It may be impossible that you’ve never heard about the Knights Templar and that their stories and mysteries haven’t sparked your interest. Trying to find out the meaning of the secrets, symbols and hidden messages left behind by the Templars is a true adventure that you’ll not regret… And which place is better to do this than Portugal?
The Knights Templar was established in Portugal in the 12 Century, in 1160, to help the first Portuguese kings on the Cristian Reconquest and to continue the Crusades. Legend has it first Portugal’s king Afonso Henriques had given a vast region between the Mondego and Tejo Rivers, where the knights had chosen a hill to establish a castle they named Tomar. Their castle, built on that year in Tomar, was the most advanced military device on the kingdom, by the time, highly inspired by the Holy Land’s fortifications.
Almost two hundred years after, in 1314, the Order was extinguished because of France king’s persecutions and the Clemente V Pope that made the Order come to an end, to prevent the Knights Templar from having so much power and fame.
During the time that the Knights Templar had been in Portugal, they erected several building, castles and forts that you can find out around the river, on the Zêzere region. On Portugal’s heart we can be guided by stories that will carry us to the Holy Grail search. So, come with us and be prepared to discover the Templar legacy in Portugal. But before that, let’s get to know some castles and some places where the Knights Templar left their footprints.
Tomar, the city whose history is intimately connected to the legendary Knights Templar, is fulfilled with places that show us this reality. The Castelo de Tomar – now known as Convento de Cristo – is the perfect proof that the Knights Templar were there.
On the first of March of 1160 people started to build the Castle of Tomar, when the Order's master Gualdim Pais ordered to build a castle that would supply the fortification of Ceras, which was ruined by the time. The Tomar village began to build up around the castle.
The Castelo de Tomar and Convento de Cristo was declared World Heritage by UNESCO in 1983. The Charola of the Templars and the uncommon Manueline window were the factors that motivated the landmarks attribution.
When the Order was over, the Tomar Castle was named Convento de Cristo (Christ’s Convent) and suffered some modifications that changed the Templar type of building. The Tomar Castle has a very rich architectonic set, with different artistic influences, resulting in a magical and unique building in the world, with a lot of mysteries to unravel. This place has an indescribable beauty and it is a must-visit on your trip to Portugal.
Dornes is the mythical land of the Templars, one of the most beautiful village of the country and a place where there are a lot of stories to explore. Dornes is placed on a small peninsula around the river and it is a very ancient village, which is older than the Portugal’s foundation.
By the time when conquests were made between the riverbanks, the Knights Templar grandmaster ordered to build the Dornes pentagonal tower, as an integral part of the defensive system of the Tejo Line against the moors.
The Dornes tower was built by the Templars placed on the riverbanks of the Zêzere river, as a watchdog and defense station of the region during the Christian Reconquest. This tower is very different from the others and catches the people’s attention with its unusual pentagonal form. Its five faces turn it a rare example of the military architecture of the time.
The tower was built in shale and limestone, taking advantage of the base of a previous ancient Roman Tower. The Dornes tower boasts several warrior symbols on the bow of the gate that testify to its military function.
The Dornes tower and all its surrounding environment turn the landscape magical and unique. It is a mandatory visiting point in your trip to Portugal, to discover the history of the Templars.
Nisa is a beautiful village in Alentejo, whose origin is very ancient and where we can find marks of the Neolithic period. With an interesting heritage, Nisa has a connection with the Knights Templar, which is obvious while looking to the Nisa Castle.
The D. Dinis King ordered to build the Nise castle around 1290 after the old castle and settlement were razed to the ground by his brother, Afonso Sanches. He destroyed this place because the people of Nisa didn't support his claim to the throne.
The Nisa castle was built in the arid lands of Alentejo, a region heavily dominated by the moors for several consecutive centuries. Nowadays, we can only see two of the six gates of the ancient medieval castle.
The remains of the castle are classified as a National Monument. These remains take us to an unknown time worth visiting.
The Almourol Castle is one of the unavoidable examples of the exuberant passage of the Knights Templar on Portuguese soil and is one of the most mythical places in the country, serving as an inspiration for several legends that still exist today.The Almourol Castle, placed in a solitary island in the middle of the Tejo river, was handed over to the Templars where they rebuilt it and made it one of the most emblematic medieval military monuments of the Christian Reconquest, in 1160. This is the example that best evokes the memory of the Templars in our country.The castle was handed over to the Templars, who carried out the settlement between the Mondego and Tejo rivers. They were the main responsible for the defense of Coimbra, the capital city of the time. The castle took on amazing features that are still visible today. It is known that the works of Almourol Castle ended in 1171, just two years after the works of Tomar Castle. Several features unite these two buildings, and the Templar military architecture line is very visible.
Penha Garcia Castle
The castle of Penha Garcia, whose opinions on its construction remain divided to this day, is also a heritage with Templar connections.
It is admitted that the castle was built by the Templars, on a Roman fortification, however, there are opinions that its edification began with D. Sancho I King. According to this perspective, the castle of Penha Garcia will only have come into possession of the Knights Templar by the hands of D. Dinis King, around 1300, and it was not the Templars who were responsible for the building.
The castle is linked to a legend that tells the kidnapping of the Monsanto governor’s daughter, D. Branca, by the mayor of the Castle, D. Garcia. According to this legend, D. Branca's father pursued the kidnapper and captured him, incurring the death penalty. However, D. Branca may have appealed to his father for the forgiveness of the kidnapper, and instead of the death penalty, condemned him to have an arm cut off. Legend has it the severed man still roams the castle towers today.
Now that you know some stories of the Templar Legacy in Portugal prepare to be surprised on this thematic and unique trip. Book now!
Practical info for your reservation
We will provide you with a comfortable vehicle, a Mercedes V250 7-seater, with all the necessary comforts, such as Wi-fi, air conditioning, cold water, universal charger, and a driver who will be your assistant.