Dominating the charming riverside town of Tomar is a mighty castle that shields the Convento do Cristo, one of Portugal’s standout historic attractions. Founded in 1160 as the headquarters of the Order of the Knights Templar, the Convent of Christ is as awe-inspiring as it is mysterious, its masonic heritage tangible and beguiling.

At its center is the medieval Charola, the original Templar church, richly decorated and exuding all the strange symbolism associated with the Order of Christ. The 16th-century cloisters bewitch with Manueline flourishes and tease visitors with their concealed spiral staircases.

And the convent’s magnificent Manueline window, designed by master sculptor Diogo de Arruda, remains one of the most architecturally appealing aspects of any building found in Portugal.

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