Ribeira GrandeThe Municipality
The colonization of the Azores began in the 1440's in Vila da Povoação and progressively grew along the coast and at the mouths of streams with the construction of the first thatched houses.
Father Gaspar Frutuoso, our first chronicler, was born in 1522 and died as vicar of the Mother Church of Ribeira Grande in 1591. He studied in the University of Salamanca (1548/1558). He left a manuscript written between 1586 and 1591 that describes the history of the islands.
With regard to Ribeira Grande, there are several dates that show its evolution. 1507 was the year in which the king turned Ribeira Grande officially into a Town, with the right to have its own management, i.e., independent from Vila Franca.
The document that awards the contract for the construction of the Mother Church was issued in that same year. In 1515 there were only two houses on the western side. The contract for the construction of a stone bridge close to the main square, which would replace the old wooden bridge, was issued in 1520.
The population grew rapidly: in 1515 the parish of Matriz had 200 houses, a number that rose to approximately 800 in 1576 and to 1018 at the end of the century. In terms of urban design, there is a curious document from 1555 that appoints the new "arruador", the person responsible for designing streets and houses, confirming that several streets were paved and including a list of street names, some of which are still currently used. One of these streets is João da Horta Street, i.e., the streets that currently surrounds the Mother Church and the City Hall were already built at that time.
The daily lives of the people from Ribeira Grande were dramatically changed in 1563 and 1564 due to the eruption of the Pico do Sapateiro, whose lava buried the village of Ribeira Seca. The eruption was followed by earthquakes that destroyed some of the houses, and one third of the arable land was lost due to the volcanic slag.
Gradually, the population rebuilt their houses and cleaned the land and, at the turn of the century, the municipality had recovered from the shock - the fertile land was producing wheat, wood and linen, which were the most important and profitable crops. An example of this growth is the number of mills, which rose from the twenty that existed in 1555 to thirty five in 1578. Other documents reveal the strong trade of goods between Ribeira Grande and Ponta Delgada, the main export destination. This connection to the southern part of the island led Ribeira Grande to grow to the west through the construction of Rua Direita (currently, São Francisco, Conceição and D. Carlos I streets) as a main road and new streets both to the north and to the south.
The end of this process occurred on June 29th, 1981, when the town of Ribeira Grande officially became a city.
Currently, the Municipality of Ribeira Grande has 14 parishes, five of which compose the city - Ribeira Seca, Santa Bárbara, Conceição, Matriz and Ribeirinha.