Hello [tap, tap] can you hear me? I’m coming to you today, in my best BBC accented crackly radio voice, from the island of Terceira in the Azores. However, I’m three monasteries behind on mainland Portuguese heritage sites, so you’ll have to wait a few days (internet access permitting) to hear about the two sites here.
On Tuesday I took a train two hours north of Lisbon to Tomar to visit this fortified monastery, originally a symbol of the Christian reconquest in the 12th century. The fortress and first church (which looks circular but is a 16 sided polygon) were built by the Knights Templar, and during subsequent centuries the monastery was substantially enlarged, with multiple cloisters and a fabulous Manueline style extention to the church.
The latter includes a window smothered in exuberant carved stone froth, a lot of it nautically themed including ropes, chains, coral, the ubiquitous royal symbol of the armillary sphere (all over the Belem tower as well) and frilly stuff that looks like seaweed.
A turret close to the window had this rather marvellous stone belt and buckle around it:
The monastery interior is extensive with staircases going all over the place and long corridors of monks’ cells.
The cloisters vary in size and design, from this simple pointy Gothic arch one:
to this magnificent Renaissance space:
I love cloisters, they really are very contemplative, and I cannot resist taking photographs of arches and vaulting for some reason. Should this kind of thing float your boat too, there are loads of photos in my Flickr stream you might like (link on right of page). However, much as I’d like to, I really don’t have enough part to build a cloister in Lego, so today’s model is of the original Templar church, on the right in this photograph:
And in now Lego:
The monastery was so large and engaging that sadly I didn’t have time to visit the museum of matches that I passed on the way from the railway station: