We left Fátima with some sadness, such a majestic and rich city. We did quite a lot of school and I got out for a long ride [Strava linked], exploring the surrounding hills. Our plan was to head back to Tomar, to rejoin the Camino Santiago. We've heard a lot about Tomar and it's famous Convento de Cristo (Convent of Christ), the home of the Knights Templar in Portugal. We met a guide in Sintra who gave us a short history of the Templars, and told us a Tomar visit is a must.
History lesson time (courtesy of wikipedia and Dan Brown stories):
The Knights Templar were established in the 1100s to assist with the Crusades, to recapture the holy city of Jerusalem from rule of Muslim leaders. It was a thorn in the side of the Catholic church and really, all of Europe, to have the birthplace of Christianity under "heathen" rule. Beginning in the 1000s, there began a series of Crusades, led by the Church and various European kings. In 1099, the city was recaptured, but not securely. Pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem were robbed or killed, as the surrounding territories were still under Muslim rule. The Knight Templars were established to consolidate Christian holdings and safety in the holy lands of modern day Israel. The elite of the elite joined this religious order of warrior monks, and once Jerusalem was recaptured, they set up a headquarters in Jerusalem on the site of the destroyed Temple of Solomon (hence the name). Their prestige and organization grew quickly as they had mystique, power, the might of God on their side. Lots of people donated, and they were supported by kingdoms from all over Europe. They became rich setting up a kind of proto-banking system, buying land and establishing centres everywhere, including Portugal. Owing them too much money, the king of France, Philip IV, in the early 1300s took it upon himself to have the Pope declare them illegal (thus, erasing all debts, the nefarious king), accusing them of being devil worshippers, their leaders tortured and many killed. The Pope confiscated all their lands and holdings, and ordered all European kings to disband their Templars. All did so, except Portugal's king, brave Denis I. He simply had the Templars rename themselves the Order of Christ, and they continued on as Templars under the new name from their base in Tomar.
The Rotunda: a lot has been written about the Rotunda, the centre of the complex, with massive Roman columns. The structure was built over about 500 years, some of it recycled from earlier structures on site (like a Roman building) and elsewhere. The Rotunda is the central place of Templar ceremony, with paintings, carvings and strange patterns. Initiation rituals occurred here. Plans hatched of world domination.