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Tower of Hércules

The Roman lighthouse

The Tower of Hércules was built as a lighthouse by the Romans, possibly towards the end of the 1st century and the beginning of the 2nd.

  • Tower of Hércules

From its original appearance, today we conserve its interior, with an architectural lining done in the late 18th century. At its foot, there is also a Latin inscription carved on the rock that is preserved – now protected by a small building – which contains the name of the possible Roman architect and author of the tower.

The Romans...

There are still many unknowns about the origin and the primitive appearance of the Tower of Hércules, but the data so far supplied and verified by scientific research (archaeological digs, study of the architectural walls and the construction methods, the documentation preserved) allows us to state that Romans were the original builders of the lighthouse.

After the conquest by Rome of Western Europe (Spain, Gaul and Britain), the bay of A Coruña becomes highly important to the Roman shipping routes that connect the Mediterranean and North Atlantic coastal areas. Located on a dangerous coast, it became a great dock for the ships that undertook the route towards Britain or that were coming from the dangers of rounding Cape Finisterre. The Romans created a major port enclave, which they named Brigantium, and to provide support to the navigation of commercial and military ships, they constructed a large lighthouse which we now call the Tower of Hércules.

The data so far supplied and verified by scientific research allows us to state that Romans were the original builders of the lighthouse.

From the inscription preserved at the foot of the tower, we know that the builder was Gaius Sevius Lupus, architect of the city of Aeminium  (the present-day city of Coimbra in Portugal). With the current data available and without absolute certainty, its construction is attributed to the time of Roman Emperor Trajan, who ruled between A.D. 98 and 117.

We do not know with certainty what its outside appearance was like. But after the archaeological excavations at the base of the Torre, we know that had an outer perimeter wall and a ramp or flight of stone steps that led to the upper platform. We also do not know exactly what the Roman crowning of the Tower was like but  – based on the information preserved – it would have had a circular layout finishing in a dome shape with a hole in the centre for the output of the light and smoke that would guide the ships.

The inner section – now preserved – has a square base with four interior openings that are connected two with two; vertically, it was divided into three successive floors, and the openings were formed with barrel vaults. These areas may have served – among other things – to save the combustible material that would burn at the top and also to safeguard the service staff in the Torre.

> Text provided by the City hall of A Coruña

 

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