Quinta da Capela, or “Casa da Capela” as the locals used to call it, originally dated from 1692, belonged for centuries to the illustrious Leal family whose members were Viscounts, Counsellors and Governors.
In 1777 Captain João Nepomuceno Freitas Leal, son of Pantaleão de Freitas Leal and D. Maria do Sacramento e França, ordered the house to be enlarged, with its own chapel dedicated to Saint John Nepomucene (or John of Nepomuk) (1345-1393), born in Prague, Czech Republic, who was assassinated for not disclosing the secrets of confessions by the Queen of Bohemia. Although the chapel was built in 1777 the original house dates from 1692.
Legend has it that when the fishermen were ready to go to sea, they looked up to where the chapel stands and prayed to the Saint for protection.
After Captain João Nepomuceno Freitas Leal, came D. Luísa de Freitas Leal, who left the Quinta to D. Augusta da Câmara Lomelino. Her niece, D. Eugénia de Bianchi Henriques, became the last owner to live in the solar, as she inherited the house from her aunt.
The last direct male member of the Leal family to own the Quinta was the Viscount of Porto da Cruz, Silvano de Freitas Branco (1828-1920). But curiously, the older generation best remembers the times when D. Eugénia occupied the big house.
Many travelers passed between Porto da Cruz and Machico in those times, crossing the property. Indeed, today you can still see where the travelers’ horses were tethered to the rings which are still embedded in the walls.
As the last heirs decided to live in Lisbon, Quinta da Capela was then used as primary school during the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s.
Bought in 1984 by its current owner, the Quinta had to be completely rebuilt. Aided by old photographs supplied by the Funchal archives, the house has acquired its former elegance, maintaining its original characteristics.
A painting portraying Saint John Nepomucene, which hangs in the chapel, disappeared mysteriously when the house was bought. It was painted in 1777 by Nicolau Ferreira, one of the foremost Madeiran painters of his time. Some decades after it turned up in an antiques shop and the owner managed to get it back!
Classified in 1995 as a Monument of Local Interest by Madeira Government, the house has been functioning as a rural touristic hotel since 1994, providing an excellent starting point from which to explore the north of the island via Levadas and hiking.