Tower of Hercules, the oldest lighthouse in the world still in operation

The Tower of Hercules is an ancient Roman lighthouse located in A Coruña, Galicia. It is the oldest functioning lighthouse in the world. The Tower of Hercules was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2009.

Tower of Hercules
Path to the Tower of Hercules

TOWER OF HERCULES: BETWEEN HISTORY AND LEGENDS

Legends

There are many legends that speculate about the origin of the Tower of Hercules. According to the History of Spain by Alfonso X the Wise, Geryon had his subjects subjugated. He forced them to give them half of their goods and children.

Geryon’s subjects went to Hercules, who killed him. Hercules would have buried his head in the place where the Tower of Hercules stands.

Furthermore, the tower has been identified as the mythological Tower of Breogan. It is a construction that appears in the Irish mythological cycle of Lebor Gábala Érenn.

Breogan, according to Irish sources, was king of the Galician city of Brigantia. Brigantia has been associated with the Roman Brigantium, which would have been around A Coruña. The Tower of Breogan would have been renamed Tower of Hercules.

Hercules would have also changed the name of the city. He named it as the first woman to arrive, Crunia, and from there, A Coruña. However, the sources say that it was Alfonso IX who named it so.

Tower of Hercules
Statue of Breogan

History

In historical terms, the origin of the tower is unknown. The Roman construction dates from the 1st century AD. According to the information given by the pottery found, it was built between 40 and 80 AD.

During the Middle Ages, the tower was probably used as a defensive site. Later, abandoned, it was used to build the castle of Santo Antón and the walls.

Already in the 18th century the tower recovers its function as a navigation lighthouse. The commercial activity with America is very intense. This lighthouse made navigation more intense.

Torre de Hércules
Tower of Hercules

WHAT TO SEE IN THE TOWER OF HERCULES

Analyzing the Tower

The Tower of Hercules is located on a hill to the north of the city of A Coruña. It measures a total of 59 metres high. It is very much restored on the outside, so that its Roman remains are reduced to the interior.

The exterior finish is the work of the 18th century restoration, carried out by Eustaqui Giannini. The architect covered the tower, in a neoclassical model, with granite ashlars. He was also responsible for the interior staircase to communicate the floors. Giannini also dismantled the dome and erected an octagonal body for the lighthouse.

The tower has a square plan with a cross inside. Four vaulted chambers articulate it inside. It is also divided into three floors, which were probably connected by an outside staircase or ramp. The last floor had a dome that housed the lighthouse fire.

Nowadays

Nowadays, from the Tower of Hercules you can observe the different archaeological campaigns carried out. There are also magnificent views of A Coruña and, in the distance, of the estuaries and the Sisargas Islands.

The lighthouse is working every night. The range of the four flashes it emits is 24 miles. In fog, it also emits a sound signal that accompanies the light.

Torre de Hércules
Archaeological remains in the Tower of Hercules

Sculpture park of the Tower of Hercules

The area around the Tower of Hercules also has an open-air sculpture park. More than fifteen works of contemporary sculpture by various artists can be seen.

The theme of the artists is divided into two. Firstly, mythological stories about the foundation of the Tower of Hercules. Secondly, references to the marine world, and the marine vocation of the Galician people.

Some works such as Pentacephalic Menhir, by Ramón Miranda, stand out. Also of great importance is the Rosa de los Vientos, by Correa Corredoira, where the Celtic peoples are represented. In addition, in front of the tower, there is a statue of Xosé Cid, representing Breogán, the mythical king of Brigantia.

Torre de Hércules
La Rosa de los Vientos

INFORMATION FOR YOUR VISIT TO THE TOWER OF HERCULES

Location: Avda. de Navarra s/n. 15002 A Coruña.
Telephone: 981 223 730.
Coordinates: 43º 23’N – 8º 24’W
Bus lines: 3, 3A, 5.
Opening hours of the Tower of Hercules: from October to May, from 10 am to 6 pm. From June to September, from 10 am to 9 pm.
Prices of the Tower of Hercules: 3 euros (general); 1.5 euros (reduced). Mondays free.

Furthermore, if you wish to stay longer in A Coruña, we recommend the best accommodation. We will also inform you about the best restaurants.


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