The Tower of Hercules (Galician: Torre de Hércules, Spanish: Torre de Hércules) is the oldest known extant Roman lighthouse. Built in the 1st century, the tower is located on a peninsula about 2.4 km (1.5 mi) from the center of A Coruña, Galicia, in northwestern Spain. Until the 20th century, it was known as the Farum Brigantium.[2] 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. The tower was renovated in 1791.

Tower of Hercules
Native names
Galician: Torre de Hércules, Faro Bregancio
Spanish: Torre de Hércules
View from the south-east in 2023.
LocationA Coruña, Galicia, Spain
Coordinates43°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

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

Construction and history

Cornerstone with name of the ancient Roman architect

The tower is known to have existed by the 1st century, built or perhaps rebuilt under Trajan, possibly on foundations following a design that was Phoenician in origin. The design was based on the original plans of the Lighthouse of Alexandria. Its base preserves a cornerstone with the inscription MARTI AVG.SACR C.SEVIVS LVPVS ARCHITECTVS ÆMINIENSIS LVSITANVS.EX.VO,[4] ascribing the tower's design to the architect Gaius Sevius Lupus, from Aeminium (present-day Coimbra, Portugal) in the former province of Lusitania, as an offering to the Roman god of war, Mars. The tower has been in consistent use since the 2nd century. The original tower was shorter and wider than the current tower, as the surviving core was surrounded by a spiral ramp. The outline of this ramp is still visible in the restored exterior. The final story of the tower was likely topped with a dome.

The earliest known reference to the lighthouse at Brigantium is by Paulus Orosius in Historiae adversum Paganos, written around 415–417:[5]

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.[2] The restoration was undertaken by naval engineer Eustaquio Giannini during the reign of Charles III of Spain, and was finished in 1791.[2] UNESCO praised the work: "The Tower of Hercules was restored in the 18th century in an exemplary manner, which has protected the central core of the original Roman monument while restoring its technical functions".[2] Within, the much-repaired Roman and medieval masonry remains visible.

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".


Breogán and the Tower of Hercules

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 traditional Celtic gesture, buried the head of Geryon with his weapons and ordered that a city be built on the site. The lighthouse, standing atop a skull and crossbones representing the buried head of Hercules' slain enemy, appears in the coat of arms of the city of A Coruña.

According to another legend from 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.[6]

Throughout the Middle Ages, multiple naval crusading itineraries to the Holy Land mentioned the obligatory stopover at the Lighthouse. Usually, the crusader fleets would disembark there to reach the shrine of the Apostle James the Greater at Santiago de Compostela on foot. De expugnatione Lyxbonensi and De itinere Frisunum helped to perpetuate the legend that the lighthouse had been built by Julius Caesar perhaps due to a misreading of the ancient inscription.[7]

Possible locations of Brigantia

Close-up of wall and spiral that once supported a ramp

Early geographical descriptions of the location of Brigantia point out that the town could be actually located in A Coruña or the location of the modern town of Betanzos. There is some debate about this, as the people of Betanzos claim it as a fact that Betanzos is "the former city of Brigancia"[8][9] 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 could, however, be a false etymology.

The Betanzos tradition claims that the port of Betanzos was getting too small for the larger medieval 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 eventually Coruña. The place name Clunia is believed to come from the Proto-Celtic root *klou̯ni (cf. Old Irish cluain), meaning meadow.

However, the A 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; Julius Caesar, for example, is said to have visited this area [10] with "more than a hundred triremes". A Coruña was an important Roman site, as graveyards and other Roman remains have been found in the city centre,[11][12] 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 A Coruña as Brigantia 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 A Coruña, and is at least 25 km (15 miles) (or a day's walk) from Betanzos.


See also



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. ^ a b c d e UNESCO website, of Hercules
  3. ^ Thomas Baldwin (1847). "Tower%20of%20Hercules"&pg=PA169 A Universal Pronouncing Gazetteer ... Lindsay & Blakiston. p. 169.[failed verification]
  4. ^ Martínez de la Torre, Cruz; Storch de Gracia yAsensio, José Jacobo; Vivas Sainz, Inmaculada (21 December 2016). Arte de las grandes civilizaciones clásicas: Grecia y Roma (in Spanish). Editorial Centro de Estudios Ramon Areces SA. p. 514. ISBN 978-84-9961-228-7. Retrieved 1 September 2022.
  5. ^ Paulus Orosius, Historiae adversum Paganos, i.2.71.
  6. ^ "The legend of Breogan - Torre de Hércules A Coruña". Retrieved 2021-03-10.
  7. ^ De expugnatione Lyxbonensi, trans. Charles W. David (Philadelphia, 2000); Villegas-Aristizábal, Lucas, "A Frisian Perspective on Crusade in Iberia as Part of the Sea Journey to the Holy Land, 1217–1218", Studies in Medieval and Renaissance History, 3rd Series 15 (2018): 69-149.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ Haydon, F. S. (2012-11-15). Eulogium (Historiarum Sive Temporis) (in Latin). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-108-04260-4.
  10. ^ "Brigantiume". Archived from the original on 13 July 2012. Retrieved 3 February 2022.
  11. ^ "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). Archived from the original on 2014-03-05. Retrieved 2017-12-17.
  12. ^ Coruña, La Opinión de A. "A Coruña - La Opinión A Coruña – Hemeroteca 29-08-2007". Retrieved 2017-12-17.
General references