São Vicente

São Vicente

The place of the chapel

 

One of the most representative symbols of the picturesque civil parish of São Vicente is the small chapel built inside a basalt cave, at the mouth of the stream that passes through the village. However, São Vicente is much more than that. The region has been carefully engraved by the green nature and the abundant forest adjoining it, first carved by volcanic forces, and then by the work carried out by erosion on the beautiful hillsides surrounding the village.

The population, initially hidden between the capricious hide-outs offered by the landscape, today is spread out through the entire civil parish.

São Vicente, with its breathtaking scenery and the recently restored village centre, along with a remarkable and exemplary architectural framework, is one of the most picturesque spots in Madeira.

If in the old days the village hid from the pirate attacks, today it makes itself fully known in a fearlessness and determined manner. The village is always in search of new challenges and is known for its inhabitants’ hospitality.

The initial core of settlers came from the North and South of Continental Portugal. However, joining these settlers were also the slave workforce, who had been brought to the island with the aim to clear and cultivate the land, amongst other chores.

The temperatures in this civil parish are very mild: during the winter they never drop below 14ºC (57ºF), and in the summer they average 28ºC (82ºF). The main economic activities of São Vicente are the primary and tertiary sectors, namely agriculture and services, particularly the tourism industry.

The name of this place is owed to São Vicente. However, there are several theories that should not be forgotten.

One of the theories believes that around the time Madeira Island was colonized, the first settlers of the northern coast, when coming down via Encumeada, towards the valley of São Vicente, found numerous crows flying over it. This situation reminded them of São Vicente, whose mortal remains had been defended by a crow, and so decided to call this place after the Spanish martyr.

Another theory believes in the fact that São Vicente is the patron saint of patriarchates of Lisbon and Faro, and thus the reason for the name given. And there is also the theory that one of the first settlers was from Sagres, in the south of Continental Portugal.

Regarding the date of the settlement of the parish, historians have not arrived to a consensus. Some believe that the settlement process had already begun in 1420. Others believe that only took place around 1425. Nevertheless, one thing is certain: in 1440 São Vicente had already a group of inhabitants residing there, dedicated to land clearing and shepherding. They also had a chaplain and services were held in a tiny temple in the highest parts of the civil parish.

 

How to Get There

To get to São Vicente from Funchal, take the freeway towards Ribeira Brava (Funchal - Ribeira Brava). When you arrive at Ribeira Brava, you must follow the Estrada Regional 101 (regional road), towards the high mountains and São Vicente. You can take the fastest route, through the tunnel or the old road winding up the mountain, with Encumeada on top welcoming you to the magnificent northern hillsides.

You can also get to São Vicente via north, through Estrada Regional 101, both coming from Santana or Porto Moniz.

 

Useful Information

Municipal Public Holiday: January 22
Population: 6,198 inhabitants
Area: 78.7 Km2


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