of the measuring instruments at the City of
Sugar - Funchal Museum
City of Sugar Museum (Núcleo Museológico
A Cidade do Açucar) serves as a retrospective
on the history of Funchal guided along the central
theme of sugar - the industry that helped shape
the early vestiges of Funchal, and Madeira.
the growth of importance of the wine industry or the
importance of tourism as the leading industry in the
latter part of the twentieth century sugar played
the pivotal and crucial role in the consolidation
of the island and the city of Funchal as one of the
most important centres of civil activity in
Imperial Portugal during the sixteenth through to
the eighteenth centuries.
Incredible fortunes were amassed by the early settlers
and developers of the island that involved themselves
with the sugar trade. Christopher Columbus
himself was involved in the trade of sugar here -
was he perhaps hoping to make his own personal fortune
to pay his way to the Americas? The wealth
created by these merchants helped build the physical
structure of the island and Funchal. One
such edifice of Funchal was the residence and home
of "João Esmeraldo" - a Flemish
settler that traded in sugar between Madeira and other
parts of Europe. (The site of the current museum under
discussion). The building was demolished in 1877.
However, under the auspices of the city council efforts
were made in 1989 to uncover the foundations of the
building still recoverable - despite the controversy
surrounding the authenticity of the location of the
esteemed sugar trader's residence - in and around
the yellow Praça de Colombo
or "Columbus Square".
The museum includes some of the objects found during
the excavations of the foundation.
museum is designed along chronological lines
and shows in detail the rise and decline of the impact
of sugar on the city. Prominence, however, is given
to the instruments and the types of sugar
used in trade between the island and the rest of the
sixteenth and seventeenth century worlds. Items displayed
include English and Portuguese variants of measuring
instruments (scales, weights, measuring
pots, and so on).
important and interesting feature of the museum are
the remnants of one of the earliest Coat of Arms
for the city of Funchal (circa 1584). Interestingly
enough the coat of arms, different to that of today,
shows elements or icons of sugar cane plants - underlying
the enormous role of that product in the diurnal routine
of sixteenth century Funchal. Alongside the colourful
archive of documents to the coat of arms there are
also some significant tiles from across a spectrum
of several centuries, and some important maps
- including a very good and important copy of a map
of Funchal from 1572.