Santa Catarina Park, Funchal
Santa Catarina Park or, in Portuguese, Parque de Santa Catarina, is situated on the western side of Funchal, the capital city of Madeira. It has a total area of some 36,000 square metres.
The grounds encompass the site of the Cemetery of Our Lady of Angustias which served as the final resting place for the inhabitants of Funchal from 1837 to 1939. Following on from their 1837 purchase, the municipality of Funchal acquired more adjacent ground in 1946. The park, as we know it today, was opened to the public in 1966.
This video gives a brief introduction to the sights of Santa Catarina Park. It is 2 minutes and 51 seconds in length.
Within the grounds of Santa Catarina Parque is the Chapel of Santa Catarina which was built in 1425 and originally surrounded by woods. It gives it's name to the present day park.
The small chapel has plain whitewashed walls and and is fronted by a porch which has a holy water stoup. Generally, the chapel is not open to the public. From it's position, it looks out across the bay.
Nearby is a statue of Christopher Columbus. From here, it is a short walk to Funchal seafront, the harbour and marina.
The Chapel of Santa Catarina is dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria who reputedly tried to convert the Roman Emperor Maxentius to the Christian faith. Although St. Catherine is said to have converted the Emperor's wife and many others, her fate was to be executed by beheading for her activities.
That the Chapel of Santa Catarina was founded and dedicated by Constança Rodriguez, the wife of João Gonçalves Zarco, is generally regarded as a public statement of her hopes for the newly established settlement of Funchal.
St. Catherine was originally condemned to death on the breaking wheel, a wooden wheel, often with spikes, upon which the victim was tied and beaten. It is said that when St. Catherine touched the wooden instrument of torture, it itself broke. This is he origin of the term Catherine Wheel.