João José Rodrigues Leitão first bought this property in the early 1800’s, at that stage it consisted of a large acreage of land around this parish of Rochinha, the Chapel dating back to 1790, the Sacristy and the Priest’s living quarters. João José Rodrigues Leitão extended the west side of the Chapel which is now the family house. He was by profession a Banker. Unfortunately he got into serious financial difficulties and was in danger of losing everything.
At this time however, he had a nephew, also named João José Rodrigues Leitão Jr whom he had brought up as a son. João José Rodrigues Leitão Jr. had in his early days gone to Africa where he followed a life of trading and exploring. His many exploits in Africa and in particular the Congo brought him the notice of the King of Portugal who bestowed on him the title of Viscount of Cacongo. On his return from Africa, having made a considerable amount of money he married his uncle’s daughter and bought out all the lands and properties, thus saving is uncle from financial disaster. João José Rodrigues Leitão Jr died in 1925, he left no children as his son Christiano had died in Africa (**) and his daughter died here in the Quinta from an accident whilst jumping over a bonfire.
The Quinta then passed to his nephew, Carlos Ernesto Rodrigues Leitão who also inherited the title Viscount of Cacongo. Carlos Ernesto Rodrigues Leitão never married and when he died in 1957 the Quinta passed to his niece Cecília Leitão Branco e Brito Jardim, the present owner who lives here together with her daughter and family.
The title of Viscount of Cacongo has now become extinct but many people in Madeira still know Quinta Mãe dos Homens as Quinta do Visconde, Quinta of the Viscount. A bronze bust of the 1st Viscount by Francisco Franco, one of Portugal’s best known sculptors, dated 1915, is in the garden on the west side of the house.
The chapel has been in constant use throughout all of these generations for family weddings, christenings and funerals. Our guests are welcome to visit the chapel any week-day. Please contact the Reception.
An historic property based on agriculture, had little hope of survival once Portugal joined the EU. Therefore, in 1990, the buildings around the old wine press at the end of the drive were converted into holiday apartments. This building was built in 1990 and was named The Wine Press Apartments with 8 one bedroomed apartments. The second building was built in 1998 and was named The Garden Apartment with a total of 14 various types of apartments.
Since then, the success of the Garden Village has grown year by year, as visitors from all corners of the world come to appreciate this opportunity to share in the history of this unique estate.
(**) See extract from “African Drums” re-produced in this booklet.