The Charola in the Convent of Christ - which is famous as one of the outstanding examples of Templar architecture - belongs to Romanic and Gothic works campaigns from the 12th and 13th centuries.
The Charola is a polygonal structure, with eight sides on the inside becoming sixteen sides on the outside. Its design was aimed at reproducing similar round buildings known to the Knights Templar that were inspired by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Completed in the 12th century, its entrance is on the east side, which was used up until the Manueline works campaign.
At the instigation of Henry the Navigator, when he was Master of the Order of Christ, 1420-1460, the first alterations were made to the building, with the opening of two spans to the west for the addition of the choir and the tribune. Also from this period is the organ pipe made of wood and leather that can still be seen on the north wall of the Charola.
The most important works campaign was sponsored by King Manuel I between 1495 and 1521, during which two of the sixteen sides of the external wall were opened on the east side, resulting in the large triumphal arch that was to link the Charola to the new Manueline church. The decorative programme that accentuated the richness of the site also dates from this period.
The iconographic enrichment of the Charola, which was thus transformed into the high altar of the new church, included sculpture, oil paintings on wood and leather, mural paintings and stucco work.
Of particular importance was the recent discovery of paintings from the Manueline period (1510-1518) that covered the vaulted ceilings of the ambulatory and which were later covered with lime mortar. The mortar was removed during the restoration works in the Charola in the late 1980s.
The Charola is a spectacular structure, a testament not only of Templar architecture but also a magnificent example of the splendour of the Manueline style. It alone makes a visit to the Convent of the Order of Christ worthwhile.