While passing by Urzelina, one’s eyes are drawn to an isolated church tower in the middle of the landscape almost entirely surrounded by black rocks. The only trace left of the original construction, which was buried by the ruthless volcanic eruption of 1808, witnesses the struggle and the resilience of the Azoreans in face of natural adversities.
In Calheta and Topo, one can see picturesque ports that are the gateway to centuries-old homes and churches with stories to tell. In Velas, the Portão do Mar (Sea Gate) has welcomed since 1799 the boat travellers that have arrived at the port. Within the town, every step leads to valuable buildings, such as the São Jorge Mother Church and the Town Hall. The Baroque church of Santa Bárbara (18th century) is a fascinating example of religious architecture. This church is located in Manadas. Its black and white façade hides an interior with a cedar roof, golden engraved altar and walls, tile panels, altarpieces and paints.
While Velas hosts the Sacred Art Museum, next to its Mother Church, the São Jorge Island Museum in Calheta exhibits ethnographical collections of pottery, weaving, agriculture, cattle-raising, furniture and photography. Comprising the 19th and 20th centuries, this space functions as an illustration of Francisco de Lacerda’s time. Born in Ribeira Seca, in 1869, this “European from São Jorge Island” achieved a brilliant international carrier as an orchestra conductor. Remarkable musicologist, Francisco de Lacerda carried out an important inventory of the island’s folklore. From the work of this composer, Trovas stands out. It is a set of plays for singing and for piano based on the Portuguese and Azorean folk music.
The ponto alto bedspread continues to be handmade in wood weavers’ loom. Few craftswomen are active nowadays, but some may still be found working in Fajã dos Vimes. The Ribeira do Nabo Handicrafts Cooperative also works as a display for the well-known mantas de São Jorge (São Jorge blankets), as well as for cloths, towels, rugs, among other items.