Pessegueiro Island

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Pessegueiro Island (Ilha Pessegueiro)
Island (Ilha)
Porto Covo January 2011-2b.jpg
The island of Pessegueiro as seen from the village of Porto Covo, during a winter storm
Official name: Ilha do Pessegueiro
Name origin: pessegueiro, Portuguese word for peachtree; literally "island of the peachtree"
Country  Portugal
Region Alentejo
Subregion Alentejo Litoral
Location Vicentine Coast, Atlantic Ocean
Municipality Sines
Civil parishes Porto Covo
Landmark Fort of Pessegueiro Island
Highest point
 - elevation 21 m (69 ft)
 - coordinates 37°50′0.57″N 8°47′51.22″W / 37.8334917°N 8.7975611°W / 37.8334917; -8.7975611
Lowest point Sea level
 - location Atlantic Ocean
 - elevation 0 m (0 ft)
Length .20 km (0 mi), West-East
Width .32 km (0 mi), North-South
Biomes Temperate, Mediterranean
Geology Alkali basalt, Tephra, Trachyte, Trachybasalt
Orogeny Volcanism
Period Holocene
Ethnic groups Portuguese
Wikimedia Commons: Ilha do Pessegueiro
Statistics from INE (2001); geographic detail from Instituto Geográfico Português (2010)

Pessegueiro Island (Portuguese: Ilha do Pessegueiro), literally island of the Peachtree, is a small island/islet located along the southwest coast of the civil parish of Porto Covo in the municipality of Sines. The island and the adjacent coast are part of Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park, but Pessegueiro island is also notable for the 15th-16th century fort located at its centre and Roman ruins along the coast.

History[edit]

Pessegueiro Island, view from the north

Historically, the island was first occupied by the Carthaginians before the Second Punic War (218-202 BCE).

At the time of the Roman conquest of Hispania, the island hosted a small fish processing centre, as determined by archaeological excavations which discovered the remains of salt tanks along the southern coast.

To help defend against privateers, the natural anchorage was extended at the time of the Iberian Union with an artificial rock barrier connecting the island of Pessegueiro to the coastline. In 1590, construction began on the Fort of Pessegueiro Island, which came to occupy a dominant position on the island, with the purpose of providing military support to a fort on the mainland. Work on the project was halted in 1598 in order to construct the Fort of Vila Nova de Milfontes.

The legend of Our Lady of Queimada[edit]

According to tradition, in the middle of the 18th century, Barbary pirates arriving on the island from Algeria and Morocco encountered a Christian hermit who was maintaining a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The pirates killed the monk, looted the chapel and threw her statue into the flames.

Later the inhabitants of Porto Covo buried the Christian hermit, but could not, at first, find the sacred image. Deciding to search the entire island, they finally found the statue within a burned bush but unharmed by the fire: the image became known as the Queimada (Burnt Virgin). The statue was removed to the mainland, one kilometre from the island, where a new chapel was built, known as the Chapel of the Burned Virgin (Portuguese: Capela de Nossa Senhora da Queimada), becoming a destination for pilgrimages.

Geography[edit]

Located 300 metres (330 yd) from the coast by a channel, it is situated south of the parish seat of Porto Covo, southwest of a small inlet used by fishing boats.[1]

Part of the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park it is migratory stop and hatchery for many marine bird species, some on the verge of extinction, including seagulls, cormorants and carrion crows.[2]

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ Sailing Directions (Enroute): West Coast of Europe and Northwest Africa (PDF) (Pub.143), Springfield, Virginia: National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, 2011, p. 142, retrieved 14 January 2012 
  2. ^ "Ilha do Pessegueiro" (in Portuguese). Sines, Portugal: Câmara Municipal de Sines. 2011. Retrieved 14 January 2012.