History and Geography of São Miguel Island
The exact date of São Miguel Island’s discovery is still controversial. Some say it was between 1426 and 1439, although some geographical maps of mid-14th century already mention the existence of the archipelago. Diogo de Silves did the recognition and identification of São Miguel Island in 1427 and started to bring people to the island, beginning in Vila Franca do Campo and later on in Ponta Delgada.
The first capital of the island was Vila Franca do Campo, but in 1546 it was replaced by Ponta Delgada, which became the official capital at the mandate of King D. João III and it is still the capital today.
The 19th century saw much construction, from temples to “solares”, with detailed craftmanhip, like “talha”, painted “azulejos” and “cantaria trabalhada”. This construction was in great part due to the wealth created by the orange trade that had England as its main client.
In Ponta Delgada, you can still admire the beautiful churches and palaces of the 16th century, some of which are representative of the “manueline” architecture, a typical Portuguese gothic architectural style.
After the implementation of the Constitution and the rise to power of Queen D. Maria II in the 19th century, the desired peace was obtained and commercial expansion resumed with the introduction of new cultivations, such as pineapples, green tea and tobacco, and the construction of a new port on the city of Ponta Delgada.
Another important highlight of the history of S. Miguel Island was the visit of King D. Carlos and Queen D. Amélia in 1901.