be a problem. At the top of the hill, there are not many spaces. Otherwise, you would have to park in the town and walk up from the back of the municipal office
- In summer you can use the touristic bus or some of the Tuk Tuks
This location with its GPS coordinates and planning info is included in my travel guide that helps you easily plan your Portugal road trip:
Be overwhelmed by the beauty, not the planning!
Plan your perfect trip around Portugal with:
- 13 easy-to-plan Maps
- 120+ pre-selected scenic locations
- Planning tips to make the most of your time
- 200+ large photos to decide where to go
- GPS coordinates direct to the carparks
Visiting the Convent of the Christ
- Entrance is via the castle wall not via the more modern façade
- Convento de Cristo Tomar opening hours - 9am to 6:30pm (June to Sep) - 9am to 5:30pm (Oct to may) - Closed Jan 1, Easter Sunday, May1 and Dec 25.
- Check latest hours and price on the official website here
- Convento de Cristo Ticket: 6€ entry ticket
- Plan at least 3 hours to visit the inside. This is quite a maze to explore! More if you want to enjoy the gardens
- Lots of stairs - not easy for people with knee problems.
Convento de Cristo Map
Near the gate entrance, there is a map of the Citadel. It ives you an idea of all the amazing things there is to see.
There is a lot to see with a lot of stairs. So, wear good shoes!
Where to stay?
To explore the region and its incredible monuments, I recommend to spend at least one night from your road trip in the area. You could stay:
Gate, Garden and Templar Castle
The entrance is via the castle side. Information and a large map are available near the gate entrance. Access to the garden is free.
The Tomar Castle is also called Templar Castle (Castelo dos Templarios).
It was built in the 12th century at the strategic location on the top of a hill. You can still see the outer wall and the keep inside. It is one of the oldest keep in the country, a novelty introduced by the Templars.
Inside the castle wall, you discover the small gardens with a beautiful view of the 12th century church and a glimpse of the main cloister behind it with its heavily sculpted decor.
Convento de Cristo History & Facts
As you approach to town of Tomar, you can admire the impressive Convento de Cristo with the more recent facade, the older church sticking out and what remains of the Castelo de Tomar (Tomar castle).
- Founded by the Order of Poor Knights of the Temple (a.k.a Templar Knights) in the 12th century
- Converted at the end of the 14th century for the new Order of the Christ
- New constructions took place over the following 2 centuries
- The architecture is a mix of Gothic, Romanesque, Manueline and Renaissance styles
- Added to the Unesco World heritage list in 1983
Cemetery Cloister & Claustro de Lavagem (washing cloister)
Once you pay the entrance fee, you first discover a small cloister with a lot of charm.
Built in the 15th century and remodeled at the beginning of the 17th. It was the ground for religious processions.
This is not the most fascinating of the cloisters, but you will soon be impressed. The next one is the Cloister of Lavagem.
This 2 story-cloister was where the Monks garments used to be washed.
Built in the 15th century, it has beautiful arches all around with simple carvings of leaves.
Take your time to enjoy the views and the atmosphere.
For one half of the tour, over the roof, you have views over the top of the church:
See how elegant the proportions of the arches are:
And the beautiful blue tiles everywhere!
Features around the Washing Cloister
As you tour the Washing Cloister, you can enter smaller rooms.
The Portacarreiros Chapel
The Chapel of Antonio Portocarreiro, his wife and children was built in 1626. The walls are covered in Azulejo tiles.
The old Chapter House was transformed into the new sacristy in the 16th century. I found the ceiling particularly fascinating.
Prince Henry's Quarters and view over the ruins
Prince Henry, who was administrator of the Order of the Christ lived in the convent during the 15th century. From his old quarter, you have a view over the ruins of the old castle.
The Church at the Tomar Convent of Christ & Charola
The round church is one of the main features of the Convent of Christ.
You can see the upper choir or get to the ground level and admire the heavily decorated Charola (or rotunda).
The nave of the church was built in Manueline style during the 16th century. It joins the rotunda by a beautiful arch opened in the wall of the old oratory.
The Charola or Rotunda dates back to the 12th century. Originally it was a fortified oratory inspired by the Temple of Jerusalem. A lot of the decor comes from the 16th century as it was commissioned by King Manuel.
Paintings, gold, statues... quite a contrast with the rest of the Convent.
The Main Cloister
My favorite part of the visit was the exploration of the main cloister.
Started during the 16th century this is the main construction of the new convent after the Reform of the order of Christ (1529). It was modified in the 16th century.
This section is considered a masterpiece of European Renaissance inspired by Italian architecture.
You can explore both floors and the rooftop. Stairs are located at each corner and are beautifully sculpted.
From the roof you can get really close to all the sculpted elements:
And from the middle floor, you can better admire the Manueline window:
Life in the Convent of Christ
A visit to the Convento de Cristo is not all about architecture. You can discover the living quarters to see how people used to live.
No mannequins and displays but impressive corridors and rooms for the collectivity.
The corridor with all the cells is especially impressive with:
- the high timber ceiling,
- the regularly-spaced small doors to the dormitories
- the beautiful blue tiles on the bottom half.
An impressive room with long table and benches. You can only feel that you should stay silent as you enter this room.
This is not the best kitchen I have seen during my visits. This was quite bare and not easy to imagine how people cooked.
However I loved the arches and pillars.
Other cloisters in the Tomar convent
Even more cloisters to discover as you continue your visit of the Convent.
Ravens Cloister (Claustro dos corvos)
A very different style from what was seen before!
This geometrical shapes are strongly present in the plants and walls.
This was a very active part of the convent with many rooms and offices.
I really enjoyed the atmosphere of this part of the convent. I hope they won't restore too much.
Cloister of Micha
And finally, the Cloister of Micha with beautiful perspectives and an interesting flooring. The 16th century portal leads to the outside.
It takes its name from the bread rations that were handed to the poor here.
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