Faro de Tarifa
IALA Heritage Lighthouse of the Year 2023 Nominee
Location: SPAIN - Andalusia. Cadiz. Tarifa.
Lighthouse Operator: Puertos Del Estado
Source: (photos as submitted to accompany nomination form by Puertos Del Estado 2023)
Lighthouse Description and History
(Text extracted from nomination form submitted by Puertos Del Estado 2023)
In 1798, the King of Spain, Charles IV, approved the conversion into a lighthouse of the beacon tower that had existed since 1588 on the island of Tarifa, a unique geographical crossroads in the Western Hemisphere, where the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea meet at the point southernmost of the European continent in the Strait of Gibraltar, just 14 km from African.
The adjustment of the old tower to a lighthouse meant doubling its height by raising two new bodies on its roof, the first identical to the original, even reproducing its old spiral staircase, and the second, smaller, to place a lantern in it.
These works began in 1799, were shortly paralyzed and resumed in 1812, at the end of the Spanish War of Independence. It was lit for the first time in 1813 with a fixed white light, being the first to illuminate the waters of the Strait of Gibraltar. In 1822, that fixed light would be changed to a rotating lantern, so that today, more than two centuries later, the Tarifa lighthouse continues to guide maritime traffic in the Strait of Gibraltar.
In 1864, works began on the construction of a building attached to the lighthouse, only one story high, to provide a new house for the lighthouse keepers. This construction, with a square layout, articulated around a central porticoed patio, separated from the lighthouse although connected to it through a gallery raised to reach the military fortifications that surrounded it, was completed in 1866. This building for warehouse and housing would be expanded twice, in 1926 and in 1930 by building two pavilions attached to it on both sides of the communication gallery with the tower, to house machines and new rooms for the lighthouse employees. These extensions were carried out giving material and formal continuity to the existing building, with the aim of forming a harmonious complex preserved in its integrity.
In 2017, the Tarifa lighthouse was included in the General Catalog of Andalusian Historical Heritage with the consideration of Asset of Cultural Interest (BIC), under Law 16/1985 of June 25 of Spanish Historical Heritage (BOE nº155 of 29). June 1985). Despite this, since the automation of the lighthouse facilities and the departure of the last of the lighthouse keepers, the attached residential building was used intermittently, which finally led to maintenance problems, which threatened its deterioration and vandalization despite find themselves in a point closed to the public, first because it is a military barracks and then because it houses an immigrant detention center.
This is why, after the closure of the aforementioned immigration center (which would make public access to the island of Tarifa possible), in 2020 the Port Authority of the Bay of Algeciras undertook the rehabilitation work on the building, which was financed by the 1.5% Cultural state aid program of the Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda for the conservation of Spanish Historical Heritage. This rehabilitation was already carried out with a view to adapting part of the building to a Visitor Attention Point and Interpretation Center of the Island of Tarifa, which, concessioned, equipped and managed by the Tarifa City Council since 2021, currently houses a permanent exhibition to disseminate. aspects such as the conservation of the marine environment, local history, and the use of Tarifa Island as a defensive bastion, as well as the history of the lighthouse itself.
Reason For Nomination
(Text extracted from nomination form submitted by Puertos Del Estado 2023)
Intrinsic Heritage Interest of the Lighthouse
– The TARIFA LIGHTHOUSE is located Tarifa Island, also known as Las Palomas Island. It is joined to the continent by an artificial reef and has a privileged location in the Strait Natural Park.
– It was built on an old beacon tower from the 16th century, ordered to be erected by King Philip II and built in 1588.
– It was the first lighthouse to be built and illuminated the waters of the Strait of Gibraltar in 1813.
– It is the southernmost lighthouse on the European continent.
– Declared an Asset of Cultural Interest, it was included in the General Catalog of Andalusian Historical Heritage, by
virtue of Law 16/1985 of June 25 of the Spanish Historical Heritage (BOE nº155 of June 29, 1985).
– Since the end of 2021, it has hosted an interpretation center for the Island of Tarifa and the lighthouse itself, which
has eased visits and a better understanding of the life of the ancient lighthouse keepers.
The Tarifa lighthouse, as a historic building of high heritage value, has due legal protection that guarantees its
preservation, so that it is protected as follows:
– It has been registered as an Asset of Cultural Interest with the name of Torre de la Isla de las Palomas. Included
within the generic Declaration of the Decree of June 25, 1985, of Law 16/1985 on Spanish Historical Heritage (Asset
of Cultural Interest registered in the BOE of 06/29/1985, nº155), and under the special recognition granted to the
castles by the Junta de Andalucía in 1993.
– In October 2006, the College of Civil Engineers, Canals and Ports of Spain made a proposal for its declaration as a
Site of Cultural Interest with a specific nature.
– It has been specifically registered by the Department of Culture of the Government of Andalusia within the
defensive elements of the Isla de las Palomas in the General Catalog of Andalusian Historical Heritage as Asset of
Cultural Interest (BIC) in 2017.
– In 2017 it was also included in the catalog of lighthouses with heritage value of the Ministry of Education, Culture
and Sports, Heritage Institute of Spain.
The state of conservation of the Tarifa lighthouse is optimal. To the efforts made for years by the different
administrations on which the maritime signaling service in Spain depended, has been added in recent years by the
Port Authority of the Bay of Algeciras itself, responsible for its conservation since 1993. which included the
lighthouse facilities in its own Conservation and Enhancement Plan for the Port Historical Heritage in 2021.
Since 1993, the employees of the maritime signaling service no longer live in the lighthouse, so to give the old
residential building a use and by virtue of said Plan, between 2020 and 2021 they were carried out by the Port
Authority of the Bay of Algeciras rehabilitation and conditioning works to adapt the part not necessary for the
maritime signaling service, and convert it into a Visitor Attention Point and Interpretation Center of the Island of
Tarifa. This center, concessioned, endowed and managed by the Tarifa City Council since 2021, houses a permanent
exhibition to disseminate aspects such as the conservation of the marine environment, local history and the use of
Tarifa Island as a defensive bastion, as well as the history and way of life in the lighthouse itself.
Public Access and Education
Since 2005, since the last lighthouse keeper stopped living there, most of the residential building attached to the
lighthouse tower had not had any use, until the new Ports Law of 2011 enabled the possibility of admitting it into
the public domain port spaces intended for uses linked to port-city interaction, such as cultural facilities and other
activities that are not strictly port-related. On this basis, in October 2019 the Board of Directors of the Port Authority
granted the concession to the Tarifa City Council of a part of the old residential building (which was no longer
necessary for the Maritime Signaling service) to establish a Visitor Service Point and Interpretation Center of the
Island and the Lighthouse itself.
Once the renovation works on the building were completed, at the end of 2021 the Tarifa City Council launched the
aforementioned Visitor Attention Point and Interpretation Center of the Island and Lighthouse of Tarifa, which
articulates its exhibition discourse in four rooms and through of five thematic blocks: The Strait, The bottoms of the
Island, History from the Island, The Island as a defensive bastion and The lighthouse: lookout of the Strait.
The opening of the Tarifa Lighthouse Interpretation Center has allowed public access to the facilities of the
lighthouse itself and the island itself, both elements unknown to the public for decades since since the 19th century
the latter has been a military barracks closed to the public.