St Vincent's Cape
Photography: Christina Pereira
Location: Vila do Bispo, Algarve, Portugal
Google map Link: [link]
Processing: Pentax K10D, f/10 1/750s 35mm
Original Size: 3872x2592 240ppi
Comment: This was one of my favourite photos of our stay in Portugal: `eggy looking at the lighthouse and old holy ground.
Cape St. Vincent was already sacred ground in Neolithic times, as standing menhirs in the neighbourhood attest. The ancient Greeks called it Ophiussa (Land of Serpents), inhabited by the Oestriminis and dedicated here a temple to Heracles. The Romans called it Promontorium Sacrum (or Holy Promontory). They considered it a magical place where the sunset was much larger than anywhere else. They believed the sun sank here hissing into the ocean, marking the edge of their world.
According to legend, the name of this cape is linked to the story of a fourth-century martyred Iberian priest St. Vincent whose body was brought ashore here. A shrine was erected over his grave; according to the Arab geographer Al-Idrisi, it was always guarded by ravens. King Afonso Henriques (1139-1185) had the body of the saint exhumed in 1173 and brought it by ship to Lisbon, still accompanied by the ravens.
The area around the cape was plundered several times by pirates from France and Holland and, in 1587, by Sir Francis Drake. All existing buildings, including the Vila do Infante of Henry the Navigator fell into ruins because of the Lisbon earthquake of 1755. The Franciscan monks stayed on until 1834, when all monasteries were disbanded in Portugal.
Several naval battles were fought in the vicinity of this cape:
* The French Admiral Anne Hilarion de Tourville defeated a small Anglo-Dutch naval fleet commanded by Sir George Rooke escorting a convoy of between 400 and 500 English and Dutch merchant ships on 27 June 1693. The "Smyrna fleet" disaster, as it came to be known, saw ninety-four of the richly-laden merchant ships either captured or sunk; this event led to the dismissal of two English admirals whose convoy escort had turned back off Ushant, France.
* In 1780, this cape was the site of the Battle of Cape St. Vincent (between Britain and Spain).
* Admiral Jervis with Commodore Nelson defeated the Spanish fleet in 1797 at a second Battle of Cape St. Vincent.
* In 1833, a Loyalist Portuguese fleet defeated the Miguelites during Portugal's Liberal Wars.