Spain Destinations: The Tower of Hercules In A Coruña

Tower of Hercules in A Coruña, Galicia, Spain.

The Tower of Hercules has served as a lighthouse and landmark at the entrance of A Coruña since the late 1st century A.D. when the Romans built the Farum Brigantium. From the inscription preserved at the foot of the tower, we know that the builder was Gaius Sevius Lupus and its construction is attributed to the time of Roman Emperor Trajan, who ruled between A.D. 98 and 117. We do not know for sure what its outside appearance was like. But after the archaeological excavations at the base of the tower, we know that it had an outer wall and a ramp of stone steps that led to the upper platform.  From the 5th century, the Torre suffered a progressive deterioration and its outer wall and access ramp disappeared.

Reproduction of how the tower looked in the past.

From the 9th century on, the coast of A Coruña was subjected to continuous raids of the Normans and was attacked numerous times until the 11th century. In the 13th century, beginning with the construction of the new town of Crunia (ACoruña) in 1208, the Tower of Hercules was abandoned. In the 16th century, because of its advanced position in the ocean, the Tower remains a watchtower against possible threats and attacks from the sea. In the 17th century, the Consuls of England, Holland and Flanders proposed building two small stone turrets at the top, each equipped with three oil lamps that would be lit every night to help navigation. 

The Tower of Hercules showing the perimeter and ramp.

Finally, after several previous attempts to restore the tower, in 1788 work of the final restoration began. Completed in 1790, it gave the tower its present appearance. The Tower of Hercules is unique as it is the only lighthouse of Greco-Roman antiquity to have been functioning as a maritime signal since its construction. Today, it still shines its light and guides ships through the rough coast of the Atlantic. You can go all the way to the top and enjoy incredible views of the city and the ocean. The stairs going up are narrow and steep but the view from the top is gorgeous.

The Legend

Now, enough of history. Let’s get to the fun part. Recorded in a writing by King Alfonso X in the 13th century the legend explains the construction of the tower as follows: A long, long time ago there was an evil giant called Gerion that terrorized the inhabitants of Galicia. His raids had left the hardworking peasants famished and anyone who dared to oppose him would die at his own hands. Those poor people were fed up with the abuse and continuously prayed the gods for help. Zeus took pity on them and sent his son Hercules to this faraway land to fight the giant. The battle between god and giant took three days and nights, the earth shook with violence until Hercules was able to take down the giant and cut his head off. He buries the body of Gerion and to celebrate his victory he builds a tower on top of the burial site.

Whether you prefer the history or the legend, the Tower of Hercules is worth a visit!

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