Lighthouse of Genoa since 1128

The history of the lighthouse

Even if the final form, the one that can be seen nowadays, dates back to 1543, according to unofficial sources the first tower was built in 1128, almost as high as the existing one and with a similar architectural structure, but with three overlapping crenellated logs: built as a watchtower to announce the arrival of suspicious boats, over time it also became a lighthouse, on the top of which bundles of dried heather or broom were burned to tell sailors where the entrance to the port was.

The documents of the XI century, the first chronicles and the official acts of the rising Municipality of Genoa, provide facts on the signal tower, but not on its exact building data. In 1318, during the war between Guelphs and Ghibellines, the tower suffered from considerable damages on the ground by the Ghibellines; in 1321, consolidation works were made, and a ditch was excavated to make the tower more defendable.
The first Lanterna was established in 1326; the oil lamp was fed by olive oil. In regard to that, the analyst Giorgio Stella wrote: “in this year, a big lantern was made on the tower of Capo Faro, so that, when the oil lamp was switched on in the dark nights, the sailors knew the access to the city”.
To better identify the Lanterna in our city, in 1340, the coat of arms of the Municipality of Genoa was painted at the top of the lower tower by the painter Evangelista from Milan. The ancient iconographic representation of the first tower of the Lanterna is from 1371, and appears in a pen draw on a parchment cover of the textbook of “Salvatori del Porto”. In this textbook, all the expenditures for the illumination, the Lanterna’s crystals, the lamps, the oil and the names of guardians were registered.
In the siege at the Briglia – the stronghold made by King Louis XII during the French domination of Genoa, located on the same hill where the Lanterna’s tower raised - the tower was hit by the bombs shot by the Genoese insurgents and partially destroyed. For 30 years, the beautiful tower had remained mutilated and its bright light had been no longer helpful for the sailors. Only in 1543, a new Lanterna was built and put in activity at the top of the tower; it was built with wooden oak stave refurbished with coppered foil and lead blocked with 600 coppered nails. In that occasion, the tower assumed its final shape, the same that we can see today. In 1565, the dome was made watertight, and, in 1681, it was rebuilt with wooden wild chestnut to make it waterproof with fish and oakum, and refurbished with lead oil on superposed edges. In 1684, during the Genoa’s bombardment by the French Admiral Seignelai under the order of King Louis XIV, a hit centred the dome, destroying the whole glass window, which was temporarily rebuilt; in 1696, the glass window was replaced. In the Portolano handwritten by an anonymous author in the XVI century, we can read “at mile 14 from Peggi (Genoa-Pegli), at the western part of a city with a really good harbour, there is a high Lanterna that gives signs to the vessels arriving at its base”. In response to continuous damage caused by the lightning and by the war in 1771, the tower was chained up with bolts and tie-rods, which are still visible today from the interior. In 1778, the lanterna was equipped with lightening conductor, which was created by the physic P.G Sanxsais, and, in 1791, consolidation works were made at the first tower’s base to make it more solid.