Also in the cycle of private life, from birth to death, the Church was present, at least in the main moments: baptism, marriage and burial.
In addition to a monastery that disappeared before it was completed and the location is unknown, Santar assisted to the raising of other temples, both public and private, which are still part of the heritage of this historic village
This parish church has one of the oldest Portuguese patrons, S. Pedro. The primitive building dates back to the 12th century and was, however, deeply reformulated in the 16th century.
From medieval times, its origin was inscribed in the broken arches - characteristic of the Gothic - a sober portal and the oculus on the main façade.
The restructuring of the government must have taken place at the end of the sixteenth century, as it can be inferred from the inscription on one of the halls of the church "It was abbot Simão Rº 1584".
In 1675, the bishop of Viseu, D. João de Melo sent to Rome a list of the churches of his bishopric. In it it would be written: "Igreja de Assentar, invocation of St. Peter the Apostle, abbey of the ordinary presentation united to the religious of St. Mark, next to Coimbra of the Order of St. Geronimo. It has a tabernacle, two side altars, invocations of Our Lady of the Rosary and St. Sebastian. It has an annual cure, fifteen priests, five hundred and five adults, forty-eight children, two hermits and one house of mercy”.
Built in granite, it has a simplified plant with a single nave. At the entrance, on the side of the Gospel, is the baptistery. Further on, on the same side, a chapel instituted in 1676, dedicated to St. Michael Archangel, also known as the Chapel of the Souls. An inscription elucidates us on its foundation «THIS CHAPEL’S CONSTRUCTION WAS ORDERED BY MANUEL OF ARAVYO PONCES AND HIS WIFE Mº LOPEZ E SERVESSE WITH 30 MASSES AND 4 PRIESTS FOR THEIR SOULS EVERY YEAR. YEAR OF 1680». It would have had a Mannerist altarpiece, which would completely cover the fused wall, from which only the frame is left. It is very plausible that it should have made part of a painting by Manuel Araujo Ponces himself - a well-known painter who worked in this region and resided in Santar and Viseu - whose theme would perhaps be the Judgment of the Souls by the Angel St. Michael.
By the writing of the contract signed in 1676 with the master builder from Viseu, Manuel Álvares, it is known that the chapel was to be erected "inside the church of São Pedro de Assantar, towards the northern part, opposite the back door" and in everything similar to the one that existed in the cloisters of the Cathedral of Viseu dedicated to Saint Anthony.
The Lisbon saint would also end up having his chapel in the main Church of Santar. Located to the right side, it preserves a baroque altarpiece probably executed around 1680. In the centre, an image of the thaumaturge, is surronded by an arched frame of gilded carving around which can be seen painted boards, delimited by friezes of ornate carving, that evoke the miracles of the saint: Preaching to the Fish and the Rescue of the Father (right); Reconstitution of the butchered Leg and the Gift of Bilocation (left).
From the so-called national baroque (second half of the seventeenth century) is also the altarpiece of the main chapel. It is one of the most beautiful examples of this period in the municipality of Nelas. É provável que tenha sido executado na viragem para o século XVIII. It is likely to have been executed at the turn of the eighteenth century. Later, it would have been added, at a height, when the vault of the roof was covered with thirty-five coffins in which the Apostles and other figures of the Church are portrayed.
About this altarpiece the researchers Maria de Fátima Eusébio and Jorge Adolfo M. Marques wrote «The flanks bear pseudo-solomonic columns, encircled by vine branches, bunches of grapes, flowers and birds of the Phoenix, which extend over the entablature in spiral archivolts, garnished with pamphlets and flowers, joined by three radial segments; the central space is occupied by a wide tribune, which rises above the entablature with the shape of an arch, bordered by a lace of leaves, within which is guarded the throne, composed of three steps». In the intercolumns, there are two images, on pedestals composed of a fan of leaves and a band of flowers, the patron saint of the church, St. Peter on the left side and St. John the Baptist on the right side.
In the central gallery, framed by richly decorated coffins and on top of the tabernacle, is a magnificent 15th-century Crucified Christ.
From the Johannine baroque, a little later than the so called national one, are the collateral altars and the lining, in carving from the chancel arch. In the altar to the right, a special mention to an image of the eighteenth century of St. Sebastian in polychrome wood.
From the seventeenth-century restructuring of the church, is also the faceted stone pulpit built on a conical shell.
From the beginning, rural communities have intertwined their lives with the cult of the sacred. Thus, from the beginnings of nationality, the Portuguese territory, both north and south, has been punctuated by churches and hermitages. It was in these places and in the religiosity that, over the centuries, the rural people sought consolation against the harshness of life and against a Nature that gave bread but also hunger. It is not by chance, that even today, in some regions, that Santar is one of the examples, agricultural cycles go hand in hand with religious festivities.
In 1632, at the end of the Philippine period, the Brotherhood of Our Lady of Mercy was founded in Santar, on the initiative of D. Lopo da Cunha, for the charitable exercise of assistance to the community. Shortly after, its founder, lord of the powerful Casa dos Cunhas, detached a plot of land from his Quinta do Casal Bom to build the temple of the new brotherhood.
In order to ensure its future and its proper functioning, he bound it to a perpetual legacy. However, the extinction of the majorats, in May 1863, would eliminate the "bond" that had not permitted the alienation or sharing of "linked" properties.
For posterity, the name of its benefactor, "DOM LOPO DA CUNHA HAD THIS CHURCH BUILD IN THE YEAR 1637," would be engraved on the lintel of the church portal.
Three years after the beginning of construction, Portugal revolted against the Spanish occupation. A palace coup deposed the vice-queen, the Duchess of Mantua, dismissed Miguel de Vasconcelos and elevated to the throne the Duke of Bragança, that was designated D. João IV It was the beginning of the dynasty of Bragança and the last one that Portugal would know.
The recovery of independence would not be peaceful and the war with Castile would last twenty-seven years. D. Lopo da Cunha would remain faithful to the Spanish king, leading a conspiracy against the new monarch. He would pay a high price for betraying the national cause. Forced to flee to Spain he would be dispossessed of all his lands and possessions in Portugal, disappearing his imposing house in Santar from which only the ruins were left.
As for the church which he had initiated, since it was a pious building, continued its autonomous path and was concluded years later.
With a mannerist layout, this temple with a rectangular floor plan has a single nave separated from the main chapel by a triumphal arch. The sacristy, the pharmacy and the Casa do Despacho would be built in the annex.
Naturally, the building has undergone, through the centuries, several transformations, some caused by the alteration of the dominant taste, others by cultural needs. Regarding the reformulation of the main façade, we find a document with the deliberations in 1724 of a meeting of the Bureau: «that the two cracks or shutters that are in front façade should be covered with stone and opened, on the same front, close to the top, two windows with an image of Our Lady of Mercy, as in the most mercies there is custom, for greater devotion, honor and greatness of the Holy House».
It would be in this same assembly that it would be decided to execute a new altar «on the door that leads to the Caza do Despacho, an arch should be built in the correspondence of that of the chapel of St. Anthony».
During these works some altarpieces would be replaced. Of the primitives, of the Johannine period, only one, although altered, has reached our days. It is on the right wall of the temple, inside a granite arch. It is not certain that all the figures in relief from the central space of this altarpiece-the Eternal Father, the Virgin and St. John, St. Michael Archangel and St. Lawrence-belonged to it, and it is possible that some come from another place. The same must have happened to the Crucified Christ, placed in the center, and which is visibly disproportionate when compared to the whole.
As for the altarpiece of the main chapel, it construction must have begun around 1650. However, it would only be completed more than half a century later. The panels of the capstone and predella are authored by Manuel d'Araujo Ponces and are dated from 1675 and 1679.
Between St. Anthony's representation on the right and St. Catherine's on the left is an image of Nossa Senhora da Soledade, also called Dores or Piedade.
At the turn of the twentieth century, the task master Cristóvão Rodrigues Loureiro would be ordered to paint all the altarpieces of the church in white and gold.
Finally, and to finish the description of the interior of the church, it should be referred the existence of a choir-top, the roof of the nave in wood and the arc of triumph, of perfect turn, based on tuscan pilasters. This is flanked by two lateral retables: St. Euphemia (left) and Our Lady of Mercy (right).
The walls of the nave are decorated by tiles of nineteenth-century tiles with a phytomorphic pattern.
Going back to the construction works initiated in 1724. These would continue until the 1740s and the first project for the façade was altered. The construction work in the Church of the “Misericórdia” in Mangulade might have contributed to this, since the same formula will be repeated in Santar: a central window framed by two niches under which, at the level of the door, are two other windows
In 1740, the Bureau also deliberated the construction of a magnificent porch, supported by granite columns with spiral balusters that would develop «from the corner of the ante-caza do despacho until de church, two arches and door to the choir». On the opposite side of the balcony, it would still be built a bell tower. It was to be intervened several times, the last of which was already in the nineteenth century. With a quadrangular flor plan, it is topped by four windows, limited by granite pilasters joined by arches. The set is crowned by an elegant bulbous with four fogs to adorn the angles.
The churchyard - diminished by the 18th century extension of the neighboring House of the Condes de Santar e Magalhães, - is shaded by a group of ancestral trees that constitute another historical garden of this village.
In 1678, António Pais do Amaral, Lord of the house of Santar, ordered the construction of a chapel with the invocation of St. Francis of Assisi, in which he would be buried in front of the altar. It is one of the oldest private chapels in the municipality of Nelas. On the wall, on the side of the Epistle, an inscription perpetuates the number of annual Masses which should be prayed not only for the soul of the founder but also for those of his ancestors.
The main chapel - separated from the nave by a triumphal arch decorated with marbled green and pink paintings and 18th century railing - has a magnificent gilded altarpiece divided into three vertical sections. On the left, a painting represents St. Domingos while on the right one can see St. Anthony. These panels are, as Maria de Fátima Eusébio and Jorge Adolfo Marques, framed by: «quarters with windings and flutes and, in the middle, large branches of acanthus with a concave shape, next to which small images are placed». In the central part of the altarpiece, a seventeenth century image of St. Francis of Assisi. On each side, standing on pedestals, images of S. Martinho and St. Peter the Apostle. At the center, a painting representing the Holy Family.
The ceiling, with cradle shaped dome is painted in shades of pink bearing in the center, an exuberant composition representing the Holy Spirit. A door on the right gives access to the sacristy.
The concealment of the nave is decorated with marbled coffins, in shades of green and pink with a painted monstrance at the center. On the wall on the side of the Gospel, a beautiful sculptural group representing Saint Anne, the Virgin and the Child. The chapel has a high choir, with private access through the interior of the house and parietal decorations that surround the conical window of granite frame. On the walls of both the nave and the high altar, the lamella is made of tiles from the end of the seventeenth century
On the outside, the sobriety of the facade is only interrupted by a granite portal with beveled frames and lintel, bearing at the top the coat of arms of the house over which still opens the already mentioned eyeglass sieved by colored glasses. To top off the roof, two pyramidal pinnacles crowned by spheres. On the sacristy, a small bell tower overrun by a stone cross is also topped by two identical pinnacles
In 1728, after a difficult presence in Brazilian lands, Father Manuel de Abreu Castelo Branco ordered to raise, in fulfillment of a promise made during this trip, next to his house in Santar, a chapel with the invocation of Our Lady of Mercy To secure the future, he linked several estates to it and stipulated strict management rules. The abbot Homem Rosada, who would have visited it, when it had been finished, to ascertain whether it could be granted a license to celebrate Mass, would describe it as such"(...) I found it complete with walls covered with tile, and its altarpiece decently made, with the image of Our Lady of Mercy painted in red, with all decency, all done. And the altar has its red and white front, and its lace tablecloth ... everything with decency and cleanliness necessary for the use of the altar and celebration of the divine sacrifice, I believe that it is decently adorned in order to have celebrated the holy mass».
The name of Nª Sª da Piedade would eventually extend to the eighteenth-century manor house, which had also belonged to the Reverend Manuel de Abreu Castelo Branco, and currently belongs to Pedro Paulo de Vasconcellos e Sousa. Everything indicates that the primitive core of the house would be restricted to the body on the right side of the chapel and the other, on the right, more imposing, built later. In this last one stands out the beautiful staircase and granite handrail leading to the porch, supported by beautiful spiral columns, and that precedes the main entrance of this house.
The chapel, with a rectangular floor plan, has the facade practically all occupied by the wide portal flanked by tuscan pilasters on which an elegant window decorated with lateral scrolls appears. In its stone lintel of the entrance, and for future memory, the name of the founder and the year of construction: "THIS CHAPEL WAS ORDERED TO CONSTRUCT BY REVEREND/ MANOEL OF ABREU CASTEL BRANCO / NA. 1728.
Despite its small size, this temple is, in its interior, a true treasure of baroque decoration. To the primitive altarpiece, which would occupy only the central part of the high altar, and where the image of Nª Sª da Piedade was nestled, later, the sides would have been added and the auction ended, leaving the whole wall to be covered with golden carving, where in an imaginative profusion are mixed windings, flowers, birds, shells, vegetal motifs, cherubs, etc. . If, in the central set the polychromy is restricted to the birds and the cherubs, in the lateral parts the situation almost inverts: marbled background with gold only used on the decorative elements. On the ceiling, coffins painted with hagiographic motifs. In the side elevations, eight panels recall the Passion of Christ.
While on the Paço dos Cunhas wayside cross they are round these are squares, showing the variety and difference between orders and design period.
It should be noted, the orientation of this wayside cross, which, like the previous one, has its verse and obverse oriented to the south and to the north.
Wayside crosses were landmarks of faith that were normally placed to sacralize the roadways, asking the walkers to ask for forgiveness before entering the localities. These marks of faith also sought to protect the settlements from pests and other bothers that came precisely through the streets, following their placement the cardinal points.