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Travel Guides > Monuments, Churches, Chapels, Fortresses in Madeira Island

São José Fort

It was in the western part of  Funchal bay that there were two islets - two land masses that the discoverers of Madeira Island - João Gonçalves Zarco and Tristão Vaz Teixeira, took refuge in 1419 before setting foot on the nearby island whose astonishing jungle-like impenetrability of the forests gave the newcomers cause to hesitate, for tree-felling as they knew it was hardly in question in these stubborn thickets.

On the smaliest islet they cut into lhe rock, forming steps that remain untouched, even today. This atoll was the first stronghold of Madeira. At one of its sea-extending extremities one can still make out lhe triangular outline from where lhe navigators fastened their ships.

It was through this precise islet that, for many years, commodities entered and left the island; in the 15th century the sugar, in the 18th century the wine and in the 20th century the coal.

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