This is the largest city in Terceira island, of world heritage fame by Unesco, with typical downtown construction design fronted by grid balconies addorned with typical vase and plant pots.
Angra do Heroísmo has a rich history. It was once the center of all Portuguese maritime trade from the XV through the XVIII centuries as every ship coming from Africa, Americas and the Far East used to call here before proceeding to Lisbon or other ports in Europe.
As a european city, one would expect the municipality of Angra to be a monumental capital. Instead, its greatness derives from the recognition by UNESCO as World Heritage, lying in the history that transformed the city into an important staging and meeting point for people, business, thoughts and arts.
To have a slight idea of the utmost importance the city had once, just behold these ancient illustrations where Angra´s harbor is portrayed with dozens of ships anchored.
From the XV through the XVIII centuries, all Portuguese trade ships loaded with spices returning from africa and the far east stopped here before procceding to Lisbon and beyond.
They would take the time to resupply, repair hull damage or even escape pirate`s attacks. So did the spanish galleons, loaded with silver from the Indies in a route departing cartagena in south america, routing via porto rico, angra and terminating in seville.
The world was at the time divided in two halves by the Tordesilhas treaty. However, the world was somehow "reunited" at Angra. A key meeting point in the north atlantic, the city was a trading centre attracting Dutch, English, French, Italian and Spanish businesses, turning this city into a thriving metropolitan capital.
It was the wind system that placed Angra in the path of notoriety. In this north atlantic latitude, winds blow essentially from the west, for this reason all armadas sailed to europe via the Azores as there was no other possible way to return.
Without this wind system and maritime stream, the famous Gulf Stream, the Indie spices would have not crossed the atlantic basin for centuries and the city of Angra would have not achieved the "universal stop spot of the west sea" fame as azorean chronicler Gaspar Frutuoso wrote.
However, the effervescent port activity also attracted the Atlantic piracy, creating the need to build a defensive system capable to face this dangerous challenge. Since Porto Pipas to Monte Brasil, where no natural defenses existed, a protecting wall was erected with locked doors.
The importance of Angra`s harbor in the transatlantic routes was paramount, confirmed by the stop of Vasco da Gama`s fleet when returning from the first trip to India in 1499. During this sojourn, Paulo da Gama, Vasco da Gama`s brother and commander of one of the ships died and was buried in S. Francisco church where we can still find his tomb.
Angra was also the first village promoted to city status in 1534 by King D. João III letters-patent; at the same time, the Azorean Religious Diocese was founded in Angra by Pope Paulo III`s papal decree.
For many years the city received the most important administrative centers of the Archipelago.
All this glorious past is registered in monuments, paintings and sculptures signed by the most remarkable European artists: gold wood-carvings, thematic tile panels, valuable furniture found in palaces and manor-houses, exotic pieces of artwork kept in Angra`s museum - telling the whole history of Angra in its opening to the world.
...in "Livro de Ouro Terceira" by Clássica Publicações © 2010
Today, the municipality of Angra is a modern european city with a population of 35581 inhabitants, mainly portuguese but several other nationalities can be found: brazilian, british, cape verdian, french, german, italian, north american, spanish and eastern bloc nationals like russian, ukrainian, moldavian and romanian.
You can read more about Angra do Heroísmo here.