The Azores are 9 islands with an extensive, rich and very interesting historical past. Each island has its own particularities, having been discovered and populated at different times. In this sense, each of the islands of the Azores tells a different story, stay there and get to know briefly the historical past of each of them. Historically, the Azores were on the map of Europe at the time of the Portuguese maritime epic. In 1427, at the behest of Prince Henry the Portuguese discoverers located the Azores. However, Flores and Corvo only entered the panorama of this discovery 25 years later, in 1452. Diogo Alves and Gonçalo Velho Cabral were pointed out as the main and first discoverers of the island complex. Despite all this, it was only in 1431 and 1432 that the humanization of the archipelago took place with the first sending of animals. It was only in 1439 that the first settlers were sent to settle the archipelago.
The settlement was phased in over the centuries, so in the 15th century, the Eastern and Central Group was populated and in the 14th century the Western Group.
Santa Maria Island
The discovery of the island of Santa Maria is still unknown today, but it is believed that it was discovered by Portuguese navigators between 1427 and 1432, the first island having been populated.
It should be noted that a great number of Portuguese navigators came from the Algarve, having started their settlement on the north coast of the island in 1439.
It is at this time that the island is experiencing great development and, as a result, the first charter of Vila in the Azores was attributed to the town of Porto. This area is still called Vila do Porto today.
In 1493, when Christopher Columbus returned from his first voyage to America, he and his crew landed in the Bay of Angels and attended a mass on land in order to fulfil a promise made on the high seas.
Later, between the XVI and XVII centuries, the island of Santa Maria was attacked by pirates and corsairs in an attempt to plunder the goods of the Vila do Porto. Today the Fort of São Brás is still there, which was very important in the defence of Vila do Porto.
São Miguel Island
The island of São Miguel was the second to be discovered in 1427. In 1440 it was populated under the leadership of Gonçalo Velho Cabral and at the behest of the King of Portugal, with its first settlers coming from Alentejo and Estremadura. Later, communities of Moors, Jews and foreigners from France and England emerged.
The geographical position of the island and the fertility of its soils eventually contributed to a rapid economic expansion, which focused on the production of wheat, sugar cane and the dyeing plants of pastel and heather, products that were exported.
In 1546 Ponta Delgada became a town due to the earthquake felt in Vila Franca do Campo in 1522. São Miguel regained its position as a commercial centre with the Restoration of Independence in 1640, developing contacts with Brazil where several colonies of emigrants followed.
It was in the 18th century that there was a great flow of buildings, from manor houses to temples, with the so-called “Architecture of Orange”. This event was the result of the great orange production which made itself felt in São Miguel and as its production exceeded the quantity consumed in the archipelago, these were exported to England. From this commercial exchange, the English habits were acquired and it is still possible to visualize these architectural traits.
As its name indicates, this was the third island to be discovered in the Azores archipelago. Its discovery took place during the discoveries on the way to India and America.
It was settled in 1449 at the behest of Prince Henry the Navigator, but it was not until 1470 that it was settled in the central areas of Praia da Vitória and Angra do Heroísmo.
In 1534 the first settlement in the Azores was elevated to a city, and in the same year, Pope Paul III chose it as the seat of his bishopric. During the Philippine domination of mainland Portugal, Terceira was a great pillar in the resistance of that domination, being the last land in Portuguese territory to give up Spanish sovereignty.
During the reign of D. Pedro IV, the island of Terceira functioned as a base to organise the reconquest of the throne and consolidate the constitutional monarchy, hence the appointment of Angra do Heroísmo as the capital of Portugal.
Terceira played an extremely important role in the maritime warehouse of the Indian routes, thus gaining importance due to the Mexican and Peruvian gold trade that came in the Spanish fleets towards Cadiz. It should be noted that throughout this Filipino period, the island’s relations with the Spanish empire were privileged and important.
The year of the discovery of the island of Graciosa remains uncertain, but it is believed to have been discovered with all the islands of the Eastern and Central Group in mid-1450.
It is believed that the first arrival on the white island was made by sailors coming from Terceira island, the first settler being Vasco Gil Sodré in the Santa Cruz area and Duarte Barreto in the Praia area.
Since the beginning, Graciosa’s strong point has been agriculture and the planting of vines. In this way, Graciosa has dedicated itself to the exportation of wheat, barley, wine and brandy to the island of Terceira.
In the 16th century, the Portuguese golden century, we could still see some examples of Manueline architecture, such as the baptistery of the Mother Church and the apse of the hermitage of Nossa Senhora da Ajuda. At the end of that century and the beginning of the 17th century, the island of Graciosa faced a complicated period which was caused by an attack by pirates and corsairs which led to the construction of fortifications along the island for its proper defence.
When visiting his uncle in 1814, Almeida Garret wrote the first verses revealing his talent as a poet on the island of Graciosa.
São Jorge Island
The discovery of the island of São Jorge is thought to have been in conjunction with the other islands of the Central Group. In 1439 the first reference to São Jorge was made, and everything indicates that its settlement has been in 1460. In 1464 the main population centres were already formed, with the exception of Topo where it only began in 1470 with the arrival of Guilherme Van Der Haegen on the island.
The main drivers of the economy were wheat, maize and yams, which were complemented by wine production. Also important were pastel and heather, which were mostly exported to Flanders. This period of trade with Flanders is associated with the production of Queijo de São Jorge. As these were some of the island’s inhabitants, it is thought that it was the Flemish people who left the culture of cheese production on the island of Fajãs.
In the 18th century the Vila das Velas on an assault by French corsairs.
Pico Island was probably discovered in 1427 at the same time as the other islands of the Central and Eastern group. Its name comes from the highest point of the Portuguese territory, the mountain of Pico.
Volcanic eruptions gave rise to some mysterious events, which the population called “mysteries”. The presence of the whalers of America and the presence of many species of this mammal in the sea surrounding the islands led to the discovery of a new mercantile activity on the island, sperm whale hunting.
The hardworking nature of the Picaro people has meant that the immense lava fields that the island possessed have been turned into vineyards. Pico’s Verdelho has achieved international fame and has even reached the tables of Russia’s czars.
In the 19th century, this era of green wine came to an end due to oidium and phylloxera, which destroyed the vineyards. This event led the population of the island to leave the territory and emigrate to Brazil and North America.
In the 20th century, an outbreak of economic development emerged, making it possible to install ports and airports, and thus to resume the recovery of the vineyards.
In 2004, in the 21st century, the Vine Culture Landscape of Pico was elevated to World Heritage status by UNESCO.
In the middle of 1460 the island of Faial began to be populated, and 8 years later a group of Flemings, captained by the nobleman Josse Van Huerter, settled in Faial.
The island was called Faial because, at the arrival of the first discoverers, beech trees (morella faya) were sighted in abundance.
In 1490, the Flemish community already comprised 1500 people, but the Portuguese population was superior. The parish of Flamengos marks the place where they first settled.
In the 18th century, there was the development of whale hunting which eventually brought to Horta the known whaling fleets, which shelter in Porto Pim to refresh the crews and engage Azorean harpooners and rowers.
Officially, the island of Flores was discovered in 1452 by Diogo de Teive and his son João de Teive. It was not at all easy to populate this island due to its isolation and peripheral condition, originating an abandonment of the island for some years.
This isolation also affected the export of the dye plant called “pastel” to Flanders, causing Guilherme Van der Haegen to leave the island since he had tried a short experience of settlement in Flores.
In 1475 the island gained its present name due to the abundance of flowers on it. In 1504 its definitive settlement took place with settlers from the kingdom, many coming from Terceira and Madeira.
In 1515, the Lajes climb the village, and in 1548 the same happens with Santa Cruz.
The discovery of the island of Corvo happened simultaneously with the discovery of the island of Flores, however, it was populated in 1548, after several unsuccessful attempts.
It was first called Insula Corvi Marini and was also known as the Island of Marco or islet. Its small size and isolation led its population to make use of the agro-pastoral area, with its own characteristics.