Calheta, Madeira

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Calheta () is a municipality on the southwest coast of Madeira, with a population of 11946 (2001), spanning an area of 115.65 km².


The origin of the areas name, are both related to the toponymy of Calheta (which mean ): first, that there existed a small bay or cove, which already had this name, but secondly, that the area of the settlement was the off-port for sugar and collection of wood. Calheta was founded in 1430; the parish, of the same name (which is the central part of the municipality) is one of the oldest parishes on the island of Madeira, and one of the first to be explored by the early settlers. It was the area selected by João Gonçalves Zarco (the island's discoverer) as a grant to his son and his wife, João Gonçalves da Câmara and Beatriz Gonçalves.

The village became a town 72 years after its foundation, on 1 July 1502, after a royal foral (charter) was granted by King Manuel I. The region was primairly settled by noblemen and knights, influencing the toponomic names that appeared in many of its localities: such as Lombo do Doutor and Lombo do Atouguia. In 1502, João de França constructed the Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Graça (), which was to be the basis for the new parish of Calheta, founding the first and oldest institutions of the parish. Similarly, the Santa Casa da Misericórdia was established in 1535, to serve the elderly and provide healthcare for the local residents.

The parish of Prazeres, which was an ecclesiastical...
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