“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” – Martin Buber
I am a student of history. What began for me, in the winter of 2000, as a fascination with medieval history, and particularly the history of the Knights Templar, has brought me to Tomar, in Portugal. It is one of the oldest Templar sites and one of the best preserved.
When I decided to come to Golegã for the Lusitano Festival, I thought briefly about visiting Tomar and then let it go. After all, I had serious work to do! When it came time to find a room, the best option – as Golegã was completely booked – was a lovely B&B in a little village called Vargos. Vargos is exactly half way between Tomar and Golegã. So I chuckled and booked the room. Over the years I have become used to the synchronicity of the Universe and am only mildly surprised (but always delighted) when it surfaces. Arriving in Lisbon after an overnight flight through London, I found myself in a rental car in pitch black night with tons of traffic in a driving rainstorm. Fun, right? With nothing to do but move forward, off I went with a GPS in search of a tiny village.
I arrived in the Vargos after several hours…no problem…but where was Casa dos Vargos? There are no numbers….no visible street signs….no lights. After a little scrambling on the Iphone for an email and number I located and called Dona Pilar, the proprietress of Casa dos Vargos. In no time I was warm and dry in a tremendous salon. I can’t call it a room. The ceiling was at least 16 feet high and the furnishings were tasteful and very very old. I was happy and relieved.
As I was trying to settle in to sleep, I read from the various literature in the room about the majesty and antiquity of Tomar. I resolved to go there before I visited Golegã the following day. Below you will see a gallery of images from the town of Tomar as well as the Convento do Cristo, which was the original 11th century fortress, church, and seat of Gualdim Pais, Master of the Order of the Temple in Portugal. The Convent of Christ has been home to many other important people, including Prince Henry the Navigator.
The Templars are famous, or infamous depending on your point of view, for many things, but most notably for the occult wisdom they were said to possess. Many people believe this wisdom was the basis for the Masonic Order and the Rosicrucians. During my time in Scotland in 2002, 2003, and 2005, I traveled to various villages in search of traces of this order, and to uncover connections with the aspect of the Divine Feminine in sacred and theological traditions.
Now the story returns to the present. After my visit to Tomar and the Convento do Cristo, I had to get to work in Golegã! I put all thoughts of mysteries and investigation aside….until Monday morning when Dona Pilar asked “have you seen the chapel?” What chapel? I had no idea what she was speaking of. At that very moment I was stuck in a quandary about what to do next and where to go…..but I went along with her, happy for the distraction. We went out the door and around the courtyard while she was explaining that the home had been in her family since the 16th century…and that I was going to view their private chapel. “It is full of the most beautiful Azulejos….all very old and of very high quality…you will see, it’s lovely!”. Lovely doesn’t begin to describe it. Dedicated to Saint Anna, the artist had created a vision that enhanced the architecture of the church, fitting every piece in a tapestry of depth, detail and perfect symmetry. I was entranced. Upon leaving, we turned to have a last look at the door and Dona Pilar says oh so casually “Oh, have a look at the cross.” I lifted my head to see the cross on the tower and it was a perfect Rose Cross. With my mouth open I turned to look at my host and she said, “oh yes, they are very rare. As you may know, they were destroyed all across the country, but as this was a private chapel, it was left alone.”
What does any of this have to do with anything? Just this personal observation: when I am unsure of my next step or searching for the correct path, I am almost always given an assurance of some sort to ‘move forward’. This was one of those instances. It was the trip to Scotland in 2005 (for a deeper investigation of Rosicrucian philosophy and evidence of the Divine Feminine teaching in architecture) that got me started in photography. I have come a long way since then, but I remain grateful for all the guideposts, the mystery and abundance of the Universe, and for the care of people like Dona Pilar.
Images below from Tomar, the Convento do Cristo, from the Cistercian Abbey of Alcobaça, and the Casa Dos Vargos. Thank you for taking the journey with me.