On one of the fabulous trips in Portugal, we went to Tomar, a lovely city that’s home to one of the most magnificent and beautiful monument sites in our neighbouring country, the Convent of Christ. Its gargoyles are extraordinary and the architecture is superb.
The Castle of the Templars, which dates from 1160 and which was built by order of Gualdim Pais, Provincial Master of the Order of the Knights Templar in Portugal, is the origin of the Convent of Christ. The huge complex includes a church, cloisters, dormitories, refectory, passageways, stairs and the many other rooms that make up this amazing place. Building went on through the 12th century right up to the 18th century and is a varied mix of styles, including Romanesque, Gothic, Manueline, Renaissance and others.
The gargoyles on the outside of the church blend in with the decoration on the walls, creating a fantastic group along with grotesques and other exuberant ornamentation. The orange moss growing on parts of them look like they are part of the decoration, giving the stone breathtakingly beautiful colour and depth, creating a wonderful, magical feeling. Together with the ones on the church, the fabulous and varied iconography of the gargoyles in the cloisters completes the marvellous collection of these creatures in the Convent.
Gargoyles and grotesques
The huge range of styles and types of gargoyles at Tomar is really extraordinary. Sadly, most of them are badly eroded, but some of them are really magnificent, even though you can’t see all the details any more. There are human figures, some with distinguishable features like beards, accentuated eyes with pupils, hair, a cap or a helmet, and so on. You can see men grasping objects of some kind, while others seem to be holding something up to their mouths. There are anthropomorphic figures with human faces, some with claws, others with feet facing backwards (as if dislocated). Plus, animals (pig, dog) and monsters. You can also find gargoyles that look like ghosts as well as others that are more grotesque.
All the gargoyles and grotesques are exceptional, beautifully carved and characterised. The photos below show some of them, but if you haven’t been to Tomar, we encourage you to pay it a visit and enjoy this amazing place.
Doctora en Historia del Arte. Investigadora especializada en el estudio de las gárgolas.