The Village’s History

The place name Santar gets lost in the memories of time, however, we must mention that it has been a place human fixation since the Neolithic to the present day. Here our ancestors, about 5, 000 years ago, walked about as hunters and gatherers. Later the Celts, the Romans and the Moors settled here until the reconquest promoted by Afonso Henriques who Christianized the territory and integrated it into the kingdom of Portugal.

For centuries, the village of Santar was part of the territory of Senhorim. Since 1852, the parish began belonging to the municipality of Nelas, Viseu District. It is located half a hillside in the vineyard region of Dão having in the background the Estrela and Caramulo Mountains. Elevated in 1928 to the category of Village, Santar is one of the most ancient places in the country, distinguishing itself for the magnificent erected heritage where granite stands out as the main construction material.

Occupied since immemorial times, it’s the Roman presence that most archaeological remains left in the region, namely in the surroundings of Santar, Senhorim e Canas de Senhorim.

The 1258 inquiries referred the existence of a pathway, probably of Roman origin, that joined Senhorim to Vilar Seco and another between this last place and Santar of which there are still vestiges.

As in most ancient villages, there is also a legend that says the word Santar came up after a victorious passage, in the early Middle Ages, of a king – according to some, D. Afonso II – who ordered his army to “assentar” - which means to settle – here after for a well-deserved rest after a battle. This legend is interesting, however, the origin of the name seems to be quite different, probably associated to the permanency of the Visigoths in the Iberian Peninsula, since, according to some authors, it derives from a proper name of Germanic origin Sentarius, referred in documentation from century X, in the form of Senteiro.

In 1514 during the charter reform carried out by D. Manuel, Senhorim - municipality to which Santar belonged - received a new charter which substituted the one granted by D. Afonso III in 1253.

From the 16th century onwards, the village began to flourish when D. Luís da Cunha, Lord of Sabugosa, Óvoa and Barreiro and owner of Casal Bom in Santar, received from the crown the medieval palace of the former owner, and here settled down.

Later, in 1609 - during the Philippine period - D. Pedro da Cunha, a nobleman of the house of Felipe II, reformulated the old medieval palace, building the imposing Paço dos Cunhas, according to the prestige and economic power he held in the region. It will be in this context that Santar becomes known as the headquarters of the “Cortes da Beira”.

Around the Paço dos Cunhas, other manor houses arise and become relevant in the region, such as the ones that turned out to be the House of the Counts of Santar and Magalhães and the House of the Fidalgas. This last one, of eighteenth-century construction, was apparently built near a medieval tower that existed and then was destroyed. It was also during this period that several chapels, some private some belonging to religious congregations were established.

By donation of D. Lopo da Cunha - the last of this family to reside here - the Church of the Misericórdia, was built in 1637, in whose garden - a true belvedere over a vineyard garden - some remarkable trees can still be seen today such as the araucaria araucana, the cryptomeria, the spruces, the cypresses and the camellia trees.

Loyal to the Philippine cause, in 1641 D. Lopo da Cunha will be forced to exile to Spain, after a participating in a failed conspiracy to depose D. João IV.

His property was confiscated and the family's coat of arms removed from the facade of the old palace. The “Cortes da Beira” ended thus without glory.

This was a time of change. As a reward for having supported him, in the struggle against Spain, the Duke of Bragança, now King of Portugal, brings to power other aristocratic families and members of the upper bourgeoisie. If in Santar the Restoration had caused the Cunhas to fall, other houses would also be erected, namely the Pais do Amaral.

  In 1852, the administrative reform creates the new municipality of Nelas that incorporates territories formerly belonging to the municipalities of Canas de Senhorim and Senhorim.

Like other regions of the country, Santar suffered with the passage of the French troops during the Third Invasion commanded by Massena and later the damages caused by the civil war between the partisans of D. Miguel and those of D. Pedro IV.

With the advent of the Republic, the municipalities had new administrative reforms, which fell far short of what was desired. With the Estado Novo, the autarchic power was totally subjugated by the central power from an administrative and political point of view. Only after the 1974 revolution will local power be freely elected by citizens, and gain wide autonomy.