The Best of the Azores


Rather die free than in peace subjugated

Motto: Antes morrer livres que em paz sujeitos

(Rather die free than in peace subjugated)

The exact date of discovery of the archipelago is unknown. In 1432 the Portuguese, Goncalo Velho Cabral, discovered the island of Santa Maria, and by the year 1457 all the islands had been visited by either Portuguese or Flemish explorers. The colonization of then unoccupied islands started in 1439 with people mainly from the continental provinces of Algarve and Alentejo. In the following centuries settlers from other European countries arrived, mostly from Northern France and Flanders.After Santa Maria, the next island discovered was Sao Miguel, followed by Terceira (meaning “the third”). Then the central group of islands were found; Graciosa, Sao Jorge, Pico, and Faial. And finally the western two islands of Corvo and Flores were sighted in 1452. In 1439, the village “Praia dos Lobos” was settled. The first capital of São Miguel was Vila Franca do Campo. Since a violent earthquake in 1522 buried the town of Vila Franca, Ponta Delgada was designated capital of the island.

The third island to be discovered was initially called Island of Jesus Christ, later adopting the name of Terceira. Although the exact date is not known it is widely believed that the island of Graciosa was discovered around 1450 by sailors from the neighbouring island of Terceira. Vasco Gil Sodré, native to Continental Portugal, settled the island of Graciosa soon after. The first reference to the island of São Jorge was made in 1439 but the actual date of discovery is unknown. In 1443 the island was already inhabited but active settlement only began with the arrival of the noble Flemish native Wilhelm Van der Haegen.Faial, known as “Insule de venture” in the old letters and sailing charts, is thought to have been discovered during the first half of the 15th century. Settlement began before the year 1460 on Faials’ northern coast with settlers from the north of Portugal. The two islands that comprise the eastern islands were the last to be discovered. Flores and Corvo were discovered close to the year 1452 by Diogo de Teive and his son João de Teive. The island of Flores was initially called St. Thomas and St. Iria but due to the abundance of yellow flowers (cubres) which covered the island the name F