The city of Tomar
Tomar is a medium-size city in Central Portugal in the Médio Tejo Region, beautifully located on the banks of the Nabão river, which gives its name to the city’s inhabitants, the Nabantinos. With about 40000 inhabitants, it spreads over an area of 352km2, is composed of 11 parishes and located in the district of Santarém, which in turn belongs to the Province of Ribatejo.
It’s a city plenty of history with over 30 thousand years of human settlement in this territory, one of the most important historical spots in Portugal, it was the seat of two Military orders: the Order of theTemplars and the Order of Christ. It is a natural area of significant heritage and tourism value which is home to the beautiful Albufeira do Castelo the Bode.The city is dissected by the Nabão River, a tributary of the Zêzere, which contributes to the basin of the Tagus River the longest in the Iberian Peninsula.
The streets and squares in Tomar’s picturesque centre are organised following a chessboard pattern. Scattered throughout the town are many interesting houses with facades dated from the Renaissance, Baroque and Romanesque periods. On a small Island in the middle of the Nabão River there is a park, the Mouchão gardens that offers nice views of the city and its surrondings.
The city boasts a number of interesting monuments of which the UNESCO-listed Convent of Christ, the St. John the Baptist's Church and the Synagogue stand out.
It is the country’s most iconic historical landmarket. The city hosts most of the services that persist from its industrial past but new opportunities are emerging in the field of tourism such as new generation handicrafts, gastronomy and specialised tourist services.
The city was founded in the 12th century. It was conquered to the Mouros by King Afonso Henriques in 1147 and donated to the Templar Order in 1159. Gualdim Pais, the Grand Master of the Order and the city’s mythical founder, laid the first stone of the Castle and Monastery that would become the Headquarters of the Order in Portugal. The Carta de Foral (feudal contract) was granted to the city in 1162 by the Grand Master. The Templars ruled from Tomar a vast region of central Portugal which they pledged to defend from Moorish attacks. Tomar was especially important in the 15th century when it was a centre forPortuguese overseas expansion under Henry the Navigator, the Grand Master of the Order of Christ, successor organisation to the Templars in Portugal. Today, the Convent of Christ is one of the most remarkable monuments in the country being included in the UNESCO’s World Heritage list since 1983.
Living in Tomar
Interesting Places to Visit in Tomar
Tomar attracts thousands of tourists all year round because of its varied monuments and natural beauty. These include:
- Castle and Convent of the Order of Christ: Magnificent ensemble of the 12th to 16th century-architecture and art, it is the main monument of the city and one of the most important in Portugal. It was declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1983. It has been the headquarters of the Templar Order and later of its successor, the Order of Christ.
- Church of Santa Maria do Olival: This Gothic church (13th century) was built as a burial ground for the Templar Knights. Gualdim Pais, the founder of the city, was buried in the church and his original tomb slab, dated from 1195 and bearing a gothic inscription, is still preserved inside.
- Synagogue of Tomar: Tomar has the best-preserved mediaeval synagogue of Portugal. It was built in the mid-15th century and has an interesting interior with Gothic vaulting and columns with classic capitals. Since 1939, it houses the small Jewish Museum Abraão Zacuto, with interesting pieces related to Jewish history in Portugal.
- Church of Saint John the Baptist (Igreja de São João Baptista): The main church of Tomar is located in the main square of the town, in front of the Municipality (17th century) and a modern statue of Gualdim Pais. The church was built between the 15th and 16th centuries and has many interesting artistic details, like the flamboyant Gothic portal, the Manueline tower with a 16th century clock, the decorated capitals of the inner columns of the nave and several panels painted in the 1530s by one of Portugal’s best Renaissance artists, Gregório Lopes.
- Chapel of Our Lady of Conception (Capela da Nossa Senhora da Conceição): Chapel built between 1532 and 1540 in pure Renaissance style, started by João de Castilho and finished by Diogo de Torralva. It was intended to be the burial chapel of King John III. Its beautiful and clear architecture turns it into one of the most remarkable early Renaissance buildings in Portugal.
- Church and Convent of Saint Iria (Igreja e Convento de Sta. Iria): Located on the upper bank of the Nabão river, this early 16th century building has a nice Renaissance portal and altar, as well as Manueline architectural details.
- Historic Centre: The historic centre of Tomar is also worth a visit. It contains the greatest monumental collection of central Portugal and natural attractions such as the river, the weirs, the garden-island (the socalled Mouchão) as well as rich renaissance-style architectural details.
The most important museums are:
- The Matches Museum - with about 50 000 items it is the biggest in Europe.
- The Contemporary Art Museum – houses works of greatPortuguese contemporary artists such as Almada Negreiros, Vespeira and Cutileiro. Collection donated by Professor José Augusto França.
- Abraham Zacuto Portuguese-Jewish Museum – based in the synagogue, the museum is a very important testimony of the presence of the Jewish culture in the country and in the world.
Besides the sports facilities in the IPT campus, the city also offers several sports units such as a modern stadium and a multi-function pavilion, a new sports complex with excellent conditions for the practice of swimming and water gymnastics, tennis, squash, gymnastics, yoga and dancing.
Tomar is home to numerous cultural activities. The Cine-Teatro Paraíso located downtown offers theatres, music concerts and cinema.
The Convent of Christ is also stage for several theatre plays and renaissance dinners offered throughout the year. Art lovers ought to visit museums or the Town Hall art gallery where temporary exhibitions are held throughout the year. The Lagares d’El Rei (old olive oil mills) is also home to several music and dance performances.
The Festa dos Tabuleiros is our main Festival and takes place every four years during the first week of July. It is a magnificent event dedicated to the Holy Spirit which involves several months’ work and attracts to Tomar some 500 000 visitors. Hundreds of traditional tabuleiros decorated with paper flowers and loafs of bread are carried by women dressed in white accompanied by men wearing black trousers, white shirt and red tie who form a procession and walk through the town streets.
The Feira de Santa Iria takes place on 20 October every year and is dedicated to Iria, the patron saint of Tomar. It includes a popular trade fair and a great procession with flowers thrown into the Nabão river, the place where according to the legend the saint has been deposited after having been sacrificed.
The Congresso da Sopa is a gastronomic event held every year in May where a wide variety of delicious soups prepared by local restaurants can be tried and enjoyed.
Tomar enjoys a mild temperate climate. The average annual temperature is 19ºC with warm summers and very mild winters.