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Terceira Island Handicraft

In Terceira the women embroider linen with traditional motifs where themes of blue and green flowers predominate. They also make dainty lace, artificial flowers, and the traditional caps worn by shepherds. The men, on the other hand, account for the wickerwork, pottery, objects of daily use made from the island’s cedar wood, ornaments made from animal horns, tin articles, colorful slippers, practical galoshes, and the guitars that are heard on feast days.

The Counterpanes Made on Looms

The weaving tradition on Terceira dates back to the settlement period, when families depended on homemade woolen and linen cloth to make their own clothing. The heavy old looms are still used to make woolen counterpanes in many colors and with geometrical designs. These counterpanes are used all over the island to cover beds and also to decorate windows on festive occasions.

The “Empires” of the Holy Ghost

All over Terceira one finds the colorful chapels known as “imperios” (empires) or “teatros” (theatres) of the Holy Ghost, with their detailed decorations and fantastic shapes contrasting against the whiteness of Terceira’s villages. “imperios” are one of the most original, traditional, and interesting forms of Azorean popular architecture and of the peculiarities of the local way of life and state of mind.

There are about 50 “imperios” spread all over the island. Most of these “imperios” date from the 19th century when they replaced the original ones part of which, it is thought, were wooden structures that could be put together and taken apart. Annexed to the “imperios” are the “larders”, where the bread, meat, and wine to be used in the festivals is kept; some of them featuring allegorical decorations.

At the top of their facades the “imperios” have a white dove or crown. The windows are large, usually with wrought iron gratings. Inside is the altar, with its niche where the crown and plate are placed, and the tables used by the members of the Brotherhood to receive alms and offer food and wine to anyone they decide to grace.

The Houses with Their Curious Chimneys

The fact that most of the settlers of Terceira came from the Alentejo and Algarve in southern Portugal is revealed by the rural houses with their white walls and colored edgings along the doors, windows, and corners. Made up of dressed stones forming a rectangle of parallel pipes which ends in a wedge, the chimneys are called “mão-postas” (hands in prayer) by the people. To prevent rain from entering, many have a canopy part made of bricks or tiles. The aprons of dressed stone are typical as well: rounded or of straight lines, they come down from the window sill and end in a fleur-de-lis, point, or rosette.

Every house in Terceira has a surrounding garden and next to it is the “burra de milho” where the ears of maize are kept when they are not simply hung from the branches of trees. This offers a unique and unexpected sight.