Monte Brasil and the three fortresses of Angra

Monte Brasil and the three fortresses of Angra

By looking down at the town of Angra, from the Memória hillside, from the walls of the fortress of São Sebastião, to the east of the bay, or from the Pico das Cruzinhas, at the heart of Monte Brasil or from the fortress of São João Baptista, to the west, one can revisit more than three fortified locations.

To visit Angra, from the perspective proposed in the title, one has to cover five centuries of visions of the world, from the diversity of military architecture, the concepts of defence and attack, and the developments in artillery and firearms to the appearance of aviation, which will perhaps bring about a better understanding of the world we live in.

Monte Brasil

A little over 20,000 years ago, a small volcano emerged on the south coast of Terceira Island, which until that point had been quite round, creating the most imposing volcanic structure on the Azorean coast. Tectonically, Monte Brasil was formed by a system of faults parallel to the Terceira rift, an oceanic spreading centre which crosses the archipelago of the Azores, including the eastern part of Terceira Island, encompassing the Cinco Picos and Guilherme Moniz-Pico Alto volcanoes. What can be seen today results from two distinct phases of eruption, separated by a dormant period.
Access is subject to hours from Monday to Sunday between 08:00 and 21:00.

Fortress São João Baptista

The huge fortified area (three square kilometres and a five kilometres perimeter) which comprises Monte Brasil, today, stems from the conquest of Terceira Island, in 1583, by Álvaro de Bazán, Marquis of Santa Cruz, who received the title of Álvaro the Great of Spain precisely because he succeeded in taking control of the Azores, after a three year long military campaign.

It underwent several modifications and constructions over the years, being, in fact, 500 years of construction of structures with a military character.
Contacts for information and booking guided tours of the fortress: (+351) 295 218 383 or museum.angra.agenda@azores.gov.pt

Castelo dos Moinhos

The first fortification in the Azores was built on the Hill which is now known as “Outeiro da Memória”, or “Memory Hill”.

Even though it is no longer standing, it was in fact the only castle in the Azores, due to its predominant position and its shape, which was almost certainly square, with semi-circular bastions in the middle of each stretch of wall.

It is possible that part of the raised platform, where the pyramid honoring King Pedro stands, may still contain pieces of this early fortification, and when one observes the place, from the lower part of the town, it is still easy to imagine the castle today.

You can visit this place from Jardim Duque da Terceira.

The Fort of São Sebastião

The fortress, which was designed in the Italian Renaissance style, was well organised, with a perfectly developed system of bulwarks, namely, a triangular platform, built so that the artillery could impede any attempt to enter the bay. It crossed fire with the Fort of São Benedito, on the edge of the coast of Monte Brasil.

During the 1641-2 revolt, the fort was crucial in impeding any Spanish support to Monte Brasil; in order to guarantee the defence of the port, it underwent works on the lower battery, in 1830, in the context of the civil war; in 1943, it housed the first general headquarters of the British forces, who arrived in Angra on October 8 of that year.

Today integrated in the Network of Pousadas de Portugal.
Professionals who can guide you on this roadmap:

Filipe Rocha

Guia Turístico

Filipe Rocha

Guia Turístico

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America started here!

America started here!

Millions of years ago, the Atlantic Ocean began to appear, in the process of separating the continents, opening from South to North and allowing the famous Atlantic dorsal ridge to emerge. The Azores were born from volcanic eruptions, linked to this evolution, which continues today. In the middle of the 15th century, before Columbus arrived in America and from the Azores, Corte-Real, João Fernandes, the farmer, Pedro de Barcelos and others, were there. Born Simão Fernandes in Terceira, participated, in the service of Sir Walter Raleigh, in 1587, in the attempt to install what became known as the Lost Colony of Roanoke. Peter Francisco, hero of George Washington’s armies in the wars of independence, was also born on Terceira Island. Episodes of the American Civil War and the arming of the Confederate blockade runners also took place here, in Praia da Vitória and in Angra. From those adventures until today, to which we can add the American presence at Lajes Air Base and the 1971 and 2003 summits, we can say that there are many reasons to be able to say that, in many ways, North America started here.

João Vaz Corte Real

At the end of the 15th century, the Portuguese Pêro de Barcelos and João Fernandes Lavrador, as well as the brothers Gaspar Corte Real and Miguel Corte Real left Terceira Island, on a voyage of exploration in the Atlantic, reaching Greenland and other places believed to have previously visited by his father, João Vaz Corte Real, and by another navigator, Álvaro Martins Homem, 19 years before Columbus arrived in America.
Start your itinerary at the Miradouro do Cantagalo, where all the adventure of the first discoveries takes place.

Simão Fernandes

Simon Fernandes (Terceira Island, c. 1538 – c. 1590)
16th century Portuguese navigator and pirate who piloted the English expeditions of 1585 and 1587 to found colonies on Roanoke Island, part of modern North Carolina but then known as Virginia. Fernandes trained as a navigator at the famous Casa de Contratación in Seville, but later took up arms against the Spanish empire. Accused of piracy in 1577, he was saved from the gallows by Sir Francis Walsingham, becoming a Protestant and a subject of the Queen of England. In 1578 he entered the service of Sir Humphrey Gilbert and later Sir Walter Raleigh, piloting the failed 1587 expedition to Roanoke, known to history as the “Lost Colony”. Fernandes disappears from the records after 1590, when he left with an English fleet for the Azores. A copy of one of his maps of the east coast of North America still survives in the Cotton Collection, and was one of the main sources used by John Dee for his 1580 map justifying English claims to North America.

Peter Francisco

The Incredible Hulk of the American Revolution
Born into a wealthy family in Porto Judeu on Terceira Island, Peter Francisco was known as “The Giant of Virginia”, the “Giant of the Revolution” and the “Hercules of Virginia”, and was honored by the Portuguese community in New Bedford (Massachusetts). He fought alongside George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette in defense of his adopted homeland’s independence. “Dear Mr. Peter Francisco, bailiff of the House of Representatives and soldier in the American Revolutionary War, commended for your intrepid courage and brilliant accomplishments.” in Richmond Enquirer inobituary
Walk through the route that passes through places such as the house where he was born and the place where Peter Francisco was abducted.

CSS Run'her

The Run’her was a steamboat built in England in 1863, at the John & William Dugeon shipyards, for the Confederate States of America, which sank in the bay of Angra do Heroísmo in 1864. In the context of the Civil War of the United States of America (1861-1865), this steamship was part of a fleet of four lock drills, which carried equipment for the assembly and laying of naval mines. During the voyage to the Confederation, she stopped at Angra do Heroísmo, where she was shipwrecked on November 5, 1864, due to an error of maneuver attributed to her captain, Edwin Courtenay.
Points of interest: Angra do Heroísmo Bay and Praia Grande Praia da Vitória

Operation Alacrity

Operation Alacrity was the codename of a military operation planned by the United States High Command during World War II, whose main goal was the occupation of the Azores for strategic reasons. The operation does not materialize because the British ambassador in Lisbon, Ronald Campbell, together with Anthony Eden, convince Churchill and Roosevelt to go for the diplomatic route. The option defended by Ronald Campbell ends up triumphing. England invokes the Luso-British Alliance and Salazar grants the establishment of military bases in the Azores.
Point of interest: Air Base nº4

Summit of Lajes (1971)

Terceira: the center of the world!
The Summit of Lajes, in December 1971, on Terceira Island, was the center of the world. It was at the Serreta Inn, now abandoned, that Marcelo Caetano received the American and French presidents, Nixon and Pompidou, in a summit to face the economic crisis of the time. “The historic Azores Agreement was formulated here, in which for the first time in 37 years. The dollar was devalued in terms of gold. The new relationship of virtual economic equality of the USA, Western Europe and Japan was also made. The agreement was concluded after a series of meetings, which totaled 12 hours, just between the two leaders, which was unusual. It could be one of the tremendous international agreements of the post-war era. ” by The New Yorker
Visit to Estalagem da Serreta and Air Base nº4 Museum

Summit of Lajes (2003)

The beginning of the war in Iraq was dictated in the middle of the Atlantic.
George W. Bush (USA), Tony Blair (United Kingdom) and José Maria Aznar (Spain), hosted by Portuguese Prime Minister Durão Barroso, met on the afternoon of 16 March 2003 for a summit that culminated in four days later, in the early hours of the 20th of the same month, with the beginning of the military intervention in Iraq.
Visits to the FAP Exhibition Center at Air Base nº4 every Friday (24h prior reservation). + info by email: turismo@cmpv.pt I tel. (+351) 295 540 106

Americans on the Island

It’s been 60 years with American families staying on the island, based on the presence of 5,000 people, changing every two years. Several celebrities have passed through here, such as Frank Sinatra…
Discover the favorite places and activities of Americans during their stay on the island! Get inspired by reading the book Love Story by Joel Neto, for a portrait of the Portuguese at the Lajes Field and the affections that time left behind.
Professionals who can guide you on this roadmap:

Filipe Rocha

Guia Turístico

Filipe Rocha

Guia Turístico

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Wine, Grapes and Landscape

Wine, Grapes and Landscape

The Azores thus became a very interesting region, for it consisted of virgin land, and the settlement initiated in the 15th century involved the creation of vineyards, overcoming climatic and geographic difficulties, while filling the territory with artistic elements. We suggest you to go around the island with this theme in mind, visiting places, observing artistic elements, understanding stains of landscape, experiencing flavours.

Biscoitos Vineyard Protected Landscape

Located in the north of the island, the parish of Biscoitos borrows its name [Biscuits] from a particular kind of soil, black and easily cracked, which results from lava and volcanic scoriae. After the Portuguese settled the Azores, in the 15th century, these areas, which presented obstacles for other purposes, slowly started being reconfigured so as to allow the cultivation of vineyards, and the land was no longer useless. The “curraletas”, laboriously built with thin walls and trails designed and located so as not to damage the cultivation but to ensure the passage, cover an approximately 400-acre stretch which is now included in the areas under the responsibility of the Terceira’s Natural Park, where they coexist with natural ecosystems and habitats.
There is a pedestrian trail, which allows you to walk through the Protected Landscape of Vinha dos Biscoitos. Download available.

The Verdelho grape variety and more

Because of its climate and latitude, the Azores region is mostly favourable to white wine vines. Many grape varieties were early introduced, and an account by the great historian Gaspar Frutuoso which dates back to the 16th century mentions “vines and grapes from all sorts of varieties, muscat, verdelho, mourisco, açaria, and others”, among which would be, for instance, the Terceira terrantez, the Pico arinto or the purple verdelho. However, in time, the verdelho became the most famous and the one that best translates the force of the harsh, marine and Atlantic “terroir”. It results in high quality generous wines and is mainly served with strong flavoured dishes like the always mentioned alcatra from Terceira, whose pepper, clove and laurel seasonings are heightened by its freshness.
A visit to the Wine Museum is mandatory and here you can taste the wines made from the Verdelho variety.

Brotherhood of the Biscoitos Verdelho Wine

The Brotherhood of the Biscoitos Verdelho Wine, the oldest brotherhood in the Azores, is a wine association established in the island of Terceira on March 10 1993. Its headquarters is located in the parish of Biscoitos and the brothers wear a blue cloak (the colour of the Region’s flag) with a golden hem (the colour of the verdelho grape). The Brotherhood chose the coat of arms of the Autonomous Region of the Azores for its emblem, with the difference that the colour of the animals is brown, a change inspired by the Ramo Grande breed of cattle. The “tambuladeira” [bowl used to appreciate the scent and see the colour of the wine] is based on the clay “taladeira” traditionally used in the island of Terceira to taste new wines. Among their principles and statutes is the purpose of defending, conferring prestige, valuing and promoting the Biscoitos Verdelho Wine, as well as all quality wines produced in the Autonomous Region of the Azores, and the pressure exerted by their members was crucial, for instance, to convert the land used in the production of the verdelho wine into a legally protected landscape included in the Terceira’s Natural Park.
Professionals who can guide you on this roadmap:

Filipe Rocha

Guia Turístico

Filipe Rocha

Guia Turístico

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Liberal Terceira

Liberal Terceira

Imagine if, one day, whatever was real ceased to be so, and that life – all of it – were to change direction completely.

Well that’s exactly what happened in Angra (it was just called Angra back then), when Portugal was swept up a civil war between 1828 and 1834. As the country was put to fire and the sword, this small, proud city in the Atlantic was transformed, almost overnight, into the capital of the Kingdom of Portugal, supporting the Constitutional cause and the young queen, Dona Maria II, and was turned into a military base.

Behind this were two young princes, Pedro and Miguel. The brothers were very alike in many ways, but differed in their way of thinking and their ideals.

Pedro had brought about the Independence of Brazil, which he had turned into an Empire, and had granted a Constitution. He was then called upon to defend the same constitutional and liberal interests in the old kingdom of Portugal, where people, especially in the cities, were seething with the consequences of the French invasions, and the abusive presence of English troops.

Miguel, on the other hand, was a staunch supporter of a more traditional form of government, in line with the supporters of the old regime, who had come back in force after the fall of Napoleon. In Portugal, ordinary people, especially in rural areas, but also many intellectuals who had absolutist monarchic views, were totally on his side.

Miguel seized power in Lisbon, in June, 1828, and suddenly many defenders of liberal and constitutional ideals began to arrive in Terceira and establish themselves there, supported locally by a determined liberal nucleus, despite the knowledge that the general population supported Miguel.

Start your tour at Fortaleza São João Baptista, the place where the first liberal revolutionary movement broke out.

There were five years of battles and skirmishes, profound legislative changes, coins were forged from bells, convents were abolished, troops were billeted, barracks were set up everywhere, there were adventurous guerrilla fighters, an English siege which can’t easily be explained, houses were burnt down to set an example to the opposition and there were even literary soirees.

Angra and Terceira Island were thus dragged to the centre of a struggle involving Portugal, Brazil and the interests of foreign powers like France and England. In the end, Angra changed its name to Angra do Heroísmo (Heroic Angra) and Praia became Praia da Vitória (Victorious Praia).

The “rat-trap”, as it was called by Miguel’s supporters and the cynics, was transformed into the “rock of freedom”. The yellow pyramid on top of the hill marks the “Memory” of those truly insane years and of how Portugal gained Constitutional freedom.

Be sure to visit Memória, a monument erected to the memory of D. Pedro, first emperor of Brazil, fourth king of Portugal and Duke of Bragança.
Professionals who can guide you on this roadmap:

Filipe Rocha

Guia Turístico

Filipe Rocha

Guia Turístico

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Angra: Today and in Bygone Days

Angra: Today and in Bygone Days

Traveling through five centuries of history, you will get to know the built heritage of the different periods and styles which is a testament to the experiences of a cosmopolitan port city that opened the world to new worlds. Its geostrategic position is intertwined with the rectilinear and modern layout of its streets. Opened to the sea, Angra was an unavoidable stop during the Age of Discovery, an oasis to navigators in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, a harbor sheltering them from pirates and privateers who coveted its riches and diversity.

Angra do Heroísmo "Very noble, loyal and always constant"

Its centrality, its rich soil, its safe bay and its monumentality have turned Angra do Heroísmo into a city whose historical importance is recognized throughout the world. Linked to maritime expansion, this port city was an unavoidable stop for the fleets from South America, Africa and the Indies. Here people traded in spices, precious metals from the Americas, fine fabrics, wood, ivory, temperas and religious imagery. Angra was the center of the world, and it was where Philip II built his greatest fortress, considered to be the largest stronghold of Europe, following the 1580-83 succession crisis, during which heroically Portugal was only the island of Terceira, the last remaining piece of the former kingdom. In 1828, Angra once again demonstrated its bravery as it was once more named the capital of Portugal. Angra became the center of Liberalism and the place from where the men who would write the first Constitutional Charter left. The city would be honored in 1837 by Queen Maria II with the highest insignia of the Portuguese State – the Grand Cross of the Military Order of the Tower and Sword, of Valor, Loyalty and Merit. As a result of its role during the civil war, the titles “Always Constant” and “Heroísmo” [Heroism] were added to the motto “Very Noble and Loyal,” which it had been awarded after the Restoration.
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January 1, 1980 earthquake

Devastated by an earthquake on January 1, 1980, Angra knew how to stoically rebuild itself without erasing the typical character of its streets, monuments and houses. Walking along its streets and searching for the historical and architectural landmarks that led this city to be listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1983 is one of those things that you cannot afford to miss. This is an enchanting city not only because of its history and culture but also because of its architecture, nature and people. Along the narrow streets covered with Portuguese cobblestone, bakeries tempt you with traditional pastries, grocery stores make you go back in time and the bay invites you to simply wander along the streets or to plunge into the clear waters of the Atlantic taking advantage of a small sandy beach.

Monte Brasil

The hill Monte Brasil, an old sea volcano, is the largest and most well preserved of its kind in the Azores. Located at the southern end of the city and surrounded by a fortress, it is a mystical place. There is a walking trail marked with signs in the middle of lush flora. Along the walk, you can stop at different viewpoints until you reach the final destination, the Pico das Cruzinhas [Peak of Small Crosses], which affords a sublime, 180-degree view over Angra do Heroísmo from Ribeirinha to São Mateus.
The itinerary can be carried out on foot, by car or even by bicycle and each person can manage their time in the most convenient way.
Professionals who can guide you on this roadmap:

Vitor Aguiar

Guia Turístico - Islanders

Filipe Rocha

Guia Turístico

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