A location that claims some 3000 years of habitation with physical evidence discovered dating from the Iron Age. The Emperor Julius Caesar named the place Praesidium Julium and used it as an administration centre for his Legions.
The Moors who occupied the town from 715 named it Xantarim in memory of the 7th Century Saint Iria a martyred nun from the town of Tomar. The poet Ibn Bassam who was born in the town and highly considered in Lusitanian culture has left to prosperity some beautiful descriptions of the place.
The Portuguese King ousted the Moors in 1147 and gave it its present name and later used the town in which to occasionally hold the influential “Cortes” (a form of parliament which was initially attended by only landed gentry and later extended to clerics and leading townsmen). Both Dom Afonso IV and Dom João II were acclaimed Kings of Portugal from this town.
Prince Henry the Navigator was a regular visitor to the town with properties, estates and commercial businesses to attend to, one of which was the industry of making soap. In the 15th Century the town was considered the second most important town in the whole of Portugal due to its number of inhabitants and ranking in popularity with the Royal Family.
During the French invasion of 1811 the town was used by General Massena as a headquarters for his troops and most churches and palaces were sacked by these invaders. Its most recent contribution to history was when on the 24th of April 1974, Capitão Salgueiro Maia led is column of men to Lisbon to arrest both the President and Prime Minister of Portugal as part of the successful and popular Revolution. Today, the population of this town is approximately 29.000 inhabitants.
The town has many beautiful buildings bearing testament to its past importance. Within the town there is a site of what was originally an important Roman Temple dating from the 1st Century.
In the heart of the old town is the 17th Century Igreja do Seminário built on the original site of a royal palace by the request of Dom João IV and then given as a reward to the Order of Jesuits. The multi-windowed structure has a large interior with hand painted ceiling and marble decorations.
The Chapel of Erguida pelos Templários dating from the 12th Century has been reconstructed as the Igreja da Alcáçova. The 12th Century Igreja do Marvila has been also been reconstructed in the 17th Century and has a striking Manueline portal with tiling from this period. The 72-foot high Torre das Cabaças has suffered a lot of restoration work thus losing its original medieval architectural charm and is attached to the 12th Century Igreja de São João de Alporão with its strong rugged appearance.
The historic buildings have suffered during the centuries and none more so than that of the Convento de São Francisco whose church was converted into a stable and the marble tombs were emptied (including that of the King Fernando), so as to be used as water troughs for the horses.
The finely worked tomb of Duarte de Meneses can be found in the Museu Arqueológico. The tomb is to the memory of a man who was the Governor of Ceuta, a Christian defended stronghold in Morocco. He fought bravely several time in its defence before dying to the sword.
In the Igreja da Graça there is the tomb of Pedro Álvares Cabral, who discovered in 1500 the land now known as Brazil. In the Igreja do Santissimo Milagre there is an unusual relic in a small crystal container.
The liquid within it is said to be the blood of Christ which based on a legend from the 13th Century. Apparently, holy water that was being used by a priest helping in a marital problem suddenly turned into blood. The striking simplicity of the Igreja de Santa Clara is all that remains of the important 13th Century Convent founded by King Afonso III.
Santarém is an important bullfighting centre and it is at its height during the annual Feira da Ribatejo that takes place in June. This event is the largest agricultural fair of its kind in Portugal and the town takes on a busy crowded atmosphere as it draws people from all parts of the country.
Just to the north of the town is the smaller town of Alpiarça in which there is the Casa Museu dos Patudos. Here there is a collection of fine paintings, ceramics and works of art belonging to the Portuguese diplomat José Relvas (1858-1929). It includes works by such masters as Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Durer and Delacroix.
Extending from the house is an estate devoted to the raising of bulls and horses that can be visited and shown the traditional "campinos" expertly manipulate the herds.
Within Alpiarca is a house with striking decoration which was the home of the father of José Relvas. Further to the north is Golegã. This small town is devoted to the breeding of horses, both for the bullring and for show jumping and dressage.
Every year in November the Feira Nacional de Cavalo is held drawing enthusiasts and dealers from all over the Europe. Also in this town there are the two museums, one devoted to the photographic work of Carlos Relvas, and the other exhibiting the work of the artist Martins Correia.
Further to the south of Santarém with its ruins of its 13th Century castle is the town of Alenquer. This was the birthplace of several famous historic Portuguese people including their famous explorer Vasco do Gama.
|Festas de Amiais de Baixo
||End of January
|Festas da Cidade
|Feira do Milagre
||2nd & 3rd weeks of April
|Feira do Vinho - (Alpiarça)
|Feira Nacional da Agricultura do Ribatejo
||17th - 25th June
|Festival Internacional de Folclore
|Feira da Piedade
||2nd & 3rd weeks of October
|Festival Internacional de Folclore
|Festival Nacional de Gastronomia
|Feira de S. Martinho
||3rd - 12th November
|Feira Internacional do Cavalo
||3rd - 12th November
||243 304 200
||243 333 122
||243 322 022
||243 300 200
||243 304 437
|Support to Tourists
||800 296 296