Anthroponyms seta CABRAL, Gonçalo Velho

First donatory captain of the islands of Santa Maria and São Miguel, in the archipelago of the Azores. He was the son of Fernão Velho, chief alcaide of the Valada castle, belonging to the Order of Christ, and of Dona Maria Álvares Cabral. He was a knight of the Order of Christ, Knight Commander of Almourol, Lord of Pias, Cardiga and Beselga, and servant to infant Prince Henrique. It is said he sailed to Terra Alta in 1426. The Azorean author Gaspar Frutuoso, in his work Saudades da Terra, refers Gonçalo Velho as being the discoverer of the Azorean archipelago, thus reproducing oral traditional tales. According to Frutuoso, Gonçalo Velho discovered the island of Santa Maria in 1432 and the island of São Miguel in 1444. Neither Gomes Eanes de Zurara nor Duarte Pacheco Pereira mention him in their works. For this and other reasons, details concerning the discovery of the Azores are vague. In a chart of 1439, by Catalan Gabriel de Valsequa, the archipelago of the Azores is drawn with some thoroughness; in that map, a subtitle tells us that the archipelago was discovered by a man called Diego, even though the second name cannot be distinctly read. According to the paleographic reading of Damião Peres, it was a man called Diogo de Silves, sailor at the service of infant Prince Henrique, who would have discovered the archipelago in 1427. Thus, it is not possible to state with all certainty that Gonçalo Velho Cabral discovered the Azores, but it is possible to say that he was the first settler of the islands of Santa Maria and São Miguel. The beginning of the peopling must have occurred between 1439 and 1443, a period in which Gonçalo Velho established residence in Santa Maria. To be noticed that until 1474 the islands of Santa Maria and São Miguel were part of one captaincy. At an uncertain date, Gonçalo Velho returned to the Realm and one of his nephews, called João Soares de Sousa or João Soares de Albergaria, was given the position.

ALVES, José, ?Cabral, Gonçalo Velho? in Dicionário de História dos Descobrimentos Portugueses, vol. I, Lisboa, Caminho, 1994, p. 152. RODRIGUES, José Damião, ?Cabral, Gonçalo Velho? in Enciclopédia Açoriana, [em linha], S. Miguel, Centro de Conhecimento dos Açores. Disponível em: (

Author: Teresa Lacerda
Translated by: Maria das Mercês Pacheco

Sponsorship: Câmara Municipal de Lagos

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