Santarem, Portugal

From a position on the ridge overlooking the Tagus River, Santarem holds a significant place in the history of Portugal. Originating during the Iron Age, the town was named in honor of martyred Saint Iria by the native Visigoths. The area served as an administrative center for Julius Caesar’s Legions and was one of the strongest fortresses in Portugal. The area became a center of culture and commerce. It was named Santarem when the Christians re-conquered the area from the Moors in the 12th century. After its recapture, Santarem was a favorite city for Portuguese monarchs. It was used as a location for the royal courts of Alfonso IV and John II. This is also the hometown of the celebrated poet Ibn Bassam. Santarem was used as a base of operations for Capitao Maia and his Carnation Revolution forces that helped to overthrow the Estado Novo dictatorship in 1974.

Almourol castle on the Tagus River, Santeram, PortugalVisitors to Santarem will be amazed by the carved rose window of the Church of the Grace. The church is a National Monument as it’s the burial site of Pedro Alvares Cabral, the explorer who discovered Brazil. The town’s archaeological museum contains many Roman and Moorish artifacts. It also houses the tomb of Duarte de Menezes, a nobleman and colonial officer in India. Guests will also admire the beautiful Gothic cloister and ornate west door of the 13th century Convent of Saint Francis. Santissimo Milagre Church contains a vial that legend says holds a drop of Christ’s blood. There are several other fine examples of Gothic. Romanesque and Arab influenced architecture in the city.

Visitors to Santarem, Portugal’s bullfighting capital will find a moderate Mediterranean climate as they admire the views of the countryside from the 13th century Alenquer Castle or Portas do Sol Park which is situated above the Alentejan plains and the Tagus River. From these vantage points and the city tower, you can easily see why Santarem is the center of one of Portugal’s thriving agricultural areas. There are major festivals in June and October to celebrate the gastronomical delights that are produced in the region. You’ll discover Santarem’s cultural and artistic heritage during these festivals that showcase bullfighting, farmers markets, music and folk dancing, especially the Fandango, the traditional dance of the region.

Today, Santarem is a whitewashed, terracotta tiled city that makes an excellent location from which to explore Portugal’s renowned Ribatejo wine producing region.


Speak Your Mind