Horta (Azores) - History


In 1467, the Flemish nobleman Josse van Huerter returned to Faial on a second expedition, this time disembarking along the shore of what would be known as Horta bay. He had a small chapel built, that would later form the nucleus of a small community known as Horta (a name derived from the transliteration of his name). The infante D. Fernando, Duke of Viseu, granted Huerter the first captaincy of the island on February 2, 1468. But, the settlement of the island was not chiefly by flemish peasantry or business interests. In fact, generally, settlers to the island were from hard-working farmers from continental Portugal, willing to work hard in new lands, from a cross-section of northern Portugal. But, Huerter cultivated new business opportunities, attracting a second wave of settlers under the stewardship of Willem van der Haegen (later transliterated to Guilherme da Silveira), who brought administrators, tradesmen, settlers and other compatriots to settle on the island.

Huerter's son, Joss de Utra (who would become the second Captain-General), and daughter, D. Joana de Macedo (who married Martin Behaim at the Santa Cruz chapel) continued on Faial, long after van Huerter’s death. By 1498, Horta was elevated to the status of vila (analogous to a town) by decree of King D. Manuel I, as its center grew north from the area around the small chapel of Santa Cruz. The island prospered with exports of wheat and woad. On June 28, 1514 the parish of Matriz do São Salvador da Horta was constituted and services were begun. In 1567, the cornerstone of what would be the Fort of Santa Cruz was laid. The constant growth of the settlers in the villa compelled the creation of the parishes of Nossa Senhora da Conceição (July 30, 1568) and Nossa Senhora da Angustias (November 28, 1684) by the diocese of Angra. As two nuclei developed around Santa Cruz and Porto Pim, growth had also extended around the older Matriz (where the Tower Clock now stands) and the public square (where Alameda Barão de Roches now exists). Public buildings were erected between Rua Visconde Leite Perry and Rua Arriage Nunes, and eventually the town hall and the court offices moved to the former Jesuit College, after the Jesuits were expelled from Portugal in 1758.

In 1583, Spanish soldiers under the command of D. Pedro de Toledo landed in Pasteleiro in the southwestern part of the island. After some skirmishes at the doors of the fort, the Captain of Faial, António Guedes de Sousa, was executed. Four years later, the Earl of Cumberland commanding a fleet of 13 British ships captured a Spanish ship, and then plundered the town's churches and convents, profaning them and destroying reliquary and crucifixes. They captured several artillery pieces and set fire to the houses within the Fort of Santa Cruz. Two cannons, located in Porto Pim, were missed. In 1597, a new force, under Sir Walter Raleigh, second in command to Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, sacked and burned the religious buildings and churches in Horta, as well as the neighboring parishes of Flamengos, Feteira and Praia do Almoxarife. The constant threat of privateers and pirates forced the construction of several forts and lookouts.

In 1643, Horta had about 2579 inhabitants and 610 homes.

D. Frei Lourenço, the Bishop of Angra, authorized the renovation of the chapel of Santa Cruz in 1675. In 1688, the final renovations and ornamentation of the church were realized.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, Horta was a small town that extended along the shoreline. It was peppered by various convents and churches, but little commerce and almost no industry. But, luckily due to its location, it prospered as a stopover on important commercial routes between Europe and the New World. For a time, Horta was a center of commerce and travel. It was a gateway for Azorean orange growing, and the port for the export of wine from Pico Island, as well as an important stop for North American whalers, and later as a refueling port for coal-powered ships during their transatlantic passages.

On July 4, 1833, the vila, through the initiative of the Duke d'Ávila and Bolama, was elevated to the status of city and the district capital, as a reward for the support that the people of the island had given to the Liberalist forces during the Portuguese Liberal Revolution. The city hall's coat of arms, by decree, was granted to promote “My Loyal City of Horta” by King Luis I on May 3, 1865.

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