The Tower of Hercules (la Torre de Hercules)
The Tower of Hercules is in fact a lighthouse, but one whose origins and physical existence date back to Roman times.
The lighthouse stands on an elevated headland a short distance from the center of A Coruna city and its oldest sections date back 1900 years to the Roman occupation that expanded across most of Europe. The tower faces the Atlantic Ocean and stands approximately fifty seven metres (over 180 feet) high and literally looks like it has occupied this spot forever.
The two people in the photo to the right give an indication as to the towers enormous size.
Impressive is a word than can be quite adequately used to describe the "Torre de Hercules", it is massive, dominates its prominent position and becomes ever larger the closer you get to it. Visiting the tower is free and there is a large car park just below its sea facing site from which you walk two or three hundred metres to the lighthouse itself. If you want to enter the tower, climb its stairs and walk around its open turret there is a charge, but the panoramic views are spectacular and give you a great perspective on A Coruna and its surroundings. It is definitely a "must see" tourist attraction of la Coruna.
The myth and history of the Tower of Hercules
The history of the Tower of Hercules involves a combination of myth and fact.
The story that most would like to believe is that the mythical hero Hercules fought with, and eventually vanquished, a giant known as "Geryon". At the end of his battle, Hercules buried the giant's head and decreed that a town be built on that spot and so the Roman city of "Brigantia" (now A Coruna) came to be. Later the city became known as "Crunya"
An alternative tale, this time a Celtic/Gaelic one from a much later period suggests that, from the top of the tower the land of Ireland could be seen and that the Galicians then travelled to Ireland and inhabited it. Obviously neither of the above are true.
In reality the Tower of Hercules has probably existed in some form or other from the second century onwards and inscriptions on the foundation base refer to a Roman engineer called "Sevius Lupus". References are also made to the Tower of Hercules as early as 415AD in written texts.
Right, one of the views you can enjoy if you scale the towers many internal steps (and pay the admission). This particular view looks back towards the part of A Coruna city that encircles the "Ensenada del Orzan", or bay of Orzan and you can see the coast tracing promenade as it rounds the headland.
It is highly likely that the original tower had an external access ramp and burned a wood fire, but in 1788, under the rule of King Carlos IV, a three year project was undertaken to build an enclosing facade around the structure and that is what can be seen now. Today, the tower is the oldest fully functioning lighthouse in the world and also a symbol of A Coruna that is synonymous with the province and appears on its heraldry. This final photo shows you what you will see as you climb the towers stair.
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