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Depending on who tells you, or where you're reading, you'll hear that Menorca has 5 or 7 lighthouses. On our count, we believe there are 6.
Did you know that the world's oldest lighthouse still in existence is the Tower of Hercules in A Coruña, Galicia, and it was built in Roman times in the 1st century? It is believed that there was a lighthouse in Mallorca, built by the Romans, in what is now Alcúdia (formerly Pollentia), as Mallorca was situated right in the middle of their journey westward, but there is no evidence of its existence apart from a bronze plate found in the area written in Latin.

Lighthouses have a certain romantic symbolism. Lighthouse keepers, those men who lived in lighthouses, isolated and almost always alone, dedicated their lives to lighting the way for wandering souls of the sea. Indeed, lighthouse keepers lived isolated from the world, and it was not an easy life. Nowadays, most lighthouses operate automatically, the figure of the lighthouse keeper ceased to exist several decades ago, and moreover, the latest technologies in navigation systems endanger these universally recognized buildings of great heritage value.

Furthermore, did you know that no two lighthouses are the same in the entire world? Each lighthouse is unique, and they are characterized by two things. The first and primarily is their light signal. Each lighthouse emits a different light frequency, which allows sailors to identify them and find their bearings, thanks to the light signals. The second peculiarity is their shape, structure, or design. For example, in Menorca, the Cavallería lighthouse is whitewashed, Punta Nati is made of marés stone, Cap d’Artrutx has 3 lines and a sort of buttresses that give it a square appearance and a personal touch, s’Illa de s’Aire has 4 horizontal lines, and Favàritx has a spiral design. Their different shapes and designs help not only to locate us from the sea but also from land and during the day. Today, the management of Menorca's lighthouses is done from Palma, Mallorca, but it has not always been this way.

The first lighthouse in Menorca that still stands today was built in the mid-19th century, already under Spanish dominion, to avoid the more than 700 shipwrecks recorded only on the north coast. After its construction, shipwrecks continued to occur. It's not hard to believe such a number of shipwrecks considering that Menorca is not a flat island, although the highest peak is only 357 meters, highlighting the difficulty that sailors must have faced, in the midst of a winter storm of tramontana, dominated by the North-South currents of the Mediterranean, and in the dead of night. Lighthouses are located in strategic points, high and clear places so that their light is visible from a distance. In the past, it worked with two wick butterflies that floated in a container filled with olive oil. This system lasted until the end of the 18th century when both the optics and the combustion system evolved. The lighthouse light, which was previously fixed, began to revolve on a clockwork system, and the stepped lens was a revolutionary change as it managed to collect the light that was previously dispersed to project it further. This new lighting system was introduced in the 19th century. Another curious fact is that in Menorca, the lighthouses were lit from October to April, and in summer it was trusted that sailors could navigate without problems.

Those who have delved into the lighthouses of Menorca will have found that in most guides, books, and websites there are 7. The truth is that there are 6 lighthouses plus one beacon. The first lighthouse built in Menorca was the Mahón harbor lighthouse, which no longer exists today. It was built in 1850 and began operating in 1852. Over the years, half a century later, due to its location, on the old ruins of the former Castle of San Felipe, and also because it was located in the middle of military maneuvers area, the decision was made to demolish it for safety reasons at the beginning of the 20th century, and in its place, a beacon was installed. Another ghost lighthouse is that of Alaior, which was never built. Therefore, today there are 6 lighthouses and one beacon. But we will not be the ones to diminish the importance and privilege of the first lighthouse that gave light to sailors arriving in Menorca. The Mahón Port lighthouse, although today replaced by a beacon, deserves recognition and remembrance for what it was, the first lighthouse of Menorca. At MD, we visit one of the island's lighthouses, enjoy the spectacular views these strategic points offer, and learn about their heritage value. We like to share the cultural legacy of past generations and contribute our bit to keep it alive.


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