600 years after the discovery of the Archipelago of Madeira

The discovery


"Passamos a grande Ilha da Madeira,
Que do muito arvoredo assim se chama;
Das que nós povoamos a primeira,
Mais célebre por nome do que por fama.
Mas nem por ser do mundo a derradeira,
Se lhe avantajam quantas vénus ama;
Antes, sendo esta sua, se esquecera,
De Cypro, Guido, Paphos e Cythera."


"Os Lusíadas", Luís de Camões


The year is 1418, the year of the discovery of the Porto Santo Island, an event that occurred after a storm on the high seas which deviated a vessel that followed the African coast from its route. The navigator Gonçalves Zarco and his crew were saved by this small piece of land which they named as Porto Santo (Holy Harbor).

A year later, in 1419, another piece of land was spotted, which was designated by Madeira (Wood), due to the abundance of this raw material.

Gonçalves Zarco, Tristão Vaz Teixeira and Bartolomeu Perestrelo are the three navigators who arrived and stayed here, each with his captaincy. 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 D. João I.


600 years after the discovery of the Archipelago of Madeira

The settlement

The three chief captains and families began the settlement of Madeira and Porto Santo islands, a process defined by stages involving people from all over the kingdom. It was from the Algarve that some of the main settlers set out, with the important task of the landlord system employment. It is also essential to mention the settlers who came from the north of Portugal, namely from the region of Entre Douro and Minho, they were the ones who intervened specifically in the organization of the agricultural area.


From the Algarve, from the towns of Tavira, Lagos, Silves, Aljezur and Sagres, several people engaged in this movement of settlement towards the new Kingdom Islands. Servants, squires, knights and noblemen are identified as the ones who secured the beginning of the settlement, that quickly extended geographically to other areas, such as Santa Cruz, Câmara de Lobos, Ribeira Brava, Ponta do Sol and Calheta.




Cereal cycle

Until the 70’s of the 15th century, the agricultural landscape was mainly composed by crops. The cereal culture dominated the Madeiran economy, generating large surpluses which supplied the kingdom's ports, African squares and the coast of Guinea. All this was a result of the high productiveness of the soil caused by the fires to make way for the first areas of cultivation.


According to some archives dating from the early 19th century, a harvest of three thousand moios (unit of measure equivalent to 60 alqueires) of cereals was made, an amount that exceeded in 65% the needs of the local population.


A thousand moios was destined to supply the factories of the African coast. However, since the 60’s, the introduction and dissemination of sugarcane cultivation has led to a significant decline in the cultivation of cereals, a fact that led to a production deficit from the year 1466 on, which severely compromised the commitments to supply African markets and trading posts.

Since then, it has become necessary to import much of the grain that was consumed. In 1479, the harvest only lasted for four months, and the only thing to do was to fight the shortage relying on the supplies from Azores and the Canary Islands.

Sugar Cycle

In the 15th century, it began in Madeira a new economic cycle. The Cycle of Sugar, also known as Ouro Branco (White Gold).

Sugar cane was imported from Sicily and it quickly altered the landscape completely, becoming a source of income par excellence, attracting merchants, essentially from different parts of Europe. The city of Funchal becomes the center of the world and sugar cane is the main engine of Madeiran economy.
In 1472, the sugar began to be exported directly to Flanders, which was the main distribution center, acknowledging Madeira as an important axis in the economic relations between Portugal and Flanders.


The production of sugar cane attracted and fixed adventurers and merchants from the most diversified origins, especially Italian, Basque, Catalan and Flemish.
The commercialization of sugar in Madeira reached its peak in the 20’s of the 16th century, thus coinciding with the business of Flemish Art and also with the dating of most Flemish works of art on the island, representative of the existing notorious prosperity. Works of gigantic proportions were imported, mainly paintings, triptychs or mixed retables, as well as pictures of Bruges, Antwerp and Malines. Objects of silver and copper and metal-encrusted tombstones from Flanders and Hainaut were also imported, such as can be seen today in the Cathedral of Funchal and in museums, such as the Museum of Sacred Art.


Until the first half of the 16th century, Madeira was one of the main markets for Atlantic sugar, however, with the commercialization of sugar cane to be made in other markets, this cycle eventually closed. And another Cycle took the leading role…

Wine Cycle

Wine Cycle

The Queen Sugar cane gave way to the King Wine, sugary, famous and appreciated in the four corners of the world. Even William Shakespeare, in the mid-sixteenth century, emphasized in his play "Richard III" the growing notoriety of Madeira Wine, highlighting the Malvasia, in a drama in which the Duke of Clarence, brother of King Edward IV of England, dies of drowning inside a barrel of Madeira Wine.


The Malvasia vineyard was made by the Jesuit priests, after the great onslaught of privateers on 1566.

 The decline of sugar production, at the end of the 16th century, forced the reinvention of agricultural production, thus changing the landscape to vineyards. Consequently, it begins a new economic cycle on the island of Madeira, which once again put this small island at an international level, allowing the growth of a new social class, the Bourgeoisie, together with the expansion of wine production.
With this new Cycle, economy launched itself towards new markets, especially the English, and with it, the establishment of important English merchants which slowly began to control this production. It was already the 17th century and new horizons and markets, like North America and the Antilles were emerging also associated to the transaction of this nectar of the gods. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Funchal, known until then as the City of Sugar, established itself as the City of Wine.

In the 19th century, two serious epidemics attacked the vines causing substantial losses. In order to avoid the reappearance of this situation and guarantee its maintenance in the international markets, the winegrowers opted for planting more resistant but inferior varieties of vineyards.

Once again, it was imperative to reinvent...

Tourism Cycle

In the 19th century, the visitors of the island were composed mainly by the unhealthy, travelers, tourists and scientists. Most of the visitors belonged to the wealthy European aristocracy, such as princes, princesses and monarchs who thought of Madeira essentially as a therapeutic port.
However, some of the unique characteristics of this island caught the attention of those who visited us, such as the walks on foot, horseback and hammock, which made it possible to explore beyond the city limits, and so, the interior to be sought by visitors. It was then necessary to create a set of infrastructures that would give support to those who went to the inland, which happened in the 40’s of the 19th century. But it was not until 1887 that an adequate network of inns outside of Funchal became effective. This fact did not collide with the existing structures of the south, namely the houses and farms.
It was precisely at this time that the first Tourist Guide, dating from 1850, was edited to help visitors and tourists, focusing on the island’s historical and geological point of view, and also highlighting the flora, fauna and customs of Madeira.


The English and the German were the first to lay the foundations for the construction of the Madeiran hotel chain.


Throughout the celebrations it is scheduled the presentation of a series of publications, not only institutional, with reviews of the 600 Years Brand, but also publications that will be supported and / or sponsored.
It is being prepared a timetable for the public presentation of the scheduled editions, which will be made public soon.