Legend of Machim

According to the legend, from the late fourteenth century and early fifteenth century there was in England a young man named Roberto Machim, legendary knight of the court of king Edward III of England. He was in love with an English lady, Ana de Arfert (or Ana de Harfert), who corresponded to his love, but was to marry a nobleman by the will of her family.

Machim and his friends thought up a plan to rescue the bride before the wedding and take her by boat to France, that at the time was fighting against the English in the Hundred Years War. The date of the escape was agreed with the young woman to be the eve of the wedding day.

As they fled away from the English coast, the lovers were surprised by a storm that caused them to lose the aspired course. Suffering setbacks due to the storm, and not having an experienced pilot on board with them who would put them back on course, they drifted for days until they saw in the distance a "big green spot". They were in front of the island which would later be denominated Madeira island.

Despite the fear of the unknown, desperation led them to approach and because the lady was ill from spending so much time at sea, they disembarked on the inlet that today is the Machico bay. Their anxiety to step ashore was so great, that they left without taking appropriate action as to anchoring the boat. After exploring that part of the island and having satiated their thirst, they realized that a new storm was approaching. They sought refuge among the roots of a large tree that stood there, for the diameter of the trunk circumference was such that its base had a cavity that could shelter many people without any lack of space.

When the storm calmed they noticed that the sea had taken away the boat. The tormented lady, whose health was already debilitated, would die a few days later. Machim raised an enormous wooden cross next to the grave of his beloved, which was near the large tree where they had found shelter. Machim was affected by a very big melancholy and in less than a week he joined his beloved in death.

It is said that the remaining members of the expedition that stayed there, tried to survive and engraved on the cross a brief story of the two beloved. Some died while others resisted until a boat of Moors passed there and rescued them and took them to North Africa, to be sold as slaves. One of these would have been rescued by one of the payments for the release of captives that Christians did with African traders. So it was this way that someone survived and told the saga of Machim, and rumours of said discovery reached the Portuguese.

The legend also tells that us when the Portuguese discoverers came a few years later, they were able to discover the wooden cross and the inscription. They built the first chapel of the island in the tree cavity, thus giving the name of Machico in honour of that inscription.