600 years ago (Madeira600) discovery of the Madeira Archipelago

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The year 1418, is marked as the year of discovery of the Island of Porto Santo. In that year Portuguese vessels, lead by two captains sent by Prince Henry the Navigator (Infante Dom Henrique, o Navegador), namely João Gonçalves Zarco and Tristão Vaz Teixeira, deviated from its planned route following the African coast due to a heavy storm. The captains and their crew were saved, finding shelter on a small island that they then called Porto Santo (the Holy Harbour), in gratitude for their rescue from shipwreck.

A year later, in 1419, they returned to discover another island near Porto Santo. The island was then named Madeira (Wood), due to the abundance of this raw material. The two captains, along with Captain Bartolomeu Perestrelo, took possession of this newly discovered island on behalf of the Portuguese crown.

João Gonçalves Zarco, Bartolomeu Perestrelo and Tristão Vaz Teixeira were the three navigators and explorers who arrived and stayed here on the islands. Each got his own captaincy on the archipelago of Madeira. Porto Santo was assigned to Bartolomeu Perestrelo, Machico to Tristão Vaz Teixeira, and Funchal to Gonçalves Zarco, but this only occurred some years later, in 1440, after the Cycle of Settlement, in 1425, by order of king D. João I.

Madeira Ancient Map by F. de Wit - Memories of Portugal

The three chief captains and their families began the settlement of Madeira and Porto Santo islands. It was a process defined by stages involving people from all over the Portuguese kingdom. From the Algarve some of the main settlers set out to the archipelago, with the important task of implementing a landlord system on the island. Also worth to mention that the settlers who came from the north of Portugal, namely from the region of Entre Douro and Minho, they were the ones who dedicated themselves in the organization of the agricultural area.

From the Algarve, Tavira, Lagos, Silves, Aljezur and Sagres, many engaged in this movement of settlement towards the new Islands. Servants, squires, knights and noblemen were recognized as the ones who secured the start of the settlement. It then quickly extended geographically to other areas, such as Santa Cruz, Câmara de Lobos, Ribeira Brava, Ponta do Sol and Calheta.

For more about the history of Madeira we recommend to visit the Wikipedia - History of Madeira

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