Cape St. Vincent

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Cape St. Vincent
North shore of Cape St. Vincent as seen from the lighthouse
Highest point
PeakCabo de São Vicente, Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park
Coordinates37°1′30″N 8°59′40″W / 37.02500°N 8.99444°W / 37.02500; -8.99444Coordinates: 37°1′30″N 8°59′40″W / 37.02500°N 8.99444°W / 37.02500; -8.99444
EtymologyVincent of Saragossa
Native nameCabo de São Vicente
Cape St. Vincent is located in Portugal
Cape St. Vincent
Cape St. Vincent
Location of the Cabo de São Vicente in continental Portugal
Country Portugal

Cape St. Vincent (Portuguese: Cabo de São Vicente, Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈkabu dɨ sɐ̃w̃ viˈsẽtɨ]) is a headland in the municipality of Vila do Bispo, in the Algarve, southern Portugal. It is the southwesternmost point of Portugal and of mainland Europe.


Cape St. Vincent was already sacred ground in Neolithic times, as standing menhirs in the neighborhood attest. The ancient Greeks called it Ophiussa (Land of Serpents), inhabited by the Oestriminis and dedicated here a temple to Heracles. The Romans called it Promontorium Sacrum (or Holy Promontory). Strabo, in his Geography calls this cape the most western tip of the known world and reports the place was considered magical. Common people believed the sun sank here hissing into the ocean, marking the edge of their world, which Strabo qualifies as "common and vulgar reports" and attributes to Posidonius[1]

According to legend, the name of this cape is linked to the story of a martyred fourth-century Iberian deacon St. Vincent whose body was brought ashore here. A shrine was erected over his grave; according to the Arab geographer Al-Idrisi, it was always guarded by ravens and is therefore named by him كنيسة الغراب (Kanīsah al-Ghurāb, meaning "Church of the Raven"). King Afonso Henriques (1139–1185) had the body of the saint exhumed in 1173 and brought it by ship to Lisbon, still accompanied by the ravens. This transfer of the relics is depicted on the coat of arms of Lisbon. All existing buildings—including the Vila do Infante of Henry the Navigator—fell into ruins because of the Lisbon earthquake of 1755. The Franciscan friars who cared for the shrine stayed on until 1834, when all monasteries were disbanded in Portugal.

Naval battles[edit]

Several naval battles have been fought in the vicinity of this cape:


This cape is the southwesternmost point in Portugal. It forms the southwestern end of the E9 European Coastal Path, which runs for 5,000 km (3,100 mi) to Narva-Jõesuu in Estonia. Approximately six kilometers from the village of Sagres, the cape is a landmark for a ship traveling to or from the Mediterranean. The cliffs rise nearly vertically from the Atlantic to a height of 75 meters. The cape is a site of exuberant marine life and a high concentration of birds nesting on the cliffs, such as the rare Bonelli's eagle, peregrine falcons, kites, rock thrushes, rock pigeons, storks and herons.

The present lighthouse is 24 metres (79 ft) high and was built over the ruins of a 16th-century Franciscan convent in 1846.[3] The statues of St. Vincent and St. Francis Xavier had been moved to church of Nossa Senhora da Graça on Point Sagres 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) away.[3] This lighthouse, guarding one of the world's busiest shipping lanes, is among the most powerful in Europe (the most powerful being Phare du Creach on the French island of Ushant, off the coast of Brittany); its two 1,000 W lamps can be seen as far as 60 kilometres (37 mi) away.[3]




  1. ^ Strabo, Geography, III
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c Neto, João; Xavier, António (1998), SIPA (ed.), Fortaleza do Cabo de São Vicente/Convento do Corvo/Convento de São Vicente do Cabo/Farol de São Vicente (IPA.00002891/PT050815040005) (in Portuguese), Lisbon, Portugal: SIPA – Sistema de Informação para o Património Arquitectónico, archived from the original on 18 August 2016, retrieved 2 August 2016


  • The Rough Guide to Portugal (11th ed.), March 2005, ISBN 1-84353-438-X
  • Rentes de Carvalho, J. (August 1999), Portugal, um guia para amigos (in Portuguese) (9th ed.), Amsterdam: Arbeiderspers, ISBN 90-295-3466-4