Strategically sited SANTARÉM, set on a plateau on the banks of the Rio Tejo, already had a long history before Portugal was ever an independent nation. An important Roman trading city was sited here, and from the eighth to the twelfth centuries Shantarin was one of the most important and cultured Moorish cities on the Iberian peninsula. Accordingly, its conquest in 1147 by Afonso Henriques was hugely significant and in later medieval times Santarém became a royal favourite, decorated with grand Gothic buildings and hosting regular meetings of the Cortes (Parliament). There’s little if nothing left of Roman or Moorish times but, with its two exquisite churches and surviving old-town alleys and squares, modern Santarém remains a pleasant place to visit – not least for the unrivalled view across the plains from the Portas do Sol, the former site of the Moorish citadel and Reconquista castle.
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