Legend has it that when the Portuguese explorers arrived in 1419, the Island was covered in a vast, dense forest. The abundance of trees resulted in the name Madeira (Wood or timber). Gaining access to the Island meant clearing the dense vegetation. To this effect, the slash-and-burn technique was used.
However, the settlers quickly lost their fear of the impenetrable forest that covered the Island and began using it to their advantage, discovering the many properties of the different laurels.
Before their current protected status, in addition to their use in furniture, utensils, and even construction, these species were used for other purposes, such as the Fetid Laurel, which was used to feed livestock.
The use of Canary Laurel was and is still used in Madeiran cuisine, using the leaves for flavour and the offshoots as skewers in the traditional "Espetada". This species is also known for its medicinal properties, with the leaves used in infusions to rid of phlegm and the laurel oil (made from the berries) having purgative and healing properties.
Lumber from various the Laurels was used as a fuel source by the population. The unregulated usage of charcoal was the main reason behind the destruction of the forest. However, Laurels grew more and more common as ornamental plants all over the Island.
According to several studies, the Laurissilva forest first appeared during the Tertiary Period (65 to 2 million years ago), covering a vast part of the Mediterranean. Today, it can be found in a region known as Macaronesia (consisting of the Madeiran, Azorean, Canarian and Cape Verdian archipelagos). However, it is in Madeira that you will find the best and largest patch of forest.
The Laurissilva forest once occupied vast stretches of the European continent, namely the entire Mediterranean basin, Southern Europe and Northern Africa, eventually dying out due to the glaciations. Thanks to the thermoregulatory capacity of the Ocean that surrounds them, the archipelagos of the Northern Atlantic, namely Madeira, the Azores, the Canary Islands and Cape Verde, managed to maintain the forest.
Occupying most of the Island at the time, the Laurissilva forest pre-dates the arrival of the Portuguese explorers. Today, the forest grows mainly on the north coast, between 300 and 1300 metres altitude while it survives between 700 and 1600 metres altitude on the south.
Apart from Madeira, the Laurissilva forest only occurs on some of the western islands of the Canaries. On the other hand, in the Azores and Cape Verde the forest did not resist human occupation. Hence, the great importance of this ecosystem from a botanical and scientific standpoint.
Nearly six centuries after the discovery of Madeira, the island's forests include two types: natural or endemic and introduced or exotic.
The name Laurissilva has its etymological origins from Latin and is a compound word made up of two distinct terms: "Lauri" linked to "Lauraceae" and "Laurus" means Laurel, while "silva" means wood or forest.
The Laurissilva forest plays an important part in the defence against erosion, ensuring the maintenance of the streams and their sources. It is responsible for producing, fixing and regulating water used for irrigation and human consumption.
The northern part of the Island, occupied by the Laurissilva forest is usually shrouded in fog. The fog is retained by the foliage, condensing and dripping into the ground where it infiltrates and accumulates, finally supplying the natural springs and watercourses at the lower altitudes.
This forest is easily recognised by the presence of large trees, reaching over 10 metres tall. With dense canopies and leafy branches these evergreen trees, belonging to the Lauraceae family are made up of the following species:
These are not the only trees present in the Laurissilva forest, other species that coexist in this habitat are:
Arbustos e musgos:
Some groups of animals evolved in parallel with the flora, existing endemic insects that are specific to unique plants.
Nowadays there is a collective consciousness rooted in society that wild animals, including birds, plan an important role in the ecological balance that sustains life on Earth.
In a study published in 2004, a survey concluded that the Municipality of Porto Moniz is home to the following species:
From the early days of existence, the people of Porto Moniz sought to source the precious liquid. The oldest known source, built in the eighteenth century is in Porto Moniz and is located at the entrance of the harbour. As a result of household water supply, drinking fountains fell into disuse, becoming ruins or covered in weeds.
Crossing Madeiras largest watercourse was a difficult and risky task for at least four centuries. The velocity of the water during winter made crossing impossible. Makeshift bridges made from sticks were not always in the best condition and from time to time, people were washed away. The difficulty of crossing the stream continued until the nineteenth century.
In 1862, the population called for the construction of a bridge in Ribeira da Janela.The administrator of the county sent out a notice telling the residents that the government had been informed of the urgency of a bridge: «Whoever passes from Ribeira da Janela to Porto Moniz is well aware of the tragedies that continuously occur. The danger is not only due to the rapid currents but also to the width of the stream and its difficult passage. To prevent the great evils that happen here every day, I have alerted the civil governor of the necessity of the construction of a bridge over Ribeira da Janela, and also a road along the coast to the parish of Seixal. The governor, who is always thoughtful and tireless in providing means of convenience to the people of the District has informed me that he will delegate with the Director of Public Works to deal with such urgent need. This project although expensive will be of great use to the inhabitants. I'm sure that monetary and material funds shall be provided so that together with what that the state will provide this project will start as swiftly as possible».
In December 1891, after several diligences, a metal bridge was placed over the Ribeira da Janela stream.
This project was the first of its kind.The much sought after bridge allowed passage over the mighty stream that had taken the lives of many victims in the past.
The grand opening was attended by more than 600 people from different parts od the Island.
A French contractor was responsible for the construction of the bridge designed by Aníbel and Adriano Trigo.
In 1956, the metal bridge was replaced by another that still holds up under the passage of heavy vehicles. Constructed from stone and with a long history of persistence, this is one of the most beautiful bridges in Madeira.
The orography of Madeiras northern coast is made up of steep cliffs that plunge into the sea and rough seas what do not readily allow safe docking.These factors made building fortifications along the north coast essential up until the 18th century.
Franciso Ferreira Ferro (1685-1756), was named the captain, in 1709 of the of one of Ordenanças companies of the military district.
Under the command of Filipe de Alarcão Mascarenhas, Captain-General of Madeira, the fort built by Ferreira Ferro was supplied in November 1739 with three other artillery pieces and their respective equipment "for the promptness of the defence of said place".
Francisco Ferreira Ferro held his post at the fort until 1742. He was promoted to captain of the district, taking command of the four Ordenança companies made up of 500 men. He post at the fort was taken over by his son, also, Francisco Ferreira Ferro (1715 - 1794).
In 1751, the captain of the fort presented a petition to the Council of Finance stating that there was "a great need in fortifying the ruined stronghold, as it is the defence of that place". The request was promptly answered by the Royal Treasury, that proceeded with the budget. The rebuilding of the fort was compleated two years later.
There used to be a slab over the turret door, with the following inscription:
«THIS FORT WAS MADE UNDER THE ORDER OF KING D. JOÃO V. THE GOVONOR IS HIS EXCELLENCE THE EARL OF SÃO MIGUEL, OMBUDSMAN OF THE ROYAL TREASURY AND SUPERINTENDENT OF FORTIFICATIONS MANOEL TEIXEIRA DE CASTRO, WHOS WORK WAS INSPECTED BY CAPTAIN FRANCISCO FERRO, SON OF THE SARGENT OF THE SAME NAME. YEAR 1753».
Dias de Almeida made the rebuilding of the fort a top priority. In 1818, during his visit to the Court in Rio de Janeiro, Dias personally delivered his description to the monarch: "One should rebuild the São João Baptista fort in Porto Moniz. It is a point of great importance due to its proximity to Paul da Serra, where almost all the cattle on the Island is located and where there is a great abundance of water and is a place where you can camp troops without fear of being attacked".
However, the fort was not rebuilt. Obsolete for the time and left in ruins by the sea, the fort was sold at public auction.In April 1926, Dr Jaime César de Abreu bought the building from the Ministry of War. Its possession was taken in May 1927 by his father Dr Tolentino Lúcio da Costa, a native of Porto Moniz.
The ruins were bought by the Municipality of Porto Moniz in 1998, later restoring them to their original state with help from remaining iconography.
These posts served as lookout points for the whalers watching for Sperm whales out at sea.
Located in a deep valley overlooking Seixal, the collection of Cow sheds were once used as warehouses to support agriculture.
Today they are an integral part of the landscape.
Set in idyllic surroundings, Chão da Ribeira is where the Laurissilva forest and human activity coexist in harmony.
The Department of Culture of the Municipality of Porto Moniz strives to promote the major events that take place throughout the year in the northern county. We hope to reach all our residents, immigrants and visitors and inform themof all the dates and details of the important events taking place, providing an easy, fast tool for consultation. Come and watch and participate, live and relive our traditions, savour our food, and drink our aromatic wines. We believe that this initiative will be an important vehicle for transmitting and generating development and fraternization between generations of people.
Like the rest ofMadeira, Porto Moniz has strong religious traditions. In addition to the patrons of the municipality and the different parishes, you will find the other major festivities typical in the Catholic tradition below. These feasts have given each parish its own unique identity.
Feast of Senhor Santo Antão - Seixal
19TH AND 20TH OF JANUARY
The patron saint of Seixal is a much sought after feast because it takes place at a time still associated with Christmas festivities. The feast of Santo Antão marks the end of the Christmas season.
Festa de Nossa Senhora da Encarnação - Ribeira da Janela
This feast occurs precisely nine months before Christmas and is one of two events devoted to the patron saint of Ribeira da Janela.
Feast of São Pedro Lamaceiros – Porto Moniz
28TH AND 29TH JUNE
In terms of the Municipality of Porto Moniz, the feast of São Pedro is unique to this particular village. The feast either has a patron or it is supported by the local population. It is an event that has been gaining importance, with stalls serving food and drink.
Feast of Santa Maria Madalena - Santa de Porto Moniz
21ST AND 22ND JULY
This religious festival, held in Santa coincides with the day of the municipality. This year the event includes performances from Ronalda (21th July at 10pm) and Paco Bandeira (11.30pm). This is one of the most important festivities in Porto Moniz with Santa Maria Madalena being the patron saint of Santa.
Feast of Santíssimo Sacramento - Ribeira da Janela
11TH AND 12TH AUGUST
One of the main highlights of this feast is the flower carpet made by the local parishioners. The carpet is about 200 metres long and extends from the parish church to Casais de Cima. It is one of the most popular feasts of this parish as it coincides with the summer holidays. The beautiful flower carpet is admired by all.
Feast of Nossa Senhora do Monte Lamaceiros – Porto Moniz
14TH AND 15TH AUGUST
A typical feast that attracts people from all over the Island, this is the only parish that celebrates Nossa Senhora do Monte. With the holidays, it is a very popular celebration with many emigrants returning during the summer months.
Feast of Santíssimo Sacramento - Seixal
22ND, 23RD AND 24TH AUGUST
The feast starts with a traditional dish in Praia da Laje where everyone participates. The dish is sold in the various food stalls and attracts people for its uniqueness. During the rest of the weekend, it is a typical Madeiran feast that has been attracting more and more people over the years. It is the largest religious feast in the parish.
Feast of Nossa Senhora da Encarnação - Ribeira da Janela
30TH AND 31ST AUGUST
This feast is held in honour of the patron saint of Ribeira da Janela and is one of two events held during the year.
Feast of Nossa Senhora da Conceição - Vila de Porto Moniz
7TH AND 8TH DECEMBER
Nossa Senhora da Conceição is the patron saint of the village of Porto Moniz. This date also coincides with the day of the parish but is not one of the most sought after religious festivals.