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João Gonçalves Zarco (Portugal, c. 1390 - Funchal, November 21, 1471 [1]) was a Portuguese explorer who established settlements and recognition of the Madeira Islands, and was appointed first captain of Funchal by Henry the Navigator.

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

Zarco was a knight at the service of Prince Henry the Navigator's household. In his service still at a young age Zarco commanded the caravels guarding the coast of Algarve from the incursions of the Moors, was at the conquest of Ceuta, and later led the caravels that recognized the island of Porto Santo in 1418 to 1419 and afterwards, the island of Madeira 1419 to 1420. He founded the city of Câmara de Lobos. He was granted, as hereditary leader (Capitania), half the island of Madeira (the Capitania of Funchal, being its first Captain). 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 knight of Prince Henry the Navigator's house he participated in the siege of Tangier, in 1437, which ended in failure. The novel of Arkan Simaan, L'Écuyer d'Henri le Navigateur (Harmattan, Paris, 2007), describes Zarco's biography.


  1. ^ Tombo 1º do registo geral da Câmara Municipal do Funchal


  • 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)

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