Next time you find yourself walking through the village of Manjarín, make sure you stop to say hello to Tomás, the ‘Last of the Knights Templar’ and one of the Camino de Santiago’s legendary characters.
Manjarín is located between Rabanal and Ponferrada, a beautiful stage that winds through the steep valleys of the Montes de Leon and features the famous Cruz de Ferro (iron cross), where pilgrims traditionally leave little rock mementos. Not long after the village of Foncebadón, you’ll come to a hobbled-together shelter with ducks and dogs strolling around and a content-looking bearded man dressed in clothing traditionally associated with the medieval knightly order known as the Knights Templar.
This is Tomás, a man who many years ago had a calling to take up the original mission of the Templars to guide and protect pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela. Tomás subsequently swapped his home in the city for this desolate and beautiful spot in the mountains, converting an abandoned stone house into a refuge for pilgrims and the headquarters of the Order of the Resurgent Temple, which he founded himself. Being the last Templar doesn’t mean simply wearing a tunic emblazoned with a scarlet cross; no, Tomás takes his role very seriously, offering pilgrims a place to relax and exchange stories or pearls of wisdom, sometimes even cooking group meals for those who have decided to stay the night.
Leaving Manjarín, descending the valleys towards the rich winegrowing region of El Bierzo, you can’t help but reflect admiringly on one man’s dedication to helping strangers. What’s more, in fulfilling his duties as the last remaining member of the Knights Templar, Tomás has succeeded in reawakening memories of the Camino de Santiago’s romantic and chivalrous past. Probably time we started calling him Sir Tomás.