Filipe Castro and Miguel Soares Lopes


This project started when a number of mid-19th century boats were exposed in Lisbon, in the place where the old Cais de Santarém was located, during the construction of a subterranean parking lot.

View of the mid-19th century boats found at Cais de Santarém, in Lisbon.

The importance of Santarém as a fluvial and maritime landscape is not sufficiently studied, but the circumstances of its location, on a protected hill, looking over of the most fertile plains of western Europe, and on the margins of Portugal’s largest river have inspired this study.

Santarém in the 19th century. The area of the castle and the River Tagus in the background.

As with all the projects on this website, this one is intended to fuel the curiosity and interest of a wide public, both professional and amateur, and link it to scholarly publications and other projects that may be of interest to Santarém’s inhabitants, tourists, and scholars of the last 28 centuries in general.

History of the Village

Probably built over a pre-historic settlement, the earliest archaeological remains date to the 8th century BCE and are related to the Phoenician occupation of the Tagus Estuary.

Excavations in the castle revealed a Roman temple and well preserved Roman ruins from the republican period.  Romans seem to have arrived in Santarém around 138 BCE, calling it Scalabi Castro. After the conquest of Iberia by Julius Caesar, in 90 BCE, the city was occupied by a stationed army, changing its name to Praesidium Juliia.  It may have been fortified in this period. The road connecting Lisbon to Astorga passed by Santarém and there are archaeological remains of this structure in Vale de Santarém, at Quinta do Malpique (Ref. 7,347). The imperial strata were deeply impacted by the Arab occupation of the castle.

During the 5th century CE invasions by Alans and Vandals the city was bestowed to Suneric (c. 460 CE). Santarém was conquered by the Suevi in 529 CE and later, in the 7th century, by Visigoths.

The Arab invasion of the Iberian Peninsula encompassed Santarém, designated as Chantirein or Chantarim and the village saw considerable growth.

In the late 11th and early 12th centuries this relatively small city was conquered and lost by Christian warlords from Spain, and finally conquered in 1147 by Afonso Henriques, the first king of the newly created kingdom of Portugal.

“Cais de Santarém” in Lisbon

In 2016 and 2017, the construction of a subterranean car park, in the area of the old Cais de Santarém, brought to light eight boats dating to the mid 19th century.


Santarém is a small city of about 30,000 people but it was once a prosperous center.  A series of political miscalculations (1824 and 1384), a tragic accident (1491), and two violent earthquakes (1531 and 1755) and  kept Santarém from fully developing its political influence.

Santarém seen from the River around 1530 (António da Holanda).


The city location and the wealth it accumulated made Santarém a monumental city, perched over the Tagus River, one of the most important arteries of the country throughout its history.  An important part of its monuments still stands, sometimes relatively preserved, sometimes destroyed and reconstructed several times, and sometimes incorporated in more modern buildings, its walls reused for new functions in the constant evolution of the city life.

Reconstruction of the 16th century village from an 18th century map (Angela Beirante, 1980).

Below are summary descriptions of some of Santarém’s most interesting constructions and spaces, or memories.

The Walls

Santarém was fortified probably already in Roman times, and certainly during the Arab occupation. Its walls were expanded, demolished and rebuilt several times, and it is not easy to reconstruct the several walls built over time.

Map with the doors of Medieval Santarém (after Angela Beirante, 1980).


The Doors

Porta do Sol seen from the inside of the walls (Wikipedia).

Porta do Sol – This door is still standing, even though the road that connected the citadel to the waterfront eroded away. It connected the upper town to the lower houses near the river through a steep road.  erosion has changed this part of the hills upon which Santarém was built.





Porta da Alcáçova (Santiago) – This door is still standing and it was the main door of the castle already in 1249.  The buildings around it have probably changed a lot since the 13th century, but the door is still preserved with part of the city walls.

Porta de Santiago seen from the outside of the walls (

It connected the citadel to the valley and the waterfront but the constant erosion and earthworks that changed the village in the late medieval and early modern periods made that road impassable and a document deems is irrecoverable by 1797.



Postigo de São Martinho –


Porta de S. João –


Porta da Atamarma – Possibly built or improved in the early 12th century, it was part of the city fortification at the time of its conquest by D. Afonso Henriques, in 1147. It was demolished 1865, together with the little Ermida de Nossa Senhora da Victória, to clear the access to the city.  A little monument was erected in the area between 1917 and 1920, and archaeological excavations were carried out in 1998, revealing its foundations (Almeida 2002).

Watercolors of the door of Atamarma right before its demolition, seen from the interior and exterior of the village.







Porta das Figueiras –


Porta de Leiria – This door was probably build before king Afonso Henriques’ conquest of the city, in 1147. It was closed during the reign of D. Manuel (1469-1521) and later incorporated in the N. S. da Piedade Church walls. The associated tower of the ‘Mesteres’ was demolished and its foundations are part of the Piedade church, built after 1664.

Postigo da Carreira, S. Domingos, or Gonçalo Eanes (?) –

Porta de Manços.

Porta de Manços – This door was demolished in the late 19th century (1864). It was probably one of the most important doors, linking the city to Lisbon. An Islamic cemetery was found outside this door in the 1990s.






Postigo de Santo Estêvão – Probably disappeared in the 16th century.


Postigo de Vale do Rei –


Porta de Valada – This door was demolished and its location is only known approximately.


The Towers

Torre das Cabaças (early 20th century postcard).

Torre das Cabaças –








Torre do Alporão – Demolished in



The Convents


Early 20th century image of the Convento da Trindade (

Trindade –







S. Francisco – Constructed in the 13th century it was abandoned and destroyed during the 19th century. In the first half of the 20th century is was partially reconstructed as a Gothic church.

Convento de São Francisco, possibly in the 1930s (internet?).







Convento de Santa Clara (SIPA FOTOs)

Santa Clara – Its construction started in 1259, during the reign of king Afonso III.  This convent was modified in the 17th century and completely rebuilt in the 20th century.






S. Domingos



S. Domingos das Donas


The Churches

Santarém: churches (after Angela Beirante, 1980)










Ermida de Nossa Senhora das Neves, Ribeira de Santarém (old postcard?).

Ermida de Nossa Senhora das Neves –






Ermida de Nossa Senhora da Victória –


Ermida de Nossa Senhora de Guadalupe – was probably built in the 12th century and demolished in the …


Espírito Santo –


Igreja de Marvila (old postcard).

Marvila –









Nossa Senhora da Conceição, Seminãrio, or Sé – Built in 1672-1711, this church was built in the area of the second royal palace. Today it is the Episcopal Palace.


Igreja da Graça (early 20th century postcard).

Nossa Senhora da Graça – Built in the late 14th and early 15th centuries, it was finished in 1420.


Nossa Senhora de Jesus do Sítio – Built in the first half of the 17th century, this church was integrated in the Convent of the Franciscanos da Ordem Terceira, which was transformed in an hospital in the 19th century.


Nossa Senhora do Monte – Built in the late 12th century it was modified in the 14th, 16th, and 17th centuries.


Nossa Senhora da Piedade – Built in the 17th century, it replaced the small church of Nossa Senhora de Guadalupe, erected in the reign of king Afonso V (1432-1481).  It is said to commemorate a miracle that allegedly occurred in 1663, after the batle of Ameixial, which ended the Portuguese war of independence from Spain.


Santa Cruz – Built in the mid-13th century, this church renewed in the mid-18th century.


Santa Iria –

Santa Maria da Alcáçova – Its construction started in 1154, by the knights Templar, almost immediately after the conquest of the city and the establishment of the royal palace within the city main walls.


Santa Maria de Palhais –


Santiago –


Santo Antão –


Santo Estêvão, or Milagre – This church stands on the site of a 13th or 14th century Gothic church. Remodeled in the 16th century, and again in the 18th century, it commemorates a legend of a miracle which is believed to have happened in the mid-13th century.


São Bento dos Apóstolos –


Igreja de São João do Alporão (Portugal in 150 seconds).

São João do Alporão –


São Julião


São Lázaro


São Lourenço


São Martinho


São Mateus


São Miguel


São Nicolau – Started in 1613, this church was built over the ruins of a previous, Gothic church, destroyed by fire. It houses the 14th century tomb of Fernão Rodrigues Redondo, a knight in the court of king D. Dinis (1261-1325) that had a house in Santarém.


São Pedro


São Roque


São Salvador –


The Bridges

Ponte do Alcouce, over Vala de Pahais.

Ponte de Alcource – This bridge was built in the middle age, probably in the 14th century, and probably to replace an early Roman bridge that may have existed in this place. It spans the Vala de Palhais and was part of the road from Santarém to Coimbra.

Ponte D. Luis I, Santarém.

Ponte D. Luis I – Was inaugurated in September of 1881. At the time it was said to be the third largest in Europe and sixth in the world. At the time of its construction it was considered an achievement in the field of civil engineering.


Water Supply

Almost completely destroyed and forgotten, a number of subterranean channels seem to have been cut under the city and on its northern area. There are mentions of several of these tunnels: near Vale de Estacas, deemed dangerous for children and destroyed by the military

Ruins of the building known as Mãe d’água.

with a bulldozer in the 1970s;  in Ribeira de Santarém, when one of these tunnels collapsed and three were exposed by engineering works (Ref. 33,933); and at Mãe d’Água, an old building located on a slope near the old Convent of Santa Clara, and from which three water tunnels enter under the hill.


A number of old fountains still exist, or are known to have existed in Santarém.

Fonte das Figueiras (

Fonte das Figueiras –






Chafariz de Palhais (early 20th century postcard).

Chafariz de Palhais –

Submerged Structures

In September 2010 a team of firemen was rescuing some lost equipment and found submerged structures with ceramic materials associated (Ref. 37,370) near the S. Luis I Bridge. These structures have not been surveyed by archaeologists, although there is a video of the site.

The Fluvial Landscape

Developed near the River and depending on it for transport, irrigation, and the annual floods that fertilized of the soils from which its wealth depended, Santarém was a fluvial landscape above all.

Boat with lateen sail and side rudder from the view of Santarém by António de Holanda (c. 1530).

The River Tagus meanders through its alluvial plain and is constrained by the hill upon which Santarém was built. The city had expanded down hill at least by Roman times, and remains of medieval walls remind us that part of the the port area was protected from enemy attacks.

From the view of Santarém by António de Holanda (c.1530).

The early 16th century view by António da Holanda shows a busy river harbor with small, road boats, and middle sized watercraft with lateral rudders and lateen sails. Some of the crew members are maneuvering the boats near the shore with punts.

Empty spaces on the water front were needed for shipbuilding, loading and unloading, and keeping of equipment and tools for fishing and boat keeping. The beaches showed in António de Holanda’s view are still empty today, but to our knowledge there have never been archaeological surveys in the area.

From the view of Santarém by António de Holanda (c.1530).

An interesting detail in this view suggests that a boat being pulled upstream with a rope, which seems to be uncommonly tied to the top of its mast.

An important feature on this waterfront is the 17th century shrine to Santa Iria, a legendary medieval nun falsely accused of being pregnant whose body washed ashore at Santarém after being assassinated on the margin of Zezere River, one of the tributaries of the Tagus.

This legend had already inspired the construction of the church of Santa Iria, around the 12th or 13th centuries, already mentioned above.


(we have not yet acquired some of the titles mentioned below)

Almeida, Maria José, 1998. Intervenção arqueológica no Miradouro de S. Bento, Santarém. Report available at

Almeida, Maria José, 1999. Intervenção arqueológica na Rua tenente Valadim No. 14, Santarém. Report available at

Almeida, Maria José, 1998. Intervenção arqueológica na Rua de S. Martinho No. 17-12, Santarém. Report available at

Cardoso, Mário, Almeida, Maria José, Mendes, Henrique Calé, 2002. “A Porta da Atamarma,” in Isabel Cristina ferreira Fernandes, ed., Mil Anos de Fortificaçoes na Península Ibérica e no Magreb (500-1500), Simpósio Internacional sobre Castelos, 2000. Lisboa: Ed. Colibri e C. M. de Palmela.

Almeida, Maria José, 1998. Intervenção arqueológica na Rua dos Barcos, Travessa da Oliveirinha, Ribeira de Santarém. Report available at

Almeida, Maria José, 1997. Relatório de Acompanhamentos Arqueológicos no Centro Histórico de Santarém. Report available at

Almeida, Maria José, 1999. Relatório de Acompanhamento Arqueológico no Centro Histórico de Santarém. Report available at

Almeida, Maria José, 1997. Intervenção arqueológica na “Casa do Brasil,” Rua Vila de belmonte No. 13-15, Santarém. Report available at

Almeida, Maria José, 1998. Carta arqueológica do Concelho de Santarém – Doc. Preparatório. Report available at

Almeida, Maria José, 2002. Carta arqueológica do Concelho de Santarém – Rel. Progresso. Report available at

Almeida, Maria José, 1998. Intervenção arqueológica no largo Zeferino Sarmento / R. Conselheiro F. Leal, Santarém. Report available at

Almeida, Maria José, 2002. “Museu Arqueológico de S. João de Alporão, Santarém,” in O Arqueólogo Português, 4.20: 191-198. Available at

Arruda, Virgílio, 1962. “As muralhas de Santarém,” Correio do Ribatejo, Santarém, 29 Dezembro.

Beirante, Maria Ângela, 1980. Santarém Medieval. Lisboa: Universidade Nova de Lisboa.

Beirante, Maria Ângela, 1981. Santarém Quinhentista. Lisboa: Livraria Portugal.

Brandão, Zeferino, 1883. Monumentos e lendas de Santarém. Lisboa: .

Braz, José Campos, 2000. Santarém raízes e memórias – páginas da minha agenda. Santarém: Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Santarém.

Cardoso, Mário de Sousa, 1979. As Muralhas de Santarém e a sua evolução. Santarém: .

Custódio, Jorge, 1996. Património Classificado de Santarém (texto policopiado). Santarém: .

Feio, A. Areosa, 1929. Santarém, princesa das nossas vilas. Santarém: .

Liberato, Marco, 2012. “Novos dados sobre a paisagem urbana da Santarém medieval (séculos V-XII): a necrópole visigoda e islâmica de Alporão.” in Medievalista Online, No. 11.

Matoso, Luis Montes 2011. Santarém Ilustrada. 2. Ed. Santarém: Junta de Freguesia de Marvila.

N/A, 1998-2000 e 2005. “Vária”. Monumentos. n.º 9 a n.º 12 e n.º 23. Lisboa, DGEMN.

Ortigão, Ramalho, 1903 (1896). O Culto da Arte em Portugal. Lisboa: Aillaud e Bertrand.

Rodrigues, J. Delgado e Castro, Guy de, 1979. Parecer sobre as obras de protecção da escarpa e das muralhas de Santarém sobre o caminho do Alfange. Lisboa, LNEC – DGEMN.

Santos, Isabel Claudino, 2018. Arquivo Histórico da Câmara Municipal de Santarém. Dissertação de Mestrado, Fac. de Letras da Universidade de Lisboa.

Sarmento, Zeferino, 1993. História e Monumentos de Santarém. Santarém: .

Sequeira, Gustavo de Matos, 1949. Inventário Artístico de Portugal, vol. 3, Lisboa: .

Serrão, Vítor, 1990. Santarém. Lisboa: .

Vasconcelos, Pe. Inácio de Vasconcelos, 1790. História de Santarém Edificada. Lisboa: .


Internet [17-04-2009]; [consultado em 28 dezembro 2016]. (accessed 2019).