The commanding officer of the armada that landed at Terras de Vera Cruz, now known as Brazil, he lived for many years in Santarém. You can visit his former home, immediately next to the Graça Church and containing his tomb. Today his house is a Luso-Brazilian cultural centre, Casa Brazil.
Santarém was part of the land owned by the Order of Christ, which gave financial support to voyages of discovery. For this reason, the city expanded considerably and a number of grand monuments were built. The city is situated on high land overlooking the fertile plain through which the River Tagus flows. Santarém is now known for farming, cattle breeding and bull fighting.
Your visit should start at the Portas do Sol viewpoint.
Then you can follow a tour documenting the evolution of the Gothic style in the city. You’ll see how the architecture goes from pure and austere in the Convent of Santa Clara, to Manueline in the Church of Santa Maria de Marvila, then to Late Gothic in the Graça Church.
It’s also well worth visiting the 14th Century Clock Tower, now a museum devoted to time. Look up as you enter and you’ll see stone carved pumpkins on the top. The myth goes that when it was built, it was considered so ugly that these were chosen as symbols of the idiots who had designed it. The real purpose, however, was to enhance the sound of the bells chiming the hours.