Rome Last Beacon

22/08/2013 19:20

From the viewpoint there is an excellent sight. The evergreen grass is 223 feet beneath, where also lies a great compass rose placing the point. Waves break against the rocks 347 feet below. To the east and in the background it’s Cape Prioriño and the Ferrol estuary entrance. Nearer Betanzos and A Coruña estuary mouths and almost at touching distance is Herminia Point. Westwards Riazor Beach and to the south, the city.

According to legend, written in the Leabhar Ghabhála Érenn second book, or Book of Conquests, from the tower built by Breogan in the newly founded Brigantia should also be seen, if weather permitted, a green land. A green land called Erin, Eire, or Ireland, which envisioned Ith, Breogan son, Gaedel Glas and Egyptian Scotta grandson. Ith sailed to conquer it and was killed there. The children of his nephew Mil, in revenge, would subject the green island. In other words: Irish are Spanish Galicia offspring, so Irish stew would be a variant of Galician soup.

Another legend, collected both by king Alfonso X the Wise in his Crónica General, and Cardinal del Hoyo, in 1608, mentions that Geryon, Brigantium tyrant king, was defeated by Hercules, who on his grave rose a tower crowned by a torch.

Closer to reality is the fact that what is now called Hercules Tower was built by the Romans in the late first century AD, between the time of Nero and Vespasian, to guide navigation to the port of Brigantium. Since then become, over the centuries, the oldest active lighthouse in the world and one of the best preserved of Imperial Rome.

At the tower’s foot was found a masonry stone with the Latin inscription: MARTIAVG.SACR.G. ENSIS SEVIUSLVPVSARCHTECTVSA LVSITANVS EX VO, (sacred to Mars Augustus, Gaius Servius Lupo Aeminium architect in Lusitania, under oath), so it is believed that could correspond to the builder of the lighthouse.

After the fall of the Empire the beacon began a long period of decline. Even in the V century Paulo Orosius’ Historiæ adversum Paganos, mentioned Brigantia city altissimvm farvm. But the lighthouse became basically a watchtower. The stairs and the exterior wall were almost completely dismantled to provide building materials for new religious buildings and fortifications in the city.

In the eleventh century is represented on the world map of Burgo de Osma, where also appears Alexandria lighthouse. Printed in 1550, the Descripció del reyno de Galizia by Malaga licensed Bartholomé Sagrario de Molina alludes the  Hercules Tower as the old castle as he saw it so deteriorated while visiting A Coruña. In 1602, Irish rebel Hugh Roe O'Donnell, after defeat against the English at Kinsale, fled reaching A Coruña, recalling that, according to the legends of the bards, Milesius sons once departed from here to the Island of Destiny.

It would not be until 1682 that a first restoration of the lighthouse would be commissioned to architect Amaro Antunez. An inner wooden staircase was built spanning the original Roman vaults, as the old staircase ascended outside the tower. In 1788 along Carlos III kingdom, begun the repair assigned to Lieutenant Eustaquio Giannini. New granite exterior walls were built and the inner stone staircase recovered with a wooden handrail. Also was installed a revolving lantern brought from London. Galicia Maritime Consulate completed works in 1790.

Come back from the Emerald Isle, from Ireland, means to undo what have been ascended. Two hundred thirty-four steps are enough to get feet back on the ground, on the also green Brigantium.

© J.L.Nicolas