Josse van Huerter

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Josse van Huerter
Joss de Utra
1st Captain-Donatário of Faial
In office
2 February 1468 – 1482
Constituency Faial
1st Captain-Donatário of Faial & Pico
In office
Constituency Faial/Pico
Personal details
Born Joost de Hurtere
Torhout, West Flanders
Died 1495
Angústias, Horta
Resting place Chapel of Santa Cruz (Church of Nossa Senhora das Angústias)
Citizenship Flanders
Nationality Dutch
Spouse(s) Beatriz de Macedo
  • Joss de Utra
  • Joana de Macedo
Residence Angústias
Religion Roman Catholic

Josse van Huerter (1430 in Torhout – 1495 in Horta), also known by several transliterations (such as Joss van Hurtere, Joost de Hurtere or Joss van Hürter, and later in Portuguese, Joss de Utra or just Dutra) was the first settler, and captain-major of the island of Faial in the Portuguese Azores. After 1482, the island of Pico was also incorporated into his captaincy. His son, Joss de Utra would later inherit the captaincy from him after his death.


Early life[edit]

Coat of Arms of the House of Utra (ancestral descendants of the Van Huerters)

Van Huerter, a name of Flemish origin, appears frequently in Portuguese writings, frequently with many variations. What is known, is that the family name Huerter evolved through Portuguese transliteration to Utra and later Dutra (a contraction of De Ultra, "Of Ultra"). Similarly, the city of Horta (settled by Huerter and his Flemish compatriots) would owe its name to an adulterated variation on the Huerter name. Josse, has also appeared with some variations; Josse van Huerter himself used the shorter Joss in communications, although Joz, Job, Jobst and Jost have also been identified.

His was the son of Léonard van Huerter,[1] of a governing family with feudal holdings in Wijnendale, West Flanders.[2][3] Marcelino Lima stated that the Huerter holdings were specifically in Hagenbruck,[4] refuting the claims of the German navigator and geographer Martin Behaim, in his Globo de Nuremberga (who believed that the noble family lived in Moerkirchen).[3] The Huerter family was of good lineage, and established heraldry, whom dedicated themselves in the homeland, which was confirmed by a 1527 document, by Jacques de Hurtere, of Flanders, the cousin of Joss de Utra (second Captain-Donatório of Faial), and chronicled by Manuel Luís Maldonado.

Little is known of his life prior to his participation in the great exploration and colonization of the 15th Century. What is known is that he frequented the circles of Flemish nobility, and made friendships in the court of Isabella of Portugal.[3]


About 1460, he made an acquaintance of Friar Pedro, the Queen's confessor, who traveled with the Infanta Isabella of Portugal, Duchess of Burgundy, to Flanders. He developed a friendship with the young nobleman, and quickly promoted the advantages of exploration in the "new" islands of the Azores. D. Pedro talked to van Huerter of the islands and what he believed were large deposits of silver and tin (referring to the islands as the fabled Ilhas Cassitérides or Islands of Tin). Van Huerter later convinced 15 other noblemen of the profitability of a venture in the archipelago. Around 1465, Huerter first disembarked along the eastern coast in the channel between Pico and Faial, in an area that would later be known as Praia de Almofariz (now Praia do Almoxarife). The expedition remained in the area around Lomba dos Frades for about a year, until about the time their supplies ran out. It was at this time that many of his compatriots became disenchanted[5] with van Huerter and angered by the lack of return on their investments: finding none of the promised precious metals. Things escalated and van Huerter nearly escaped to Flanders, abandoning some on the island, and returning hastily to the court of the Duchess of Burgundy.

He returned, in 1466-67, with a contract from the Duchess of Burgundy to settle and populate the islands in the name of the Crown of Portugal. The Duchess would send a two-year supply of the equipment, foodstuffs, animals and materials to support the fledgling colony made up of Flemish nationals[6] looking for a new life following the Hundred Years War. But, quickly, He discovered the limitations of the area owing to the lack of sufficient potable water. He abandoned the main settlement in Almofariz, in favor of the adjacent valley (later known as the Valley of Flamengos). Huerter would later extend his community farther south along the shore of Horta Bay, where he would construct a small chapel to Santa Cruz, that would become the nucleus of the small village.[7]

The Infante Ferdinand, Duke of Viseu, had bestowed on Huerter the first captaincy of the island on 2 February 1468, which would later extend to the neighboring island of Pico (29 December 1482) by Infanta Beatrice.

Huerter cultivated new relationships in the Flemish community of Flanders, hoping to construct a "New Flanders" by attracting a second wave of settlers to Faial. One of them, Willem van der Haegen (later transliterated to Guilherme da Silveira), brought administrators, tradesmen, settlers and other compatriots to settle on the island.[3] This was a short-term colony, owing to a falling out between Van Huerter and van der Haegen, the latter abandoned the island, eventually settling on Flores. On 15 October 1484, Van Huerter was honored with a knighthood in the House of the Duke of Viseu.

Later life[edit]

He was married to D. Beatriz de Macedo, daughter of Jerónimo Fernandes, the governess of the Infanta Beatrice, who bore him two children. Huerter's son, Joss de Utra (who would become the second Captain-General of Faial), and daughter, D. Joana de Macedo (who married Martin Behaim at the Santa Cruz chapel) were born on Faial. Joss de Utra would later marry Dona Isabel Corte Real, and Dona Joana would marry Martin Behaim (navigator/cartographer).

Van Huerter died in 1495 in Horta, and along with his wife (in 1531) would be buried in the Chapel of Santa Cruz, where today the Church of Nossa Senhora das Angústias is located.


  1. ^ Historian António Ferreira de Serpa (1865-1939) concluded that Van Huerter was the son of Leonard de Hurtere, and grandson of another of the same name, from a house in the lower nobility serving as huntsmen in the Court of D. Isabel of Portugal, from her marriage to King Philip III "The Good", Duke of Burgundy.
  2. ^ One account, by Valentim Martins, a German from Moravia, referred to van Huerter as having three other brothers.
  3. ^ a b c d Carlos Melo Bento (2008), p.28
  4. ^ This was reaffirmed by Manuel Luís Maldonado, in his Phenix Angrenis, that Van Huerter was from Aghebron (a probable corruption of Hagenbruck).
  5. ^ Valentim Fernandes, at one point notes that settlers were brought directly to Faial and/or that his entourage was made up of men who were convicted of crimes, and were sentenced to death, although these accounts are not substantiated.
  6. ^ The medic, Hieronymus Münzer (better known in Portuguese literature by his latinized name: Hieronymus Monetarius de Feldkirch), a resident of Nuremberg and who while staying at his home in Lisbon, talk of benefactor's holdings, that Jodocus de Hurtere (or de Bruges in other accounts) captained 1,500 inhabitants on the island, all German-speaking Flems.
  7. ^ In often contradictory Globo de Nuremberga, Martin Behaim, Huerter'S son-Inlaw noted that "In 1490 a few thousands people had located there, Germans and Flems, captained by the noble and respectable Sir Jobst von Hurter, master of Moerkerken, in Flanders, my dear father-inlaw, to whom the descendants of the Dukes of [Viseu] gave this island [Faial].
  • Grande Enciclopédia Portuguesa e Brasileira, vol.33. p. 613 pp. 
  • Anais do Município da Horta, 1940, 3rd Edition. 1981. pp. 49–50 pp. 
  • Serpa, F. (1929). Os Flamengos Na Ilha do Faial. p. 4 pp. 
  • Apontamentos do CapitãOmor do Faial, Jerónimo de Brum. Arquivo dos Açores, vol.I. p. 175 pp. 
  • Bento, Carlos Melo (2008), História dos Açores: Da descoberta a 1934 (in Portuguese), Ponta Delgada (Azores), Portugal