Top attractions in Tomar I

This is not one of the most famous cities in Portugal, it may not even be your first choice when deciding to visit this country though it should. It is a lovely little town with history written all over it, on its narrow streets and old buildings, on the wrinkles of its inhabitants who are proud to be living here. So, I’ve decided to present you the top attractions in Tomar in an attempt to help you picture its uniqueness and picturesque atmosphere.

The Convent of the Order of Christ

Any search on the Internet will direct you to this particular monument, maybe the most important tourist attraction in Tomar. It has a very long history, dating back to the 12th century (1160) when it was built by the Knights Templar. Its original function was that of a castle, the Knights Templar’s castle, serving also as a defense building against the Muslim attacks. Later on, in 14th century, it became the headquarters of another Christian order, known as the The Order of Christ. Many important events took place here along history, such as the beginning of the Iberian Union in 1581 when Philip II of Spain was recognized as king of Portugal by the Portuguese nobility. Each restoration of the castle brought along new styles, the most outstanding being the Manueline decorations that are still very much impressive. Its rich history and magnificent architecture were main arguments for its being declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

The Portuguese Jewish Museum

This museum is organized in the oldest synagogue (built in the 15th century) in Portugal and the artifacts on display aren’t from Tomar alone but from the entire world. The building didn’t always function as a synagogue, the Jewish community being banned from here shortly after its construction. It not until 20th century that it is restored to its initial use after Samuel Schwartz, a Jewish engineer from Poland, buys it. Inside the museum, you now have the chance to see some very old Hebrew tombs with very interesting inscriptions that, in some cases, are reminiscent of the ancient Hebrew manuscripts from the Dead Sea. The synagogue’s style is the classic one, having a prayer room supported by 4 pillars that are supposed to symbolize Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah and 12 arches that stand for the 12 Tribes of Israel. In 1985, they discovered another room that contained a ritual purification bath, known as ‘mikvah’, presently on display at the museum.

Let us stop here for now and continue our journey through top attractions in Tomar in another post. There are more to say and write about this charming town, just stay with me and you’ll see!

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