The small square Largo do Pelourinho, now ‘sunk’ between the mouths of the rivers João Gomes and Santa Luzia, was once the centre of the town. It was also here, where Funchal’s first customhouse and first commercial trading stations used to be.
This square was formed at the beginning of the main road Rua Direita (straight street), a name, which was traditionally given to this kind of streets in medieval Portuguese towns, even if it was far from being ‘straight’. In 1486 the Duke Dom Manuel sent a pillory (‘pelourinho’) to the island, and the location, where it was to be installed, was this square to which it also gave its name.
Still today the Rua Direita begins at this square but ‘dies’ just a few meters ahead, near the old jail. In the 16th century it crossed the Santa Luzia river and ended at the street Rua dos Ferreiros as it is called today. With its buildings from the 17th and 18th century, this small street has managed to maintain its appearance and charm of the good old days.
This area has undergone extensive remodeling due to the disaster of 20th of February. Because of the damage, the Praça da Autonomia, which was adjoined to Largo do Pelourinho, was completely remodeled. During the works, were discovered ruins of the Fort of San Filipe, that were preserved at the time of the finding and today they remain in the open air.