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São Mateus
Village of Urzelina, as seen from the highest point in the civil parish (Pico Verde)
Village of Urzelina, as seen from the highest point in the civil parish (Pico Verde)
Etymology: urzela, Portuguese name for the lichen Roccella tinctoria
Location of the civil parish of Urzelina within the municipality of Velas
Location of the civil parish of Urzelina within the municipality of Velas
Coordinates: 38°39′5″N 28°8′11″W / 38.65139°N 28.13639°W / 38.65139; -28.13639Coordinates: 38°39′5″N 28°8′11″W / 38.65139°N 28.13639°W / 38.65139; -28.13639
Country Portugal
Autonomous Region Azores
IslandSão Jorge
LocalitiesCanada da Bica, Canada da Feteira, Casteletes, Canada do Cruzeiro, Canada do Leitão, Maratecas, Ponta das Casteletes, Ronqueiro
 • TypeLAU
 • BodyJunta Freguesia
 • MayorAmaro Soares
 • Total13.69 km2 (5.29 sq mi)
86 m (282 ft)
 • Total902
 • Density66/km2 (170/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC-1 (Azores)
 • Summer (DST)UTC0 (Azores)
Postal Zone
Area code(s)(+351) 292 XX XX XX
Patron SaintSão Mateus
Geographic detail from CAOP (2010)[1] produced by Instituto Geográfico Português (IGP)

Urzelina is a civil parish in the municipality of Velas in the Portuguese islands of the Azores. The population in 2011 was 902,[2] in an area of 13.69 km².[3] It is situated near the south coast of the island of São Jorge. It is alternately known as São Mateus, to which the parish was named after its patron saint.


Urzelina as seen in 1910, during the popular festivals of the time

The first settlers reached this coast in the 15th century, but were isolated 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) from Faial. Many of the early homes were built along the coast, on lowlands and flanks of the interior mountain range, interspersed in the forests.

The parish received its name owing to the abundance of urzela (Roccella tinctoria) found by the first explorers and settlers, along its coastal clifftops and which later became a source of an export market, because it was used in dying. Urzela, a species of fungus, was harvested and exported to Flanders and England in the early 15th-16th centuries, thereby supporting the economies of the island, in addition to many of the islands of the Azores.

Urzelina was once a place within the parish of Manadas and elevated to parish around 1647. At the time, a decision was made to construct a port, in order to support and enhance its transitory exchange between the island and continental Portugal. It was important for the epoch, since it was one of the first ports constructed on the island at the time.

The history of Urzelina has been shaped by the events of 1 May 1808, when a volcanic eruption destroyed a great part of the settlement, and caused fear and panic in its populous.[4] It also resulted in the destruction of most of the arable lands, and plunged the island into a period of famine. Lava reached as far as the local parochial church, which was inundated with basaltic flows and brought into ruin. The bell-tower and belfry are the only remnants of the event.


The urban centre of the parish seat of Urzelina including port and fajã
Main street of Urzelina and old regional roadway

Urzelina is located 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) from the town of Velas, and its centre 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) from the islands airport.


The region is primarily associated with agricultural activities, that include orchards, vineyards and the raising of dairy or meat cattle.


  • Church of São Mateus (Portuguese: Igreja Paroquial de Urzelina/Igreja de São Mateus)[5]


  1. ^ IGP, ed. (2010), Carta Administrativa Oficial de Portugal (in Portuguese), Lisbon, Portugal: Instituto Geográfico Português, retrieved 1 July 2011
  2. ^ Instituto Nacional de Estatística
  3. ^ Eurostat
  4. ^ Guida das Velas (2009-2010), p.10/11
  5. ^ Noé, Paula (2011), SIPA, ed., Igreja Paroquial de Urzelina/Igreja de São Mateus (IPA.00032430/PT071904060010) (in Portuguese), Lisbon, Portugal: SIPA – Sistema de Informação para o Património Arquitectónico, retrieved 6 May 2012
  • Guida das Velas (in Portuguese) (268828/08), Ponta Delgada (Azores), Portugal: Nova Gráfica, Lda., 2010 [2009], pp. 10–11