With an elliptical shape, Terceira has an area of 381.96 km2. Its length is 29km and its maximum width 17.5km. A plateau, cut by the gentle slopes of the Cume hills, dominates the western end. The central area is marked by the large, deep crater called Caldeira de Guilherme Moniz and by many craters with small lakes, while to the east there rises a volcanic cone with a broad crater, the Serra de Santa Barbara, which has the highest altitude in the island,1,023 meters. Terceira is situated at 27° 10’ West longitude, and at 38° 40’ North latitude.
Called the island of Jesus Cristo in the period when it was being reconnoitered by the Portuguese navigators, its settlement was started in about 1450 when its captaincy was granted to a Fleming, Jácome de Bruges, by Prince Henry the Navigator. The first settlements were situated in the areas of Porto Judeu and Praia da Vitória, and soon spread all over the island. With an economy initially centered on agriculture, mainly the production of grains, and the export of woad (a dye-yielding plant), Terceira began to play an important part in navigation in the 15th and 16th centuries, as a port call for the galleons bringing the wealth of the Americas and the ships engaged in the India trade. In that period Terceira was an emporium for the gold, silver, diamonds, and spices brought from other continents, which attracted the covetousness of French, English and Flemish corsairs who constantly attacked its coast for several centuries. When Philip II of Spain took the Portuguese throne in 1580, Terceira supported the pretender claims of Don António Prior of Crato, who even came to reside on the island and to coin money there, which led to Spanish attempts to conquer it. The first landing by Spanish troops in year 1581was completely defeated in the famous Salga battle, in which the Cervantes writer and Lopo de Vega took part. In 1583 much larger Spanish forces, commanded by Don Alvaro de Bazan, the victor of the Lepanto battle, managed to dominate the island after violent fighting. Until year 1640, Terceira was a port of call for the Spanish galleons filled with the fabulous wealth from Peru and México.
CITY OF PRAIA DA VITÓRIA
The seat of the captaincy of Terceira in the early settlement period (1456 to 1474) and became town in year 1640, Praia (as it was then simply called) took part in the economic prosperity of the island in the 15th and 16th centuries. Near the town, and with the participation of its inhabitants, the Salga battle was fought in year 1581. The pretender to the throne, Don António, Prior of Crato, was acclaimed king when he landed at Praia in 1582. The struggles between liberals and absolutists brought Praia back to the pages of the history once again. In 1829, the town supporting the liberal cause, heroically and successfully resisted an attack and attempted landing by an absolutist fleet of 21 ships with highly superior forces. It was this fact that led to the town’s being granted the title of Praia da Vitória in year 1837. Its economic importance and growth achieved in spite of the earthquake in year 1841 witch partially destroyed it. Praia da Vitória was raised to the status of a city in year 1981. A large new port has been constructed and will decisively contribute to its progress.
CITY OF ANGRA DO HEROISMO
The seat of a captaincy in 1474, it soon became an important trading center, due to the natural qualities of its harbor as an evidence even in its Angra name (Angra means bay).Its commercial importance led to its being given a town charter name in year 1478 and being raised to the city status - the first city in the Azores – in year 1534. It was also in the latter year that Pope Paul III chose Angra, to be the seat of a bishopric. A port of call for the ships plying to and from Africa, India and the Americas; it was here that Vasco da Gama’s brother was buried during its voyage return from India. Angra it became a town with an intensive economic life and great wealth in the 16th century. It was also at Angra that government departments such as the Mint and the Navy Purveyor’s Office were set up. That golden period was reflected in the straight lines of its streets, in accordance with the town planning of the Renaissance rules, which it is one of the finest examples, and also the splendor of its palaces, churches and an artistic legacy that make it a monument itself. This has been recognized by UNESCO, which has included it in the world heritage list.
The struggles against the Spanish occupation, between 1580 and 1583, had catastrophic consequences for Angra, which was sacked for five days by Spanish soldiers and which saw many of its leading citizens been executed. Later in the year of 1589, the town was attacked by the privateer, Sir Francisco Drake, who was unsuccessful in his attempt. Again, in year 1597, the Earl of Essex with about one hundred ships, tried to seize also with no success a fleet of Spanish galleons, loaded with gold and silver, which were anchored in the port. The construction of São Felipe Castle, later called São João Batista, dates from this period; it was designed to be a defense against pirates, and at the same time means of ensuring Spanish control over the town itself. With the Restoration of Portugal’s independence, the Spanish garrison surrendered after heavy fighting and after the town had been bombarded. Until the early 19th century, Angra as the seat of the general captaincy retained its standing as the governmental center of the Azores, although there was a reduction of its importance as an Atlantic seaport. The town took an active part in the struggles for the liberalism implantation and became the seat of the liberal Regency during the Civil war. Because of the sacrifice spirit and bravery then demonstrated, the town received from Queen Maria II the title of “Heroísmo” (Heroism) proposed by the great writer, Almeida Garrett. Angra do Heroísmo, which is one of the administrative seats of the Autonomous Region, it has one of the university centers of the Azores archipelago. It has suffered the effects of an earthquake in year 1980, and the reconstruction work was carried out in such way as to preserve the lines of the damaged buildings and monuments.
HISTORICAL PLACES TO VISIT
Historic Center: Straight streets, parallel or perpendicular to each other, starting from the bay. In this area, historic “Porto das Pipas”, the port connected with the caravels and galleons, and the town houses of the Corte Real and Canto families, besides more modest buildings recalling other periods. It’s curious to see its traditional sash-windows.
Municipal Garden: Tropical trees and flowers. Charming nooks formerly belonged to the monastery of São Francisco.
Alto da Memória: Obelisk recalling the presence of King Pedro IV in town during the struggles for the establishment of the constitutional regime. Erected on a town’s site where a first castle existed from 15th-16th centuries. Excellent sights can be seen for Angra city, and Monte Brazil Mountain. Near “Ladeira do Pisão”, the oldest part of the town, settled in the 15th century, and “Ribeira dos Moinhos”, where once existed water-mills.
Monte Brasil: Several volcanic cones, with an altitude of 672.5 feet. Tree covered area that provides the town with its most impressive frame. At the place called “Pico das Cruzinhas”, a magnificent Angra city over view and the southern coast of the island. At the end level, some fortifications series can be seen, which include São João Baptista Castle.
Angra Museum: Set up in the former monastery of São Francisco. Important collections of paintings, outstanding being those of St. Catherine, painted on boards (16th century), statues, ceramics, porcelains, furniture and musical instruments, and a section on weapons (from the 15th to 20th centuries) and navigation.
Cathedral: 16th- 17th century building, Gothic construction stile church (15th century). The Silver lamp and the Blessed Sacramento chapel. A silver frontal worked with bas-reliefs and paintings on cedar wood boards from 16th century. Jacaranda wood Gratings and a Curious Christmas crib from 19th century. A Vestry, Brazil-wood cupboards and a jacaranda table with marble inlays from 17th century (Indo-Portuguese work). A treasure of religious objects, interesting incense silver boat and vestments, a bishop’s portraits gallery and a sculptures collection by the masters of Angra Cathedral from 17th century, reflecting the Spanish and Oriental influences. Damaged by the 1980 earthquake and largely destroyed by a fire, which has made it necessary to carry out reconstruction work.
Nossa Senhora da Guia Church: Part of the former São Francisco monastery and built on the 18th century on a 15th century building, place in which Paulo da Gama (Vasco da Gama’s brother) is buried. The high altar, gilded, and carved woodwork, retables and statues. Glazed and decorative tiles, vestry and gilded, carved wooden ceilings, a large jacaranda wood chest and a stone sculpture located at the exterior entrance.
The Jesuit School Church: Middle of the 17th century construction. Gilded, wood work sculptured St. Ursula retable, Flemish painting from 16th century, and indo-Portuguese images in ivory from 17th century. Excellent Dutch Delft tiles, images of Saint Peter, Paul and Thomas from 17th century. Reliquaries in (Indo-Portuguese busts format and by the masters of Angra Cathedral). Paintings, Stone walls enriched by gilt work, reflecting pre-Columbian influences. Ceiling in cedar wood brought from the Flores Island and English Gothic vestments.
São Gonçalo Church: 17th century building. Remarkable gilded, woodwork sculpture and Images of Christ the Divine Emperor (16th century). Ceramic tiles from the 17th and 18th centuries, statues and paintings (18th century). High and low choirs, with wrought iron gratings. Interesting cloisters (one being from the 16th century). The church was badly damaged by the 1980 earthquake.
Nossa Senhora da Conceição Church: Baroque style (16th century). Interesting frontispiece, Chancel, Gilded, carved woodwork and the vestry with its jacaranda furniture from the 18th century.
Misericordia Church: 18th century construction. Interesting paintings and sculptures from 18th century.
São João Baptista Castle: One of the most important European fortifications of the 16th and17th centuries. The entrance moat with barriers, walls and bulwarks are impressive. The worked stone main gate, place where the wealth was brought by the galleons, was held in safe keeping when the ships called at Angra do Heroísmo. São João Baptista Church, the Castle and Palace of the Governors, it was where the King Afonso VI was held prisoner from 1669 to 1675. Also, it served as the prison on the 19th century for the Mozambican chief, Gungunhana, and his relatives.
São Sebastião Castle: Overlooking “Porto das Pipas” was built by King Sebastião order on the 16th century.
Palace of the Bettencourts: Baroque building from 17th century. Its main entrance door and the atrium, rooms with vaults, ceilings with panels in cedar wood from the Azores and Brazil. At the present houses the Public Library and archive of Angra do Heroísmo, 400,000 printed specimens and two million documents.
Palace of the Captains-General: Former Jesuit monastery. Valuable furniture items and wall Paintings.
Town Hall: Splendid 19th century construction, built on the spot of two previous 16th century town halls. Its initial flag was blue-and-white representing the constitutional monarchy, personally embroidered by Queen Maria II. The King Pedro IV bust and Statue of “Angra”.
Parish Church: Founded by the first Don, Jácome de Bruges. A Gothic portal from the 15th century was a gift from Don Manuel I, the king. The Manueline portal; 16th century, and the Rose window, underwent later transformations. Our Lady of Rosary and Blessed Sacrament Chapels gilded and carved woodwork. Paintings, Image of St. Cosme (Flemish, 16th century), Christmas crib (18th century), Treasure of religious objects, an interesting alabaster image of the Infant Jesus on a silver box, and goldsmith’s pieces of art.
Senhor Santo Cristo Church: A 16th century construction with two chapels and a very large interior was rebuilt after a fire in the early 20th century.
Santa Catharina Fort: It was the last of successive forts and walls that defended the bay on 16th century.
Town Hall: 16th century construction with its characteristic façade and belfry.
Liberty Statue: The statue was erected by the Town Hall of Praia and its inauguration took place on August 11th, 1929, it stands in the city square and is often called the “Statue of Liberty”. It was in honor of the heroes of the battle that took place in 1829 at Praia Bay, between Liberals (partisans of a constitutional monarchy) and Miguelistas (partisans of Don Miguel, the Absolute King).
José Silvestre Ribeiro Monument: This monument located in the city park of Praia was erected December 31, 1879 and stands as a memorial to the man who was responsible for the city reconstruction after its devastating earthquake.
THE CHARMS OF THE LANDSCAPE
Caldeira de Guilherme Moniz: Huge volcanic crater (the largest in the archipelago), with a perimeter of 15 km. Flat and verdant interior. Rounded edges covered with trees.
Algar do Carvão: Grottoes with a depth of about 328 feet. Stalactites and stalagmites, close to the fumaroles of the Sulfur Caverns called “Furnas do Enxofre” (manifestations of volcanic activity). The water caverns of Cabrito and many others that exist in Terceira (totaling about 40 and resulting from the passage of gases during the cooling of lava at the time of volcanic eruptions) are an invitation to the thrilling experience of plunging into bowels of the earth. A guide and suitable equipment are necessary for visits.
Biscoitos: Layers of lava resulting from former volcanic eruptions, which take on interesting shapes. Curious vineyards planted on lands devoid of vegetation, protected by stone walls, the typical “curraletas”.
Pico da Bagacina: Volcanic heights set in large areas made up of lava. Pasture area for wild cattle.
Mata da Serreta: Forest with luxuriant vegetation on the slopes of a volcanic peak. Excellent sea view from the place called as “Peneireiro”, and an ideal place to relax and commune with nature.
Serra de Santa Barbara: A ridge that affords magnificent views of the island. Road crosses a verdant area, with rows of hydrangeas.
Lago do Negro and Lagoa do Ginjal: Two small lakes that surprise the visitor because of the calm and beauty of the surrounding countryside.