Over several centuries, Santo António was mainly a rural parish, which development shaped in accordance with the main economic cycles of the island that revolved around cereals, sugar, wine and, more recently tourism and banana.

As a result of the rural exodus towards the city of Funchal, the 1950s marked the significant growth of population and housing in Santo António, that reached its peak in the ‘60s and ’70s.

At the end of the 20th century and throughout the 21st century, the residential function gained even more importance, the urban fabric was compacted and the tertiary sector became the main economic engine of the parish, as a result of the regional tourist activity and the modernisation of business sectors.

15th and 16th Centuries

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The colonisation of Madeira Island began in 1425, with the settlement of the first colonists in the green and protected bay of Funchal. Attracted by the abundance of water and the fertility of soils, the settlers quickly began to expand in the hills and valleys, occupying with cereal cultivation much of the natural amphitheatre that surrounded the primitive centre of the city.

With the expansion of the settlement, small population centres were born, in which chapels were built to avoid the long trips to attend religious services. In many cases, the sites, where these small temples were situated, got their names after the patron saints of the chapels. This was what happened in Santo António, where Franciscan priests who accompanied the first settlers introduce the devotion to this Saint.

As Father Fernando Augusto da Silva (Silva, 1929) points out, "It was in a chapel under the invocation of Santo António (St. Anthony), that certainly was originally part of a populated farm, where by the middle of the 16th century was established the centre of the parish... This chapel gave its name to the place and then to the parish, the year of its construction is unknown".

The grounds of Santo António parish were part of the primitive parish of Sé, and later, for a short time, of São Pedro parish, becoming an autonomous parish in 1557, probably as a vicarage dependent on the Cathedral, once it passed to make parish registers. From 1566, it was already called a parish, although its clerics maintained the title of vicars, and began to use the title of priests only from 1574. When the parish was definitively established, the chapel was converted into a parish church.

Santo António was the first suburban parish of Funchal and the one that developed the most, quickly reaching a population higher than the city parishes and is still today one of the most populated of the entire archipelago.

Over several centuries, this was a markedly rural and agricultural parish, which development accompanied the main economic cycles of the island. Throughout the 15th and 16th centuries, as the sugar business grew, so did the number of lands with sugarcane plantations and the need for more labour force, which led to the arrival of a high number of blacks to Madeira Island and the establishment of slavery. As António Aragão (1992) points out, "sugar, with all the weight of its technical, economic and social equipment, has dominated the minds and way of life."

Due to sugar, Madeira became part of a compulsory route in the Atlantic attracting traders from various parts of Europe, bringing new products from distant markets, new ideas, new work processes and a prosperity that also transpired to architecture and art, patent in the houses, buildings and temples.

During this period, several estates (morgadios in Portuguese) were set up on the lands of Santo António parish, three of which had their headquarters here with their houses and chapels: Água de Mel, at Álamos, Lemes estate, at Quinta do Leme, and Nossa Senhora da Quietação, at Alecrins. In addition to these, others were installed, which had no house of residence or religious temple, such as the estate of Laranjal, on the site with the same name, Til, at Ribeira Grande, and Boliqueime, on the site with the same name.

In the morgadio system, the estates were inalienable and indivisible. Therefore, in case of death of their owner, the descending firstborn male inherited the estates under the same conditions. Thus, the ownership of a morgadio constituted a bond, since they were linked to the perpetuation of the economic power of the family, of which they were part, over successive generations. The morgadios were extinguished in Portugal in the reign of D. Luís I, by Letter of Law of May 19, 1863, although the bond of the House of Bragança remained, which was destined to the Portuguese Crown heir, which would last until 1910.

From the second half of the 16th century, the sugar cane plantations began to be replaced by vineyards, and a new cycle began – that one of wine – which brought new dynamics throughout the 17th and 18th centuries.

17th and 18th Centuries

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As the vineyards settled and grew over the slopes and valleys, wine became the main economic source of the island. This resulted in a new agricultural production with its own economic structures, replacing the economic cycle of sugarcane.

The economic and social changes that occurred during this period were based in the “Colonia” system, which generated a society of extremes, deeply divided between the very rich and the very poor. The landlords conceded their land to the settlers, who cultivated them in exchange of half of the production and labour, and still had to pay tithing to the King, with the fraction that was his. In contrast, the owners of the increasingly wealthy vineyards lived in idleness, almost exclusively from the gains from the half they were entitled, obtained through the work of the settlers

As a consequence of this conjuncture, on September 18, 1668, there was a riot, perpetrated by the nobility and clergy of the island, in order to depose the governor and captain general of the archipelago D. Francisco de Mascarenhas. He was trying to prevent the violence and humiliation of the poor men by the powerful lords of the island, what just brought him the hatred of the wealthy people and the difficult relationship with the clergy which he accused of derailing its functions and making the execution of his orders unfeasible (Trindade, 2011).

It was an armed robbery at the site of Água de Mel, which finished by the arrest of the governor as he headed for Quinta dos Jesuítas, at Frias peak. A group of six noblemen and seven priests accompanied by servants and slaves, imprisoned D. Francisco de Mascarenhas in S. Lourenço, released several prisoners and then met in the town hall in the presence of the dean, where they named Aires of Ornelas de Vasconcelos as the new governor and elected another executive cast. This event resulted in the indictment and condemnation to exile in Africa of some of the mutineers, among them D. Gaspar de Sá, his son D. José de Betencourt e Sá from Água de Mel estate and D. Francisco de Sá, his close relative. (Silva, 1997).

However, wine was not only accountable for the introduction of a new social order, but also for new and magnificent buildings, such as the current Santo António church, which is one of the most important architectural landmarks of the parish. Its construction began in 1783, designed by António Vila Vicêncio and supervised until its conclusion, in 1789, by the lieutenant António Francisco da Cruz Camacho. Although, the religious service began to take place in the new temple in 1789, its definitive conclusion still took several years. The work of Our Lady of Guadalupe chapel ended in 1798, the Blessed Sacrament chapel in the early 19th century and the bell towers that top the church were completed only in 1883.

19th Century

Santo António

Under the pretext of protecting and defending the island from possible French attacks, in 1901 and 1902, during the Napoleonic wars, the English army occupied Madeira island, under the Portuguese-English alliance, and for that purpose it was sent a detachment under the command of Colonel Clinton. Five years later, two infantry regiments and two artillery companies under the command of Major General William Carr Beresford, who occupied St. Lawrence's Palace, arrived in Funchal and had the English flag hoisted on all fortifications of Funchal.

Although this occupation has generated a great deal of disgruntlement in regional society, the power of British merchants on the island and its importance for the survival of Madeirans limited possible hostile reactions. In addition, it was due to a great diplomatic effort, that the definitive occupation of the Archipelago by English forces was avoided (Carita, 1982; Bettencourt, 2010).

Throughout the 19th century, the wine trade "suffered profound setbacks, some of internal origin and others triggered by different external reasons, which, together, forced a tremendous and unstoppable decadence" (Aragon, 1992). In the external context, the end of the Napoleonic wars and the term of the Continental Blockade allowed the entry of European wines in England and in the American and Asian colonial market, drastically reducing exports of Madeira wine. Internally, the falsifications and the entrance on the Island of foreign spirits, diminished the quality of the wine and affected the wine business. However, the plagues of powdery mildew (1852) and phylloxera (1872) were the main reason to seriously affect the wine economy, contributing to the collapse of the agricultural sector, which since the 17th century depended almost exclusively on vine cultivation.

The parish of Santo António, one of the areas of the Island with bigger and better wine production, along with Câmara de Lobos and Estreito, was deeply affected by this fact. On October 15, 1876, the Englishman Michael Grabham published in the Times-Journal a letter on the dire situation of viticulture on Madeira Island, giving an account of the devastating effects of phylloxera, "The growers who planted vines after the first disease that destroyed the crops, enjoyed only little prosperity, because the phylloxera vastatrix, an insect that sucks the roots, spreads total destruction. The farmers are already burning in the heaps the corridors of their beautiful plantations in the best places, and in the less important places the devastation is almost at par with the first ones. On the outskirts of Funchal (Santo António, São Martinho and São Roque) there is not a single vine in vigorous conditions and it is clear that one should not expect a considerable harvest of good wine " (Vieira, 2003).

 In face of this crisis, many landowners began to sell their land and estates to English merchants who, enriched by the wine trade, acquired them to settle there or to transform them into inns and hotels to welcome the numerous Britons passing by on their way to the colonies or looking for treatment for their health problems. Other owners, keeping the estates in Portuguese hands, also began to explore this economic aspect, starting a new cycle in the island, a tourism.

In Santo António parish, some of these farms have survived to this day, although with other functions. Quinta de Santo António and Quinta dos Cedros are private dwellings, while others, such as Quinta dos Leme and Quinta Josefina, are for public use.

Until the 19th century, the roads maintained the characteristics of paths and trails, and were very difficult to build and maintain imposing great risk to the population that crossed them. Captain General João António Sá Pereira, in 1777, stated that "there were not [...] roads where, without very evident danger of life, one could pass from one parish to other, or get out of the town more than half a mile" (Leitão, 2012).

To improve this situation, in 1836, a road commission was founded in Madeira, and since then there has been the opening and repair of roads, sidewalks, bridges and tunnels. In the parish of Santo António, in 1941, the road and bridge of Água of Mel, in Penteada, was built. In 1844 and 1845 the paths of Jamboto and Lombo dos Aguiares were widened and extended. Between 1876 and 1877, there was constructed the road between Quinta do Leme and Caminho do Pilar and the road between Santo Amaro and Viana, as well as the road to Ribeira Grande and Álamos.

At the end of the 19th century, the network of parish roads began to gain consistency, with the construction of the Santo António bridge, which was, according to Father Fernando Augusto da Silva (Silva, 1929), a necessity and aspiration of the time, for "it was often that, when the volume of the traffic suddenly increased, those who, on one side of the stream, wanted to reach the opposite bank had to return to town". At this time began the research of how to improve and adapt Madalena road, which was the most direct path to town, and that, according to the same author, presented a greater potential for construction of urban buildings, fact that was confirmed in later centuries.

20th and 21st Centuries

Santo António

At the beginning of the 20th century, about three-quarters of local population worked in agriculture. Only from 1960 onwards, this proportion would decrease significantly, progressively ceasing to be the island's main economic source.

In Santo António parish the scenario was not different, until the last quarter of the 20th century. The agriculture dominated the landscape and economy, with a lot of sugar cane, some banana trees in the lower parts of the parish, many vineyards and the usual products of subsistence agriculture, such as vegetables and fruits. However, the arrival of cars, early in the 19th century, was decisive for the beginning of a process that would transform this parish and influence the society and economy of the island.

In the first half of the 20th century, the road network and this new kind of transport progressively reached most of the island's localities, reducing distances and simplifying mobility for a population looking for alternatives to agriculture in crisis, very labour-intensive and more and more less profitable.

Since 1950, the rural exodus towards Funchal has become more intense, being particularly expressive in the ‘60s and ‘70s. In this period, Santo António parish registers a significant increase of population, because most of these people chooses the bordering areas of town to live. As a result, in the second half of the 20th century, there is a dispersion of small houses, which begin to be more frequent in the lower areas of the parish and along the hills, but over the years, they become larger and larger and occupy a great part of the slopes, on the quota of altitude 750 metres.

Raul da Silva Pereira (1969) reports that in the outskirts of town, there was a rural and urban economy. A lifestyle of a population, that has given up living exclusively from the land, but still remains faithful to it as a secondary activity. In the landscape, the dispersed dwellings mix with the farmed lands, in such a way that the county of Funchal, being the most urbanised, was also, paradoxically, one of the most agricultural.

According to oral accounts, Father Câmara, who lived in the parish in the sixties of the 20th century, stated, "Santo António was a parish of poor and hardworking people, there were some people with farms and possessions, but most were peasants. What impressed me the most was to see the "bundle" of people going barefoot down in the morning to work in the fields, in construction or other trades, and at night to see them going up, always on foot.

In fact, up to the ‘80s, the inhabitants of the highest areas of the parish would move around mostly on foot, with the main routes going through Laranjal road, Trapiche, Barreira, Pomar do Miradouro and Lombo de João Nogueira. In the early ‘50s, the Comandante Camacho Freitas road was still a dirt road, where children used to play football. The road of Lombo dos Aguiares was on bare stone, which associated with its high slant, made very difficult for cars to climb it.

In 1976, Madeira gained its political and administrative autonomy, becoming an Autonomous Region of the Portuguese Republic. This fact, which results from the Revolution of the 25th of April of 1974, marked the beginning of a new era, followed by Portugal's entry into European Union. The Autonomous Region of Madeira benefited from subventions that enabled it to invest more in regional development in several sectors. The road network was one of the main improvements with the construction of several infrastructures that reduced the distances and increased security. Madeiran tourism evolved and was characterised by a high flow of tourists, which has led to the appearance of new hotels, the economy has diversified and deepened a new philosophy of economic, social and cultural development.

In the last quarter of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st century, Santo António parish is one of the most important residential areas of Funchal. However, it maintains in its landscape the hallmarks of its historic evolution, evident in the enormous dispersion of houses that mixes with farmland and a road network based on ancestral rural paths, which have been gradually modernised and expanded. The predominance of the residential function is accompanied by the emergence of small commerce and services, which are growing over time in line with the needs of population, which mainly works in the tertiary sector of Funchal.

Public Figures

Inauguração oficial do monumento erigido à memoria do erudito escritor e historiador madeirense Padre Fernando Augusto da Silva, © fotografia Museu "Vicentes"

Mother Brites Paixão
In 1672, already with 30 years old she took the religious path, at Nossa Senhora das Mercês Monastery. In her religious life, she was often praised by the distinctive form and divine devotion she showed in her teachings towards novices, by taking upon herself the most diverse atonements, among them, to deprive herself of eating meat and submission to rigorous fasts. She died in 1733, in that monastery with an aura of sanctity, which gave origin to a beatification process. Father Fernando Augusto da Silva (1929) refers some reports of nuns, according to which “Our Lord of Patience” spoke with Mother Brites Paixão. Other accounts tell of the gifts with which the Lord has blessed her, in the form of miraculous cures, both in life and in death. Among mentioned healings was the case of a 9-year-old girl suffering from a serious illness.

Mother Mariana Rosa do Sacramento
Born in August 1677, at the age of 30 entered Nossa Senhora das Mercês Monastery. Died on December 17, 1740. It is stated that her death was blessed with an aura of sanctity.

Mother Virginia Brites da Paixão
Born on October 24, 1860, in Lombo dos Aguiares, was also known as “Holly Nun”. She had her first contact with the divine at the age of 7 when attended the Mass at Santo António Church. At the moment of the consecration of the Holy Host, she saw the Infant Jesus who offered her a ring symbolising her covenant of love with Him. At the age of nine, when receiving her First Communion, she had another revelation from Jesus who asked for her heart, which little Virginia offered with simplicity. She entered the Nossa Senhora das Mercês Monastery at the age of 23. It is said, that in 1897, her desease was miraculously cured through Carmelite from Lisieux, who had just died, known by St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face.

Her example of purity, adoration to God and penance, elevated her to the position of Mother Superior in the monastery in 1909. In 1910, in the period of implantation of the Republic, she was expelled from the monastery along with the other nuns, because of the persecution imposed on the Catholic Church by a decree that ordered the closure of all convents and monasteries and the expulsion of the respective residents. She was taken prisoner for one day in the fortress of São Lourenço being afterwards rescued by her brother. Upon the expulsion of the monastery of Nossa Senhora das Mercês, she brought with her the image of the Our Lord of Patience, a sculpture that belonged to Mother Brites Paixão, which was a valuable religious piece of the monastery. After the expulsion, Mother Virginia Brites da Paixão went to live at her parents' home in Lombo dos Aguiares, where she continued to live a life of self-imposed reclusion, dedicated to prayer and marked by mystical experiences, with visions of Our Lady, which she had since a young age. Her way of living granted her the admiration not only of her close followers, but also of the general population, and, years after her death on January 17, 1929, the came up with the idea to found a Convent near the house where she lived. In March 1967, the first three sisters from the Convent of Nossa Senhora da Piedade moved to the provisional Convent. Just in 1975, it was officially created the Convent of Clarissas.

Her fame of virtue, penance and beatitudes lead to her adoration that still prevails in the present day. Her process of beatification and canonisation is open. Even today, it is possible to contemplate the room of Mother Virginia, which contains some of her personal belongings, in the Monastery of Santo António (or Lombo dos Aguiares) that was built in the place where the "Holy Nun" lived.

Father Teodoro João Henriques
Father Teodoro Joao Henriques was born in Funchal in November 1861, and was ordained priest on November 15, 1884. He took the confessor exam on May 7, 1885 and his preaching exam on May 3, 1898. He showed great intelligence and aptitude for the ecclesiastical career, standing out for his theological and scientific knowledge, and was a distinct musician.

The religious work of Brother Henrique Modesto de Bettencourt has perpetuated in Santo António parish. He became a priest of Santo António in 1888 and of São Martinho in 1908. He was known by his religious determination and passionate way of preaching. He contributed to the development of the parish through his dedication to causes and local associations. He was also nominated the Principal Sexton of Sé Cathedral on January 20, 1900.
In 1910, he went to Lisbon in search of medicinal waters, but was arrested as a political prisoner, accused of conspiracy and was tortured for many months. When his innocence was proved, he was released, but due to the effects of imprisonment and health problems, he quickly developed pulmonary tuberculosis, which killed him on October 6, 1912. His adoring father died of grief at the feet of his son’s still warm corpse, being both buried together the next day.

Father Fernando Augusto da Silva

Father Fernando Augusto da Silva was born on September 29, 1863, in Santa Maria Maior parish and died on September 18, 1949, in Santo António parish. He was ordained with distinction in 1888 in Funchal Seminary, held ecclesiastical functions in several parishes, until was finally placed as parish priest of Santo António. He was a professor between 1901 and 1930 at António Augusto de Aguiar Industrial and Commercial School in Funchal. He was also procurator of the General Board of Funchal, Mayor of Funchal (for two terms) and a chairman of the Commission of Santa Casa da Misericórdia of Funchal. Was a member of the Association of Portuguese Archaeologists, the Portuguese Institute of Archaeology, History and Ethnography, the Portuguese Academy of History and part of the Historical Society of the Independence of Portugal. On September 8, 1926, Father Fernando Augusto da Silva was awarded by the Ministry of Public Education with the rank of officer of the Order of St. James of the Sword. His passion for the history of Madeira Island resulted in several published works, among which the well-known “Elucidário Madeirense”, an encyclopedic work about the Madeira archipelago, published in 1921.

António Nobre (Poet)
Between 1898 and 1899, in an attempt to minimise the impact of his illness, this Portuguese poet resided for a few months in Madeira, in a house in Trapiche, in Santo António. In his poems, he reflected his permanent bitterness and conformation with death. However, his poetry is endowed with an originality and modernity that emphasises the essence of his work. In 1892, he published the first edition of “Só” (Alone), followed by other works such as “Despedidas” (Farewells) and “Primeiros Versos” (First Verses). According to Father Fernando Augusto da Silva (1929), the poet left in Trapiche the following words written on a tree: "The thirst for immense light like the one of the lightning bolts."

William Edward Clode
Born in Santa Luzia parish on September 13, 1900. With English nationality and Anglican education he needed a visa to travel to Coimbra in 1919 to study medicine. In the university town, he was a member of several academic associations and music bands, and a member of the Academic Centre for Christian Democracy, a group formerly created to respond to the aggravation of the religious issues raised by the government of Hintze Ribeiro. At the age of 21, he was baptised in the Catholic Church and founded, on May 10, 1923, the Nossa Senhora Nursery. He was a member and later a president of the St. Vicent de Paul Conference of the Faculty of Medicine.

Doctor of Medicine in 1925, married to Maria Carolina Dória Monteiro on September 13, 1926. Upon his return to the island of Madeira, his concern for the poor led him to create the Divina Providência Children's Clinic and Gota de Leite Association. He also founded, in 1932, the Antonian Catholic Youth, which included a musical band, a dramatic group and a 60-member choir. As a president of the Antonian Catholic Youth, he ordered to erect the Pico dos Barcelos Cross in 1940. In 1935, he was appointed as a school doctor to Jaime Moniz High School, where he had worked until 1966. He was also a physician of the Funchal Football Association.  He was a professor of Hygiene and School Health at the School of Primary Teaching of Funchal, taught English, natural sciences, drawing and handwork at Jaime Moniz High School. At the Diocesan Seminary in Funchal also taught English. He worked also as a teacher in other Funchal schools such as Apresentação de Maria Private School and at Industrial and António Augusto de Aguiar Commercial School.

As a physician, he was surgery and medicine intern at Santa Casa da Misericórdia, in 1951, he was appointed as clinical director of the institution. Also worked at São João de Deus Clinic and founded the Vila Guida Clinic, along with Dr. João Abel de Freitas, António Félix and Antonino Costa. Maintained his practice after retiring in 1966, having an office at Marmeleiros Hospital. As a municipal officer of Funchal, between 1932 and 1940, was in charge for medical posts, cemeteries and management of the electric grid. As a city officer had a crucial role in the establishment of schools, medical posts and the extension of the public electricity network. On January 19, 1935, was appointed as a president of the Hygiene Board and on January 5, 1939, was elected by vice-president of Funchal Municipality.

In terms of cultural activities, he was one of the founders and presidents of the Executive Committee of the Madeira Concert Society and the Madeira Music Academy that in 1956 became the Madeira Music and Fine Arts Academy. Died in October 3, 1980, leaving behind several published books, among which: The Sexual Problem in the Academic Sector (1925); Vincentian paintings (1938); Some Memories of My Life (1971); Stories for My Grandchildren (1973); Fruits of Madeira (1974).

Vânia Patrícia Ferreira Fernandes
Vânia Fernandes is a singer born on September 25, 1984, in Santo António parish. Studied at Eng. Luis Peter Clode School of Arts, where completed her professional singing studies in 2007. Continued her studies in jazz singing at Madeira Music Academy. In 2012, finished her university studies at Lisbon Superior School of Music. Her public career begun with performances in hotels and festivals around Madeira, but gained national fame when she joined Star Academy 3 cast,  a singing contest in the national television channel RTP, being the winner of that edition. In 2008, she won the RTP Song Festival and represented the country at the Eurovision Song Contest.

Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro
Cristiano Ronaldo was born on February 5, 1985, in Santo António. His name (Ronaldo) was added to Cristiano’s name in honour of his father’s favourite movie actor, Ronald Reagan, who was U.S. president at the time of Cristiano’s birth. At the age of six, he joined the parish club “O Andorinha”, where his father worked as an equipment manager.

In 1995, he joined Clube Desportivo Nacional from where he followed in 1997 to Sporting Clube de Portugal Academy, his transference took part as a liquidation of an old debt of the club. During his years in the Academy, he revealed a great talent and commitment. In 2002, he joined the Sporting Clube de Portugal main team, presenting a unique talent that led him to be hired in 2003 by Manchester United, after a private game between the two teams, which took place during the inauguration of the Alvalade XXI Stadium. In that same year, he is called for the first time for the Portuguese National Team, with which he became European Champion in 2016. In 2008, he won his first Golden Ball Award and the title of the best player in the world. In 2009, Real Madrid contracted him for 94 million euros that was, at the time, the most expensive transfer in the football world. In 2018, he moved to Juventus, in a 112 million euros deal, at the age of 33, which was another financial milestone in the story of the sport. Until the 2017/2018 season, he won 25 titles for the teams where he played and for the 5 times was considered by FIFA as the best player in the world.


Freguesia de Santo António

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- Silva, F. A. (1929). Paróquia de Santo António da Ilha da Madeira. Funchal: Edição do autor.

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- Sumares, J., Simões, Á. & Silva, I. (1983). Transportes na Madeira. Funchal: Direção Regional dos Assuntos Culturais.

- Vieira, A. (2003). A Vinha e o vinho na História da Madeira. Séculos XV a XX, Funchal, CEHA-Biblioteca Digital, Recuperado em 20 de julho de 2018, de http://www.madeira-edu.pt/Portals/31/CEHA/bdigital/avieira/2003-av-vinhavinhomadeira.pdf.

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