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Convent of Christ
Convent of Christ is the name usually given to the monument ensemble consisting of the Templar Castle of Tomar, the Order of Christ convent of Rebirth, the conventual wall – now known as the Seven Hills Woods, the Immaculate Conception Hermitage and the conventual aqueduct also known as the Pegões Aqueduct. The castle had its foundation in 1160 and comprised the walled village, the yard and the military house situated between the Master´s house – the Alcáçova (fortified citadel with a sovereign residence), the knight’s round-shaped Oratorium known as Charola, finished in 1190.
In 1420, as headquarters of the Order of Christ, Infante D. Henrique, o Navegador, (Henry the Navigator) transforms the military house into a convent to be used by the contemplative clergymen that he introduced into the Order and adapts the Alcáçova as his seigniorial home.
At the beginning of the 16th century, D. Manuel I, King and Governor of the Order of Christ extends the Templar Rotunda to the west, with a new construction beyond the walls, laden with decorative motifs celebrating the Portuguese maritime discoveries, the mysticism of the Order of Christ and the Crown in a grandiose manifestation of power and faith.
Tomar Castle and the Convent of Christ – headquarters for the religious and military orders of the Temple and of Christ – were awarded the UNESCO Heritage of Mankind classification and enrolled in UNESCO´s list of World Heritage in 1983.
The criteria that ruled its classification took especially into account the Templar´s Charola and the unusual western window of the Manueline nave – its construction extends and prolongs past the castle its own rotunda, the Knight´s primitive oratorium.
The Charola, apart from being one of the best amongst the rare existing examples of the rotunda-shaped church, symbolizes the medieval European world of the crusades and the defence of the faith. The Manueline window constitutes the first synthesis between European and Oriental art in its original decorative grammar.
Its architecture evokes a vast European art repertoire embodied in the styles that the passing centuries brought to the edifice. The rebirth convent itself was taken into account in the classification of the monastic complex. It is one of the bigger ones in Europe and, also, its main cloister is a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture (according to its classification as a cultural asset in the UNESCO´s world heritage list at a meeting that took place in Paris on December 7th of 1982).