The exact date, when the construction of this fortress was first started, is not yet known. Although, it is believed that the construction had already begun in 1606, the fortress was only finished during the second half of the 17th century. At around that time its name was also changed to São Filipe, then in the 19th century to São Miguel and later back to São João again.
In the 20th century the fortress was ceded to the Navy, which installed their communications centre here. Classified monument of public interest in 1943, this fortress offers a magnificent view over Funchal to all those who made it up the steep alley!