Ribeira Grande (Azores)

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For the town in Cape Verde, see Ribeira Grande, Cape Verde.
Coordinates: 37°49′21″N 25°31′5″W / 37.82250°N 25.51806°W / 37.82250; -25.51806
Ribeira Grande
Municipality (Concelho)
Miradouro de Santa Iria, Porto Formoso, ilha de São Miguel, Açores.JPG
Vista of the interior of Ribeira Grande looking southeast towards the Água de Pau mountain range
Coat of arms
Official name: Concelho da Ribeira Grande
Name origin: Portuguese for great/grand river
Country  Portugal
Autonomous Region  Azores
Island São Miguel
Civil Parishes Calhetas, Conceição, Fenais da Ajuda, Lomba da Maia, Lomba de São Pedro, Maia, Matriz, Pico da Pedra, Porto Formoso, Rabo de Peixe, Ribeira Seca, Ribeirinha, Santa Bárbara, São Brás
Center Matriz
 - elevation 36 m (118 ft)
 - coordinates 37°49′21″N 25°31′5″W / 37.82250°N 25.51806°W / 37.82250; -25.51806
Highest point Pico da Barrosa
 - elevation 1,019 m (3,343 ft)
 - coordinates 37°48′32″N 25°12′48″W / 37.80889°N 25.21333°W / 37.80889; -25.21333
Lowest point Sea level
 - location Atlantic Ocean
 - elevation 0 m (0 ft)
Area 180.15 km2 (70 sq mi)
 - water 1.66 km2 (1 sq mi)
 - urban 8.5 km2 (3 sq mi)
Population 32,112 (2011)
Density 178 / km2 (461 / sq mi)
Settlement c. 1507
LAU Câmara Municipal
 - location Largo Conselheiro Artur Hintze Ribeiro, Matriz
 - elevation 21 m (69 ft)
 - coordinates 37°49′22″N 25°31′14″W / 37.82278°N 25.52056°W / 37.82278; -25.52056
President Ricardo José Moniz da Silva (PS)
Municipal Chair Eduardo da Silva Vieira (PS)
Timezone Azores (UTC-1)
 - summer (DST) Azores (UTC0)
Postal Zone 9600-509
Area Code & Prefix (+351) 292 XXX-XXXX
Demonym Ribeira-grandense
Patron Saint Nossa Senhora da Estrela
Municipal Holidays 29 June
Location of the municipality of Ribeira Grande in the archipelago of the Azores
Wikimedia Commons: Ribeira Grande (Azores)
Statistics: Instituto Nacional de Estatística[1]
Website: http://www.cm-ribeiragrande.pt
Geographic detail from CAOP (2010)[2] produced by Instituto Geográfico Português (IGP)

Ribeira Grande (Portuguese pronunciation: [ʁiˈβɐjɾɐ ˈɣɾɐ̃d(ɨ)]) is a municipality in the northern part of the island of São Miguel in the Portuguese Azores. The population in 2011 was 32,112,[3] in an area of 180.15 km².[4] The municipal seat is located in the civil parish of Matriz, with a population of about 4000 inhabitants, part of the urbanized core of what is commonly referred to as the city of Ribeira Grande (six civil parishes, about 10000 inhabitants).[5]


The first settlers to this region are to the northern part of the island by the end of the 15th century.[6][7] On arriving, these colonists established their settlement along the ravine, which they eventually named after the river course: Ribeira Grande.[6][7] Writing at the beginning of the 15th century, Gaspar Frutuoso wrote about the settlement, in these terms:

"The town of Ribeira Grande, noble by its residents, rich in its lands, well shaded with its fields and fertile with its fruits, is situated in and around its great ravine, from which it received its name, almost in the middle of the island, in a large bay in a band of the north, at the feet of a sierra very fresh [that is near its plain, is a thing highlights the other, making its grouply more gracious then other towns]; and the ravine cuts the town in two parts, of a small time, because until the year one thousand and fifty-five there was no bridge to the western part to more than two houses only. But, later after much growth, that it is today the largest town, richer and more people then there are in all the Bishopric of Angra. Before it was suffragate of Vila Franco do Campo, until the King Dom Manuel, explain on his pillory for all parts around."[6][7]

Settlers continued to be sent to the area of Ribeira Grande, by Lopo de Ares, owing to the location's access to water and the preexisting colonists that already provided land rents.[6] Since it was located far from the provincial capital of Vila Franca, the town was elevated to the status of town by King Manuel in 1507.[6]

The aspiration to obtain the status of city began in 1852; plans for the future city were then constituted by the parishes of Nossa Senhora da Estrela (today Matriz) and Nossa Senhora da Conceição (the actual Conceição).[8] But, nothing ever became of this project.[9]


Physical geography[edit]

A view of the interior plateau of Ribeira Grande, showing the volcanic spatter cones

The municipality is one of the six that constitute the island of São Miguel. It occupies most of the northern section of the island, from the Atlantic coast to the volcanic mountains in the center of the island. It is bounded by the municipalities of Nordeste (east), Povoação (southeast), Ponta Delgada (west), Lagoa and Vila Franca do Campo (south). All the municipalities are linked by several regional roads that circle the island or cross the mountains in the central section.

The relief is dominated by the Serra de Água de Pau, which includes a caldeira occupied by the Lagoa do Fogo (Lake of Fire). The highest elevation is Pico da Barrosa at 947 metres (3,107 ft) (overlooking Lagoa do Fogo) or Monte Escuro at 890 metres (2,920 ft); this volcanic massif also extends to the plateau of Graminhais, by the eastern border with Nordeste, where the Pico do Salto do Cavalo 954 metres (3,130 ft) has a well known lookout. The volcanic geology, associated to the occurrence of many springs in the foothills, have been responsible for the fast creeks flowing in deep ravines, one of which gave its name to the town. Other volcanic manifestations in the area are fumaroles, such as Caldeira Velha or Caldeiras, and mineral hot springs at Lombadas, Gramas and Ladeira da Velha.

In addition to the picturesque river valleys and mountains, there are several beaches, including the main beaches in Ribeira Grande (Santa Bárbara and Monte Verde), Moinhos Beach (at Porto Formoso) and Viola Beach (secluded in the shadow of Lomba da Maia).

Human geography[edit]

The long beach of Santa Bárbara and Monte Verde, popular with surfers
The center of Ribeira Grande, including the Ponte de Oito Arcos

The municipality is divided into 14 sub-regional administrative authorities, or freguesias (civil parishes):

The largest parish in population (and density) is Rabo de Peixe, while the smallest is São Brás. In area, the largest parish is Maia, and the smallest is Calhetas. The highest village is Lomba da Maia.

Twin towns — Sister cities[edit]

Ribeira Grande, São Miguel is twinned with:


  1. ^ INE, ed. (2010), Censos 2011 - Resultadas Preliminares [2011 Census - Preliminary Results] (in Portuguese), Lisbon, Portugal: Instituto Nacional de Estatística, retrieved 1 January 2012 
  2. ^ IGP, ed. (2010), Carta Administrativa Oficial de Portugal (in Portuguese), Lisbon, Portugal: Instituto Geográfico Português, retrieved 1 January 2012 
  3. ^ Instituto Nacional de Estatística
  4. ^ Eurostat
  5. ^ Although the Portuguese government and statistical entities recognize the existence of a city (often made up of several civil parishes), which encompasses a certain level of population, services and physical dimensions, the city as a legal governmental entity (with mayor, governmental bodies and services) does not exist. All governmental services are administered at the municipal and/or civil parish levels.
  6. ^ a b c d e Câmara Municipal (ed.), Vila e Cidade (in Portuguese), Ribeira Grande (Azores), Portugal: Câmara Municipal de Ribeira Grande, retrieved 5 April 2014 
  7. ^ a b c Gaspar Frutuoso, Saudades da Terra, Livro IV, VII (1981)
  8. ^ Luciano de Resende Mota Vieira, Jornal Correio dos Açores (11 April 1979)
  9. ^ Arquivo Histórico Parlamentar, Palácio de São Bento (Lisbon, Portugal)
  10. ^ Câmara Municipal, ed. (4 February 2013), Ribeira Grande gemina-se com Lagos, Ribeira Grande (Azores), Portugal: Câmara Municipal de Ribeira Grande, retrieved 5 April 2014 
  11. ^ a b Câmara Municipal, ed. (21 September 2013), Ribeira Grande gemina-se com Lagos e Sommerville, Ribeira Grande (Azores), Portugal: Câmara Municipal de Ribeira Grande, retrieved 5 2014  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  12. ^ Câmara Municipal, ed. (12 June 2013), Ribeira Grande gemina-se com Santiago, Ribeira Grande (Azores), Portugal: Câmara Municipal de Ribeira Grande, retrieved 5 April 2014 
  13. ^ Câmara Municipal, ed. (20 November 2013), Ribeira Grande gemina-se com Somerville, Ribeira Grande (Azores), Portugal: Câmara Municipal de Ribeira Grande, retrieved 5 April 2014 

External links[edit]