Vila Flor

Lat: -6.313926575890900, Long: -35.076956401740000

Vila Flor

Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil

Historical Background and Urbanism

The oldest report of a Portuguese presence in the region of the city of Vila Flor dates from 1604, when Captain-General Jerónimo de Albuquerque made a grant of land in the area to his sons. However, effective settlement would only begin as a result of a Royal Charter of 23rd September, 1700, which donated to Carmelite priests a square league, in other words six thousand square metres, close to the sandbar of the River Cunhaú, so that they could build a settlement of about 100 houses for the indigenous people of the region. The charter gave rise to the village of Gramació, administered by a missionary from Carmo da Reforma. Added to this were the Jesuit mission of Arez and the Capuchine mission of São José do Mipibu, which already existed in Rio Grande do Norte. The aim was to create settled areas along the east coast of the captaincy. Agriculture and fishing were the main activities of the settlement. Following the expulsion of the priesthood from the missionary villages of Brazil, Gramació was raised to the status of a town in 1768 by Dom Miguel Carlos Caldeira de Pina Castelo Branco. Its name was changed to Vila Flor, in accordance with Pombaline guidelines stipulating that new Brazilian towns should be named after Portuguese towns. The region was important to the Crown as the salt works of Cunhaú had been exploited from the 17th century. The strategic role of the new town explains the splendour of the town hall and prison that was built there. In the 19th century, the salt works of Cunhaú were supplanted by those of Macau and Mamanguape, leading to the decline of Vila Flor, which would even lose its role as the seat of municipality. Walking though the large square of Vila Flor today conveys a very good impression of what missionary villages in Portuguese America looked like. The church in the corner of the square, the cluster of houses with their distinctive doors and windows, and the huge coconut-palm plantation that frames the landscape all evoke the iconography of former villages. Curiously, the existing location does not correspond to the original settlement of Gramació. Archaeological research carried out in the late 1980s identified the original area of the village, which was limited to a fraction of the current square, with the church serving as the symmetrical axis for the two rows of indigenous houses. The town hall and prison, which today is contained within the square, was built outside the original village, which, together with the neglect the region suffered in the 19th and 20th centuries, must have led to the existing arrangement of the urban area of Vila Flor.

Equipment and Infrastructures

Religious Architecture