Pillories are stone columns, although some were made of wood, placed in a public place, in a city or village, where the criminals were tortured and publicly humiliated. In Portugal, the pillories of the municipality were located in front the City or Town Hall from the 12th century onwards. Many had on the side a small cage-shaped hut, with iron bars, where offenders were exposed as a form of public shame. These kinds of pillories usually consisted of a base, on which a column or shaft rested, and ended in a capital. Some of them were extremely adorned and served as a symbol of the power of judicial authorities. Its presence was intended to serve as a deterrent to other would-be offenders.
The pillory of Tomar was built in the 18th century,pillory in the now Praça da República. In 1940 it was taken for restoration and, once restored, it was placed in the Largo do Pelourinho. Before this one, two others existed:
The first one on the old Chão do Pombal, at the time of the Knights Templar, and the second one was built later in front of Largo Paços de D. Manuel (presently, Praça da República), in the 16th century, and it has been replaced by the present pillory.
The parts of the Pillory of Tomar
The pillory is made of limestone. As far as the base of the column is concerned, the prismatic part is square-shaped, with bevelled angles and frame in each of the concave sides. The superior side is also bevelled, to reduce the support base of the column. It’s shaft is a pyramidal block emerging from its small base, becoming round-shaped in the middle and then it starts to get thinner all the way to the capital, which is marked by an angular frame on each side. Its sides and angles are well decorated with natural elements. From the top of the pyramidal block, and crowning the monument, rises an iron armillary sphere. The armillary sphere became a common motif during the Age Of Discoveries and it is present in many Manueline styled monuments.
The Manueline style, also known as the Portuguese late Gothic, is an architectural and sculptural art style developed during the reign of King Manuel I and which continued after his death. This style incorporates sea elements and representations of the Discoveries brought from the voyages made by Vasco da Gama and Pedro Álvares Cabral. The Manueline style emerged during a prosperous and glorious period in the history of Portugal, and its presence can be seen in several monuments all over the country.