Tower of Hercules

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Tower of Hercules
Native names
Galician: Torre de Hércules
Spanish: Torre de Hércules
A coruna torre de hercules sunset edit.jpg
LocationCoruña, Galicia, Spain
Coordinates43°23′9″N 8°24′23″W / 43.38583°N 8.40639°W / 43.38583; -8.40639Coordinates: 43°23′9″N 8°24′23″W / 43.38583°N 8.40639°W / 43.38583; -8.40639
Elevation57 metres (187 ft)
Built2nd century AD
Visitors149,440[1] (in 2009)
Governing bodyMinistry of Culture
Official nameTower of Hercules
Designated2009 (33rd session)
Reference no.1312
RegionEurope and North America
Official nameTorre de Hércules
TypeRoyal property
Designated3 June 1931
Reference no.(R.I.) - 51 - 0000540 - 00000
Tower of Hercules is located in Galicia
Tower of Hercules
Site of the Tower of Hercules in Galicia

The Tower of Hercules (Spanish: Torre de Hércules) is an ancient Roman lighthouse on a peninsula about 2.4 km (1.5 mi) from the centre of A Coruña, Galicia, in north-western Spain. Until the 20th century, it was known as the "Farum Brigantium". The Latin word farum is derived from the Greek Φάρος Pharos for the Lighthouse of Alexandria. The structure stands 55 metres (180 ft) tall and overlooks the North Atlantic coast of Spain. It was built in the 2nd century and renovated in 1791, and is the oldest lighthouse in use today.

There is a sculpture garden featuring works by Pablo Serrano and Francisco Leiro.[2] The Tower of Hercules is a National Monument of Spain, and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 27 June 2009.[3] It is the second-tallest lighthouse in Spain, after the Faro de Chipiona.

Construction and history[edit]

The tower is known to have existed by the 2nd century, built or perhaps rebuilt under Trajan, possibly on foundations following a design that was Phoenician in origin. It is thought to be modeled after the Lighthouse of Alexandria. Its base preserves a cornerstone with the inscription MARTI AUG.SACR C.SEVIVS LVPVS ARCHTECTVS AEMINIENSIS LVSITANVS.EX.VO, permitting the original lighthouse tower to be ascribed to the architect Gaius Sevius Lupus, from Aeminium (present-day Coimbra, Portugal) in the former province of Lusitania, as an offering dedicated to the Roman god of war, Mars. The tower has been in constant use since the 2nd century and is considered to be the oldest extant lighthouse. The original tower was shorter and wider, as the surviving core was surrounded by a spiral ramp. The outline of this ramp is still visible in the restored exterior. The final storey was likely surmounted with a dome.

The earliest known reference to the lighthouse at Brigantium is by Paulus Orosius in Historiae adversum Paganos written around 415–417:[4]

Secundus angulus circium intendit, ubi Brigantia Gallaeciae civitas sita altissimum farum et inter pauca memorandi operis ad speculam Britanniae erigit ("At the second angle of the circuit circumnavigating Hispania, where the Gallaecian city of Brigantia is sited, a very tall lighthouse is erected among a few commemorative works, for looking towards Britannia.")

Plan and elevation, from Joseph Cornide, Investigaciones sobre la fundación y fábrica de la torre llamada de Hércules, 1792

In 1788, the surviving 34-metre (112 ft) tower core was given a neoclassical restoration, including a new 21-metre (69 ft) fourth story.[3] The restoration was undertaken by naval engineer Eustaquio Giannini during the reign of Charles III of Spain, and was finished in 1791.[3] Within, the much-repaired Roman and medieval masonry may be inspected.

The Romans who conquered this region of Spain believed it to be, in a figurative sense, the end of the earth—hence its name, Finisterra. This region is notorious for shipwrecks, earning it the name Costa da Morte, "Coast of Death".


Through the millennia many mythical stories of the lighthouse's origin have been told. According to a myth that mixes Celtic and Greco-Roman elements, the hero Hercules slew the giant tyrant Geryon after three days and three nights of continuous battle. Hercules then—in a Celtic gesture—buried the head of Geryon with his weapons and ordered that a city be built on the site. The lighthouse atop a skull and crossbones representing the buried head of Hercules’ slain enemy appears in the coat-of-arms of the city of Coruña.

Another legend embodied in the 11th-century Irish compilation Lebor Gabála Érenn—the "Book of Invasions"—King Breogán, the founding father of the Galician Celtic nation, constructed a massive tower of such a grand height that his sons could see a distant green shore from its top. The glimpse of that distant green land lured them to sail north to Ireland. According to the legend Breogán's descendants stayed in Ireland and are the Celtic ancestors of the current Irish people. A colossal statue of Breogán has been erected near the Tower.

Possible locations of Brigantia[edit]

The Tower of Hercules, in the coat of arms of Corunna
Breogán and the Tower of Hercules
View of the surrounding park.

Early geographical descriptions on the location of Brigantia point out that the town could be actually located in Corunna or in the locality of the modern town of Betanzos. There is some debate about this, as the people from Betanzos claim it as a fact that Betanzos was referred to as "the former city of Brigancia"[5][6] until the 17th century, both in literary accounts as well as in maps, and they also believe that the name Betanzos is a phonetical evolution from Brigantium > Breganzo > Betanzos. This, however, could be a false etymology.

The Betanzos tradition claims that the port of Betanzos was getting too small for the larger mediaeval ships, and that king Alfonso IX of León decided to create a bigger port nearby in the 13th century. The place he chose was an uninhabited place called Clunia, which later on evolved to Cruña and Coruña, and so (in English) to Corunna. The place name Clunia is believed to come from the Proto-Celtic root *klou̯ni (cf. Old Irish cluain), meaning meadow.

However, the Coruña tradition maintains that the "port" of Betanzos (which is a fluvial one, in a quite small river) was far too small for Roman warships to dock at, for example when Julius Caesar visited this area [7] with "more than a hundred triremes". It is demonstrated that Corunna was an important Roman site, as graveyards and other Roman remains have been found in the city centre,[8][9] demonstrating that the site was inhabited in the Roman period, and was deserted only during the early Middle Ages due to Viking attacks, when its people moved inland to O Burgo (now Culleredo). The proponents of Corunna also explain the different name as a change that occurred in the Middle Ages, and point out that the lighthouse, which was called "Pharum Brigantium", was erected in Corunna, and is at least 25 km (or a day's walk) from Betanzos.

See also[edit]


Specific references
  1. ^ "As visitas á Torre de Hércules incrementáronse en 20.000 persoas durante o ano pasado" [Visits to the Tower of Hércules have grown in 20.000 people during last year]. (in Spanish). January 4, 2010. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  2. ^ Thomas Baldwin (1847). "Tower%20of%20Hercules" A Universal Pronouncing Gazetteer ... Lindsay & Blakiston. p. 169.[failed verification]
  3. ^ a b c UNESCO website
  4. ^ Paulus Orosius, Historiae adversum Paganos, i.2.71.
  5. ^ Haydon, Frank Scott (1863). Eulogium: (historiarum Sive Temporis): Chronicon Ab Orbe Condito Usque Ad Annum Domini M.CCC.LXVI, a Monacho Quodam Malmesburiensi Exaratum. Accedunt Continuationes Duæ, Quarum Una Ad Annum M.CCCC.XIII., Altera Ad Annum M.CCCC.XC. Perducta Est (in Latin). Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans and Roberts.
  6. ^ Haydon, F. S. (2012-11-15). Eulogium (Historiarum Sive Temporis) (in Latin). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-108-04260-4.
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ "Tres mujeres romanas dan la cara por los primeros coruñeses" [Three Roman women show their faces for the first people from A Coruña]. (in Spanish). Retrieved 2017-12-17.
  9. ^ Coruña, La Opinión de A. "A Coruña - La Opinión A Coruña – Hemeroteca 29-08-2007". Retrieved 2017-12-17.
General references

External links[edit]