|Intermunic. comm.||Médio Tejo|
|• President||Anabela Freitas (PS)|
|• Total||351.20 km2 (135.60 sq mi)|
|• Density||120/km2 (300/sq mi)|
|Time zone||UTC±00:00 (WET)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC+01:00 (WEST)|
|Local holiday||March 1|
Tomar (Portuguese pronunciation: [tuˈmaɾ] (listen)), also known in English as Thomar (the ancient name of Tomar), is a city and a municipality in the Santarém district of Portugal. The town proper has a population of about 20,000. The municipality population in 2011 was 40,677, in an area of 351.20 km2 (135.60 sq mi).
The town of Tomar was created inside the walls of the Convento de Cristo, constructed under the orders of Gualdim de Pais, the fourth Grand Master of the Knights Templar of Portugal in the late 12th century.
Tomar was the last Templar town to be commissioned for construction and one of Portugal's historical jewels. The town was especially important in the 15th century when it was a center of Portuguese overseas expansion under Henry the Navigator, the Grand Master of the Order of Christ, successor organization to the Knights Templar in Portugal.
Tomar lies in the most fertile region of Portugal, and one of the most fertile in the whole of the Iberian Peninsula: the Ribatejo ("by the river Tagus") meadows. It is located in the district of Santarém. The predominant landscape is agricultural, consisting of olive, pine and fig trees.
The seat of the municipality is the city of Tomar, which comprises the parishes of Santa Maria dos Olivais and São João Batista. Tomar is also the capital of the Médio Tejo (Mid-Tagus river) region.
The Nabão River cuts across what was the ancient city of Nabantia: its inhabitants are called Nabantinos.
Administratively, the municipality is divided into 11 civil parishes (freguesias):
Under the modern city lies the Roman city of Sellium. After the conquest of the region from the Moors in the Portuguese Reconquista, the land was granted in 1159 as a fief to the Order of the Knights Templar. In 1160, Gualdim Pais, the Order's Grand master in Portugal and Tomar's somewhat mythical founder, laid the first stone of the Castle and Convent of the Knights Templar that would become the headquarters of the Order in Portugal.
Local traditional legends preach that the choice was for mystical reasons and by divine inspiration, and from practices by the Grand Master of geomancy, based on exercises taken from luck and predestination. Reinforcing this magical view is the setting of the site among a small chain of seven elevations (lugar dos sete montes), which became known as the city of seven hills, as the seven hills of Jerusalem, the seven hills of Rome or the seven columns of Constantinople.
The foral or feudal contract was granted in 1162 by the Grand Master to the people. The Templars ruled from Tomar a vast region of central Portugal which they pledged to defend from Moorish attacks and raids. Like many lords of the unpopulated former frontier region of central Portugal, the villagers were given relatively liberal conditions in comparison with those of the northern regions of Portugal, in order to attract new immigrants. Those inhabitants who could sustain a horse were obliged to pay military service in return for privileges. They were not allowed the title of Knight which was reserved to the Templars. Women were also admitted to the Order, although they did not fight.
In 1190 Abu Yusuf Yaqub al-Mansur, an Almohad caliph, and his army attacked Tomar. However the knights and their 72-year-old leader, Gualdim Pais, kept them at bay. A plaque commemorates this bloody battle at the Porta do Sangue at the Castelo Templário (Castle of Tomar).
In 1314, under pressure from the Pope Clement V, the order was suppressed. Philip IV of France, who owed the Templars huge debts, held the pope a virtual prisoner and coerced him to suppress the order on bases of false accusations and forced confessions. The Order was suppressed in most of Europe and its holdings were to be transferred to the Knights Hospitaler. Instead, King Dinis negotiated the transfer of the Order's possessions and personnel in Portugal to a newly created Order of Christ. This Order moved in 1319 to Castro Marim, but in 1356 it returned to Tomar.
In the 15th century and thereafter, the (ordained) Grand Master of the Order was nominated by the Pope and the (lay) Master or Governor by the King, instead of being elected by the monks. Henry the Navigator was made the Governor of the Order, and it is believed that he used the resources and knowledge of the Order to succeed in his enterprises in Africa and in the Atlantic. The Order of Christ Cross was painted in the sails of the caravels that crossed the seas, and the Catholic missions in the new lands were under the authority of the Tomar clerics until 1514.
Henry, enriched by his overseas enterprises, was the first ruler to ameliorate the buildings of the Convento de Cristo since its construction by Gualdim Pais. He also ordered dams to be built to control the Nabão River and swamps to be drained. This allowed the burgeoning town to attract more settlers. Henry ordered the new streets to be designed in a rational, geometrical fashion, as they can still be seen today.
In 1438, King Duarte, who had fled Lisbon because of the Black Death, died here.
Just after 1492 with the expulsion of Jews from Spain, the town increased further with Jewish refugee artisans and traders. The very large Jewish minority dynamized the city with new trades and skills. Their experience was vital in the success of the new trade routes with Africa. The original synagogue still stands.
In the reign of Manuel I of Portugal the convent took its final form within the Manueline renaissance style. With the growing importance of the town as master of Portugal's overseas empire, the leadership of the Order was granted to the King by the Pope.
However, under pressure from the monarchs of Spain, the King soon proclaimed by edict that all the Jews remaining within the territory of Portugal would be after a short period considered Christians, although simultaneously he forbade them to leave, fearing that the exodus of Jewish men of knowledge and capital would harm Portugal's burgeoning commercial empire. Jews were largely undisturbed as nominal Christians for several decades, until the establishment of a Tribunal of the Portuguese Inquisition by the initiative of the clergy in the town. Under persecution, wealthier Jews fled, while most others were forced to convert.
Hundreds of both Jews and New Christians were arrested, tortured and about 1,000 were executed in autos da fé, in a frenzy of persecution that peaked around 1550. Many others (c. 38,000) were expropriated of their property or penance. Jewish ascendancy, more than Jewish religion, together with personal wealth determined whom would be persecuted, since the expropriations reverted to the institution of the Inquisition itself. With the persecution of its merchants and professionals Tomar lost most of its relevance as a trading centre. New Christian names among the inhabitants are very common today.
In 1581 the city was the seat of the Portuguese Cortes (feudal parliament) which acclaimed the King of Spain Felipe II as Portugal's Filipe I (see Iberian Union).
During the 18th century Tomar was one of the first regions of Portugal to develop industry. In the reign of Maria I, with royal support, a textile factory of Jácome Ratton was established against the opposition of the Order. The hydraulic resources of the river Nabão were used to supply energy to this and many other factories, namely paper factories, foundries, glassworks, silks and soaps.
Tomar was occupied by the French during the Peninsular War, against which it rebelled. The Duke of Wellington, with his Portuguese and English troops, liberated the city afterwards.
In 1834 all the religious orders, including the Order of Christ, were disbanded.
Tomar is twinned with:
Tomar attracts many tourists because of its varied monuments. These include:
The streets and squares of the picturesque centre of Tomar are organised following a chessboard pattern, a rare feature for a mediaeval city, instituted by Prince Henry the Navigator, which later inspired the pattern used for the rebuilding of Lisbon after the earthquake in 1755. Scattered throughout the town there are many interesting houses with Renaissance, Baroque and Romantic façades. By the river Nabão, near the bridge, there is a park and garden that offer views of the city and surroundings.
Tomar has several schools including primary, junior high school, high schools and a polytechnic. These include:
The municipal holiday day is March 1, and commemorates the day when the Templars' Master D. Gualdim founded the Templar City in 1160.