Angra do Heroísmo on the Azores

Friday, 19 April 2024 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, UNESCO World Heritage
Reading Time:  7 minutes

© Concierge.2C/cc-by-sa-3.0

© Concierge.2C/cc-by-sa-3.0

Angra do Heroísmo, or simply Angra, is a city and municipality on Terceira Island, Portugal, and one of the three capital cities of the Azores. Founded in 1478, Angra was historically the most important city in the Azores, as seat of the Bishop of the Azores, government entities, and having previously served as the capital city of Portugal during the Liberal Wars. The population in 2011 was 35,402, in an area of 239.00 km². It was classified as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1983.

Angra was hit by a major earthquake on 1 January 1980 that did considerable damage to the city’s historic center and to many other locations on the island of Terceira. The Azores have experienced many earthquakes and volcanic eruptions since prehistoric times, but the 1980 event was probably the most serious since the eighteenth century. The damage in the city was repaired and rebuilt within four years. In 1983, the historic center of Angra do Heroísmo was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Angra occupies the south coast of Terceira. It is the headquarters of a military command and the seat of a Roman Catholic bishopric. Its principal buildings are the Sé Cathedral of Angra do Heroísmo, a military college, an arsenal, and an observatory. The harbor, now of little commercial or strategic importance (but formerly a major commercial and military port), is sheltered on the west and southwest by the promontory of Monte Brasil, but, today, it is less important than the neighboring ports of Ponta Delgada on the island of São Miguel and Horta on the island of Faial.

© flickr.com - Vitor Oliveira/cc-by-sa-2.0 © Balou46/cc-by-sa-4.0 © Senhormario/cc-by-sa-4.0 seen from Monte Brasil © Rolf Cosar/cc-by-sa-4.0 © Concierge.2C/cc-by-sa-3.0 © flickr.com - Aires Almeida/cc-by-2.0
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seen from Monte Brasil © Rolf Cosar/cc-by-sa-4.0
The historic centre of Angra, is located along the southern coast, encompassing the medieval city and fortified citadel that forms the volcanic cone of Monte Brasil. Angra is dominated by the Old Square (Portuguese: Praça Velha), also known as the Square of Saints Cosmo and Damian (Portuguese: Praça de São Cosmo e Daimão) or the Restoration Square (Portuguese: Praça dos Restoradores). It was one of the first Portuguese squares specifically designed as a broad open space, joining two of the old town’s main arteries. Angra’s square is a broad and orderly, paved with Portuguese pavement stone (of white limestone and black basalt). Throughout its history, this main square has had various functions: it was a chicken and livestock market on Sundays; during the struggles between the Liberals and the Absolutists (during the Liberal Wars) it was the site of public hangings; and the location where the local running of the bulls began. The well-planned and handsome square in Angra owes its character to the influence of the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, which resulted in the reconstruction program that influenced many of the towns and villages of Portugal. The Old Square (which reached its ultimate form during the late 18th century) reflects this new thinking and approach to urbanism and transport. After the 19th century (specifically 1879), it served as a central gathering place for concerts by the military band of the 10th Chasseur regiment, whose barracks were in the Fort of São João Baptista.

The island of Terceira, dating from the 15th century had always been susceptible to attacks by pirates and privateers, first from Barbary coast pirates, but later by European powers who sought to capture spoils from the ships returning from the Far East. Following the personal union between Spain and Portugal, following the Dynastic Crisis, the need to protect the transit points of the Azores led to construction of several posts and redoubts along the coast of the island.

At one stage, Angra had as many as nine convents, each with its own cloisters and churches. Most of these churches are from the Mannerist and Baroque periods, and they are remarkably grand if we bear in mind the poor quality of the stone to be found on the island. The interior decoration of these churches relied on the use of both traditional carved and gilded woodwork and the rich and exotic woods of Brazil.

The Portuguese version of bullfighting differs considerably from its Spanish counterpart, and the Azorean variety, which began on Terceira, differs from the mainland style in some important respects also. The Azorean bullfight ritual involves “audience participation” in a way that recalls the “running of the bulls” at Pamplona (Spain). On Terceira, 4 fighting bulls are enclosed in separate wooden crates for several hours and transported to the village where the bullfight will happen, then a long stout rope is secured around each bull’s neck. Fireworks are exploded to signal the citizens that a bull will soon be let loose in the public square. Once the bull is released, some young men take hold of the rope to try to control the bull’s head, and others taunt the bull with everything from brightly colored fighting capes to parasols. A free-for-all ensues while the bull drags some men around by the rope and tries to punish his tormenters, by butting them to the ground and goring them (with blunted horns), or by trampling over them. This is a popular leisure activity and public entertainment; it is known as the tourada à corda (English: bullfight-on-a-rope). Eventually, the bull is funneled through the city streets to the bullring, the Praça de Toiros da Ilha (Island Bullring), in the eastern part of Angra, where a traditional Portuguese-style bullfight is held. From May 1 to September 30, there are daily touradas; in fact, sometimes there are two or three in one day.

Read more on VisitPortugal.com – Angra do Heroísmo, Wikivoyage Angra do Heroísmo and Wikipedia Angra do Heroísmo (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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