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Bugio Lighthouse

A lighthouse with a lot of history

The Fort of São Lourenço do Bugio is located in the middle of the waters of the mouth of the Tagus River. It includes the Bugio Lighthouse in its structure.

Bugio lighthouse in the distance, in the middle of the sea

Bugio Lighthouse is a historical and cultural monument located in Lisbon. This lighthouse has a long history and is known for its distinctive architecture and privileged location in the middle of the waters at the mouth of the Tagus River.

The place where it stands is a sandbank formed by the silting up of the river mouth, the result of the confluence of its waters with those of the Atlantic Ocean, to the rhythm of the tides.

The toponymy howler can be attributed, among other versions, to the French bougie (candle), due to the similarity of its circular structure and the primitive tower topped by a lighthouse, with a lighted candle on its candlestick.

The structure of the fortification in which it operates is composed of: • external wall (with a circular base, 62 meters in diameter and 6 meters high), torn by an arched doorway; • inner wall (circular in shape, 33 meters in diameter and 7 meters high); • central tower (circular in shape, 3 meters in diameter and 16 meters high), with an arched doorway. At the top of the tower is installed the modern lighthouse; • Command house, barracks, magazine, deposits, cistern and chapel.

How it all began

The idea of a fortification for the mouth of the Tagus river, with the function of protecting the maritime access to the city of Lisbon, was initially presented in the reign of D. Sebastião (1568-78) by the architect Francisco de Holanda. The sovereign accepted this suggestion, charging, in 1578, D. Manuel de Almada to build this structure, with the strategic function of crossing fires with the Fort of S. Julião da Barra (at the time, known as Torre de S. Gião) also belonging to the defensive scheme of the city.

And it evolved

With the succession crisis that occurred after the death of the king in the battle of Alcácer-Quibir, and with the possibility of an invasion of Portugal by the troops of D. Filipe II of Spain, it was decided to build a small structure, raised on wooden stilts that, filled with stones, served as the foundation for a platform with artillery pieces.

Now under Spanish rule

In 1580, after surrendering to the Spanish fleet, it was later disarmed. The fragility of the materials used, combined with the instability of the sand bank and the action of currents and tides, irremediably compromised this structure in a short time.

Bugio Lighthouse, in the middle of the atlantic

From 1598, the direction of the work was assumed by the Italian military engineer and architect Leonardo Torriani. It was when the project entered a new phase, given the changes that Torriani introduced to it, expanding it.

Until it returned to Portuguese hands

In the Restoration of Independence on December 1, 1640, it was still under construction but already garrisoned and equipped with artillery. Assuming the throne as D. João IV (1640-1656), this sovereign determined that the works were concluded and that a Portuguese engineer took over the works (1643). Thus began a new constructive phase, under the supervision of the Count of Cantanhede, having been concluded in 1657.

The inspection report carried out on the lighthouse in 1751 shows that it operated with oil and that it was in reasonable condition. This structure, destroyed by the 1755 earthquake, was rebuilt as one of the six lighthouses erected on the Portuguese coast to aid navigation, as determined by the Marquis of Pombal in 1758. The new lighthouse came into operation in 1775.

In the 20th and 21st century

Bugio Lighthouse, close view from a boat

The Bugio Lighthouse has been restored several times over the centuries, including a complete restoration in the 1980s, when its lantern was replaced by a more modern version. Its maintenance is permanent, so much so that, even today, it is used as a lighthouse to support navigation.

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