18 Oct 2021
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This parish, originally known as Santa Maria do Calhau, was instituted by the first settlers of Funchal Captaincy, and although there's no official records, it was already a reality in 1425.

The first settlers arrive to Funchal's bay between 1420 and 1425, accompanied by a Franciscan priest, one of the three that were found in Porto Santo who had shipwrecked on their way to the Canary Islands. This small population soon felt the need to have religious monitoring thus the origin of a parish. In the meantime, the Order of Christ, jealous of their spiritual privileges in the new lands, promptly sent a priest in 1433, thus removing the Franciscan influence. It is said that the building of the small chapel of Nossa Senhora da Conceição, by the seaside, had something to do with the coming of this same priest.

At the same time, João Gonçalves Zarco ordered the building of another chapel, also in honor of Nossa Senhora da Conceição, located where nowadays we have Santa Clara Convent. This way the first chapel was then entitled of "Senhora do Calhau" – Lady of the Rock.

Funchal population growth together with the economical interest of the crown related to everything that had to do with Madeira, due to its sugarcane production, leading King D. Manuel to order the construction of a new church among the streams of Santa Luzia and São Francisco.

This construction began in 1500 and it was finished in 1508. On this same year, Funchal is elevated to City and in 1514, this church, also known as "the Big Church" would be raised up to the status of Cathedral. In 1558 with another massive population growth, Santa Maria parish is reinstalled and it extends with the land of João Gomes streams.

The original church of Santa Maria do Calhau would end up by being destroyed by the flood of 9 October 1803, when 200 people perished by drowning in the lower part of Funchal. Funchal moves the religious temple towards the church of Santiago Menor, saint patron of the city that would then be the matrix of the parish. Later on the transition of this church to the ancient altar of Our Lady of Perpetual Help (Nossa Senhora da Perpétuo Socorro), of great popular devotion, made it known as Socorro Church

 

Demography:
Population: 2.863 Inhabitants/Km2
Area: 490hac
Surrounding areas: Monte, São Gonçalo, Santa Luzia and Sé
 
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