The lighthouses in the Azores islands are fairly recent; the Ponta do Arnel lighthouse, on São Miguel, was the first one to be built, in 1876. The golden age of lighthouse construction occurred between 1908 and 1927: Serreta, in Terceira (1908), Ponta das Lajes, in Flores (1910), Ribeirinha, in Faial (1919), Ponta do Albarnaz, in Flores (1925), Ponta do Topo, in S. Jorge (1927) and Gonçalo Velho, in Santa Maria (1927).
Two of the original lighthouses are now in ruins and deactivated. The history of the Azores Islands is full of natural disasters and the lighthouses have also suffered their effects; the Capelinhos, Faial, volcanic eruption (1957/8) and the 1980 and 1998 earthquakes caused the destruction and deterioration of some of the islands’ lighthouses, leading in some cases to their deactivation.
However it is still a rich and little known heritage, an important architectonic heritage with cultural and historic value in the rediscovery of our maritime tradition. It is a heritage of which we may be proud. And it is never too late to raise awareness about the maintenance and preservation of the Azores lighthouses.
The lighthouses and beacons are part of the Azores history, an archipelago where they are an indispensable landmark to all those that travel by sea. They are also interesting landscape elements that enchant all those who see them, from the sea or from land. When we stand on the wall of a lighthouse, be it during the day or at night, it seems that the world belongs to us.
We should visit them while there are still keepers in some of them. Nowadays in the Azores thirty five men and women – yes, there are female lighthouse keepers too! – keep fascinating lights flashing and illuminating the darkness of these mythical islands, which those who do not navigate know little about.