The origins of Porto Moniz stretches back to the fifteenth century, shortly after Madeira was first settled by the Portuguese. Unfortunately, the precise date of the founding of the village has been lost swirling in the endless passage of time.

Originally given the title of Porto do Tristao, the settlement was located on the far eastern tip of Madeira’s north coastline. Porto do Tristao is recorded in time laden, fragile documents dating from the 1530s. As in all the cases of settlements that were founded beyond the immediate vicinity of the early Madeira’s economically pre-eminent city, Funchal, the fledgling Porto do Tristao was unlikely to have expanded beyond a few scattered homesteads housing a severely restricted number of individuals.

Not more than one hundred years had passed before Porto do Tristao was rechristened Porto Moniz. This casting off of the old name and replacing it with a new identity occurred sometime in the 1570s.

Historical records do not record the precise circumstances but, it is a common supposition that the name change was directly related to the occupancy of Francisco Moniz who was one of the earliest and most important landholders in the newly established parish. There can be little doubt of the elevated station in life of Francisco Moniz, you need to look no further than the fact that he became the husband of Filipa da Camara, a granddaughter of Joao Goncalves Zarco, the father of modern Madeira.

Yet, the Francisco Moniz association is questioned by some mainly because the title Moniz appeared to be well-known in the newly inhabited island. Joao Goncalves Zarco’s second spouse bore the designation of Isabella Moniz. Further more, the 1st governor of the neighboring island of Porto Santo was actually one Bartolomeu Perestrello. Bartolomeu’s daughter, Filipa Moniz Perestrello, ended up being famous for having married Christopher Columbus. As was the convention, Filipa’s middle title, Moniz, was obtained from her mother’s maiden title. As a result, apparently there had been several immensely important Moniz family members in and around Madeira throughout the Sixteenth century that could lay claim to the honor of being responsible for the naming of newly established Parish of Porto Moniz.

That which is in little question though is that Francisco Moniz financed the building of the Nossa Senhora da Conceicao church that stood approximately three hundred meters back from the waterside at Porto Moniz. This church served the small regional populace eking out a living from the land and the sea.

Characteristically for any coastal community, from its founding Porto Moniz had to be linked to the remainder of Madeira solely by the mode of ocean-going transportation. To appreciate this, it is important to understand that most of of Madeira’s shoreline soars up considerably from the beach. The massive cliffs and deep ravines that typify the sea coast around the northwest of Madeira caused it to be difficult to go anywhere over land by walking.

Regrettably, travel related inconveniences were not the only shortcomings that its locality bestowed upon Porto Moniz. Since it stood on the coastline, devoid of ways of quickly enhancing its protection, Porto Moniz was vulnerable and open to assault by buccaneers.

At the start, the best reaction the inhabitants of Porto Moniz could offer against ocean borne attack would have been to hurry their families and their cherished personal belongings inland so as to conceal themselves among the interior higher ground until the threat subsided.

In response to this constant threat from pirates, in the early 1700s the Sao Joao Baptista fortification was developed. This secure citadel, erected with the regional hard basalt, volcanic rock, was installed upon the headland so that it enjoyed an unhindered view of the whole sweep of the Atlantic Ocean toward the horizon. Shortly after that, anyone thinking about mischief not only had to deal with the chance of formidable opposition, but they had also lost just about any prospects for a surprise attack.

Having the threat relating to pirates strongly diminished, the small settlement and Parish connected with Porto Moniz prospered. The population tally of the mid-1830s records that more than 7,000 men, women and children had, at that time, been earning their living in the location.

The adjoining terrain nonetheless hindered development. Indeed, Porto Moniz remained significantly separate from the remainder of the country until finally after World War II. It was during this period that a modest coast path from the neighbouring community of Sao Vicente was cut into the base of the sea cliffs and offered Porto Moniz a land-based possibility for shipping and delivering merchandise and agricultural produce in and out. In the last two decades, this route has frequently witnessed enhancements by tunnelling and spanning with bridges to go around the most challenging stretches.

Now, finally, Porto Moniz incorporates a contemporary communications network feeding into the village and with it comes the chance of expanding the commercial capabilities of the community. One could not help thinking that, to discover the more established facets of the community, you ought to visit Porto Moniz soon.

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Jimmy Jay James prides himself on being the creator of the informative Madeira tourist information website. He has been a freelance writer for over thirty years and has had many works featured in the trade press. You can see further information about the delightful tourist spot of Porto Moniz on this informative website.

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