João Gonçalves Zarco

João Gonçalves Zarco

João Gonçalves Zarco, later João Gonçalves Zarco da Câmara de Lobos or simply João Gonçalves Zarco da Câmara (c. Leça da Palmeira (or Tomar) 1390-1467, Funchal), pron. IPA2|ʒu'ɐ̃ũ gõ'saɫvɨʃ 'zaɾku, was a Portuguese navigator and explorer who discovered the Madeira Islands.

Zarco (from the Arabic "zarka", which means "blue eyed") was a nobleman, some argue of Jewish converso origin [Isabel Violante Pereira, "De Mendo da Guarda a D. Manuel I," Lisbon: Livros Horizonte, 2001, p. 83.] . He was a Knight-Hidalgo at the service of Prince Henry the Navigator's household. In his service still at a very young age Zarco commanded the caravels guarding the coast of Algarve from the incursions of the Moors, was at the conquest of Ceuta, where he was hit in one eye by a short arrow while covering for him master (which caused him to suffer from short eyesight, for which reason it is said he established at Funchal because of the medicinal plant "funcho" (fennel) existing there and which gave the name to the city), and later led the fleet that discovered the island of Porto Santo (1418/1419) and afterwards, rumor has it, purely by coincidence, the island of Madeira (1419/1420). He took his new last name from the first place he arrived on the Island, Câmara de Lobos. He was granted, as hereditary fief (Capitania), half the Island of Madeira (the Donatary Capitania of Funchal, being its first Donatary Captain). Also, together with his fellow fleet commanders, Tristão Vaz Teixeira and Bartolomeu Perestrelo, he started the colonization of the islands in 1425.In his role of noble of Prince Henry the Navigator's house he participated in the failure siege of Tangier, in 1437.The date of death of João Gonçalves Zarco is uncertain, at the second half of the 15th century, but most people agree on 1467.

A statue of Zarco stands on the Avenida Arriaga, one the main streets in the Madeiran capital of Funchal.

Ancestry and descendency

His parents were Gonçalo Esteves Zarco and wife Brites de Santarém (daughter of João Afonso de Santarém (himself the son of Afonso Guilherme de Santarém, the son of Guilherme de Santarém, son of another Afonso Guilherme de Santarém) and wife Filipa Lopes de Couros, male line ancestors of Frei Luís de Sousa). His father was the son of Estêvão Pires Zarco, son of Pedro Esteves Zarco, son of Estêvão Gonçalves Zarco, son of Gonçalo ... Zarco.

He married Constança Rodrigues, daughter of Rodrigo Lopes de Sequeiros (?) and wife, and had:
* João Gonçalves da Câmara (d. Funchal, Madeira, 26 March, 1501), married to Dona Mécia de Noronha, daughter of Dom João Henriques de Noronha (bastard son of Alfonso, Count of Gijón and Noroña) and wife Beatriz, Lady de Mirabel and sister of Dom Garcia Henriques, and had issue, and also one bastard son by an unknown mother
* Rui Gonçalves da Câmara, 3rd Donatary Captain of São Miguel Island, married to Maria de Bettencourt, natural daughter of Maciot de Bettencourt by Teguise, without issue, he had a bastard son by one Maria Rodrigues and three more children by an unknown mother
* Garcia Rodrigues da Câmara, married to Violante de Freitas, and had issue
* Beatriz Gonçalves da Câmara, married to Diogo Cabral (grand-uncle of Pedro Álvares Cabral), son of Fernando Álvares Cabral, 2nd Lord de Azurara and wife, as her second husband, Teresa Freire de Andrade (descendant of Charlemagne and Ferdinand I of Castile), and had issue
* Isabel Gonçalves da Câmara, married to Diogo Afonso de Aguiar, o Velho (the Old), son of Pedro Afonso de Aguiar, Hidalgo of the Royal Household, and wife Mécia de Sequeira, and had issue
* Helena Gonçalves da Câmara, married to Martim Mendes de Vasconcelos (descendant of Charlemagne, Hugh Capet and Ferdinand I of Castile), son of Martim Mendes de Vasconcelos and wife Inês Martins de Alvarenga, and had issue
* Catarina Gonçalves da Câmara, married to Dom Garcia Homem de Sousa, son of Dom João Homem de Sousa (descendant of Charlemagne and Ferdinand I of Castile) and wife Mór Mafalda or Martins, and had issue
* Mécia de Abreu, married to Dom Pedro de Moura, son of Dom Rolim de Moura, 4th Lord de Azambuja (descendant of Alfonso IX of León), and wife Brites Caldeira, and had issue


* António da Costa de Albuquerque de Sousa Lara, 2nd Count de Guedes, Vasco de Bettencourt de Faria Machado e Sampaio and Marcelo Olavo Correia de Azevedo, "Ascendências Reais de Sua Alteza Real a Senhora Dona Isabel de Herédia Duquesa de Bragança", I, "pelos Costados Herédia, Bettencourt e Meneses da Ilha da Madeira" (Universitária Editora, 1999)


* The novel of Arkan Simaan, "L'Écuyer d'Henri le Navigateur" (Harmattan, Paris, 2007), tells Zarco's life.

External links

* [ João Gonçalves Zarco's genealogy in a Portuguese genealogical site]
*Zarco's statue on Madeira [

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