Fortaleza de Sagres - History and Facts | History Hit

Fortaleza de Sagres

Sagres, Algarve, Portugal

Fortaleza de Sagres is closely connected with one of Portugal’s most famous figures, Prince Henry the Navigator.

Antara Bate

24 Nov 2020
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Fortaleza de Sagres

Fortaleza de Sagres (Fortress of Sagres) is closely connected with the history of one of Portugal’s most famous figures, Infante D. Henrique or Prince Henry the Navigator. It was Henry who built Fortaleza de Sagres in the fifteenth century as well as his famous nearby school of navigators.

In the eighteenth century, Fortaleza de Sagres underwent renovations, the results of which can be seen today. Amongst the things to see at Fortaleza de Sagres are its barracks and related buildings and its famous wind compass.

Fortaleza de Sagres history

The Fort of Sagres is located on a dramatic, narrow headland that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean to form Portugal’s most south-westerly point. It dates back to the 15th Century, a time when the Portuguese coast was often the target of raids from the Barbary pirates who heralded from the nearby North African shores.

The fortress was built on the orders of Prince Henry the Navigator to guard the town and harbour of Sagres. Henry spent a significant amount of time at the fort planning voyages and studying seafaring. The prince’s private residence was on the Cabo de Vincent, where the lighthouse now stands yet he died at the fort in 1460.

The fort was raided by the English naval captain Francis Drake in 1587 when Portugal was under Spanish rule. In 1755 a devastating earthquake and tsunami destroyed most of the fort. The fort was repaired but did not regain its preivous significance.

Fortaleza de Sagres today

In the 1990s, the site was subject to an architectural intervention, by the Oporto-based architect, João Carreira, resulting in the creation of a Temporary Exhibitions area, Multimedia Centre, shops and cafeteria.

A place of profound historical and symbolic value, the monument offers visitors the opportunity to rediscover the glorious period of maritime discoveries and to enjoy one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world.

Around the perimeter of the promontory; information boards (in English and Portuguese) shed light on the rich flora and fauna of the area. Near the southern end of the promontory is a lighthouse.

A small entrance fee gives visitors an opportunity to explore the cobbled battlements, with their cannons and there is a chance to see an early navigational wind compass.

Today, the walls and impressive entrance arch which stretch across the headland are all that remain of the original building. Since the restoration, the fort is one of Sagres’ most popular attractions. Visitors can learn about the fort’s history from the various signs dotted around the area, and walk around the outcrop, enjoying the panoramic views over the Atlantic Ocean and the rugged Cabo de Vincent coastline.

Getting to Fortaleza de Sagres

There is parking available at the fort for light vehicles and buses. If driving from the A22 go to Lagos, then take the Lagos / Vila do Bispo junction, enter the EN 125 to Vila do Bispo and then the EN268 to Sagres. The site is also accessible by the Lagos-Sagres intercity bus.

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