Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Visiting Igreja Matriz of Vila de São Sebastião in Terceira Island

One of the first things that I wanted to do as soon as I arrived in Terceira Island was to visit Vila de São Sebastião, where many of my ancestors lived, including my great grandfather, Francisco Machado Drummond, who immigrated to Brazil, with 13 years old, in 1874.

The first days I spent at the island the weather didn’t cooperate too much. It was cold, windy and always raining. I wanted to walk where my ancestors walked, and that wasn’t helping me in my endeavor. One day, I decided to stop the car anyway and visit the Igreja Matriz, which is situated in the middle of the Vila of São Sebastião, and was really significant in the lives of my family.

Igreja Matriz de São Sebastião, Terceira Island
 This historic church was built initially in 1455 by the first settlers of Terceira Island. During the years of its existence, the church has suffered lots of remodeling which changed the original building, but today, after some conservation work, it shows what is the most expressive from the original plant of the church, like the portal from the Manoelino period and the frescoes from the late medieval period that were recently uncovered and are being restored right now.  Many other architectonic aspects are relevant and characterize this church as the “gem” of the Azores.

Manoelino portal and I

Late medieval frescoes
In this Igreja Matriz, all the women from my maternal lineage were married, and most of them were baptized as well. Therefore, this place was beyond just a tourist visit, it was something that I knew was going to touch my heart. My mtDNA was speaking higher and I could felt I wasn’t there as a simple tourist, looking at one more “gem” of the architectural history of Azores; everything that was surrounding me was enticing. Being able to enter the doorway where my ancestors walked through; having eyes to appreciate what they had appreciated in the centuries before was very moving. I prayed, I made the sign of the cross, I kneel down; transitory catholic gestures that took place in the centuries before, but all coming back to my imagination, taking me in a tunnel of time, while I was doing it.

The main Altar where marriages were celebrated.

Baptismal font
While in Terceira Island, I came back a few times to Igreja Matriz de São Sebastião to have a closer look to its architecture and to keep fresh the great sensation that I felt before. I have great memories from that visit which I try to reconstruct with my heart, documents and history I have been researching on my Azorean family.


  1. Thankyou, you have done a wonderfull job. I can see where my GG Grandpa came from , its great to see the photos as I may never see it in real life
    Best Wishes

    1. Chris,
      You are very welcome, Chris! I love to see comments like yours, they just shows that what I'm doing the right thing. I will continue posting on the upcoming weeks, so keep an eye. If you need any additional information on your family there, just send me an email.
      Wish you all the best as well.

    2. I too, have ancestors from Sao Sebastiao. I was in this Church that you have photographed. I do not speak Portuguese. What do you charge to do translations? I also have family that migrated to Brazil. Some stayed, often they went back and forth to Terceira, sometimes staying a year at a time in Brazil. Some brought wives back to Terceira.

    3. Hi,
      Thanks for visiting my blog. I will be glad to help you, but your profile shows here as Anonymous, so I can't contact you or neither know your name. If you can please send me an email to myportuguesegen at gmail dot com, I will be glad to help you.

  2. I hope your blog is still active and you see this. We have just returned from a trip to Terceira and the visit to this church was a highlight for me. The frescoes are still being meticulously restored and are amazing. We watched the three young women at work and were able to interrupt for a little information as well. It makes me happy to know that you were able to walk in the footsteps of your ancestors. Best to you.

    1. Kathy
      I am still active in my blog and so glad to receive comments like yours. It was a wonderful experience visiting Terceira and São Sebastião where my family lived since the beginning of the 1600's. I am for your recent trip, I hope you enjoyed as much! All the best!


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