Sao Vicente

Sao Vicente

Sao Vicente – Just a little bit of history

Sao Vicente arial view
Sao Vicente arial view

The first human presence in São Vicente (and Ponta Delgada) dates back to the middle of the 15th century.  Because steep hillsides and deep valleys made early settlement rather difficult, colonizers and developers came here much later than the south of the island.

The São Vicente  Church was built in the seventeenth century.  On 23 August 1774, a hundred years later, growing São Vicente became independent from Machico by royal decree.  Subsequently, the villages of Porto Moniz,  Seixal,  Arco de São Jorge and São Jorge were all under the administration of São Vicente.  Although considered a coastal village, São Vicente has expanded land-inwards over time.   But some landmarks never change: at the edge of the village directly next to the sea you will find a big rock, into which the villagers built the São Vicente chapel.

Building traditions of Sao Vicente

Many of the manor houses in Sao Vicente date back to the XVIII century, a time of prosperity driven by viticulture.  The oversized mansions typically consisted of two levels.  On the first floor one would find the wine-press, and a storage area for all of the agricultural produce.   On the second floor was the residency part of the house, with access through an outdoor staircase. Interestingly, until very recently, even more modest new constructions on the island would follow this layout.  For example, visitors staying at MadeiraCasa may be interested to know that the house was originally constructed in this layout.   However the owners replaced the outside staircase with an inside one, more adapted to the expectations of their guests.  The postcard picture bay window views of today’s villa replaced what was originally a stack of wine barrels against a solid wall.

Sao Vicente today

São Vicente street
São Vicente street

Today the greater São Vicente includes the villages of S. Vicente, Ponta Delgada and Boaventura.   There’s roughly 6000 inhabitants spread over an area of about 80km2.  The area is green and lush, shaped by volcanic forces and erosion into a beautiful landscape.   The economy is based mostly on agriculture and tourism.

What to see in Sao Vicente

São Vicente Church
São Vicente Church

Well, the town center of Sao Vicente is just a very compact, pleasant stop.  You can make a day-trip from the south or just stop over for an hour on your way to one Seixal’s beaches.

– In the heart of São Vicente one finds the Indigenous Garden, with an area of 2,200 m2, where dozens of species of local flora are represented.

– The caves or “Grutas de São Vicente” are the best underground channels of lava ever found in Madeira.

– São Vicente’s main church, in the centre of the village is very interesting. The patron Saint of the Church dating from the 17th century, is Saint Vincent.   It has magnificent ceiling paintings, in one of which Saint Vincent is blessing the town (what did you expect?).

Sao Vicente pebble beach
Sao Vicente pebble beach

– The town of São Vicente is also popular with surfers thanks to a pebble beach with excellent conditions.  Surfers come from all over Europe come to ride the waves.

– The ocean front of Sao Vicente (due for major renovation in 2018) is a collection of bars, restaurants, and bakeries.  It serves as a strategically located meeting point.   It is a favorite meeting magnet for breakfast, lunch, coffee-time, and dinner.  People just tend to meet or stop here when traveling from North to South or vice versa, making a break to enjoy the views or simply maximizing chances to run into family, friends, or even a local politician.

Events in Sao Vicente

The Camara of Sao Vicente organizes many events for the three parishes.  In this section we will be listing some of the key ones you’ll find interesting.

Sao Vicente Rallye
March – the Sao Vicente Rallye
Festas of Sao Vicente
August – Festas of Sao Vicente