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Faro di Genova

IALA Heritage Lighthouse of the Year 2021 Nominee

Location: Liguria. Genoa.

Lighthouse Operator: Italian Navy, Lighthouses Zone Command La Spezia

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Source: (photos as submitted to accompany nomination form submitted by Italian Navy in 2021, updated 2023)

Lighthouse Description and History

(Text extracted from nomination form submitted by Italian Navy in 2021, updated 2023)
According to some unofficial sources, the first tower was built in 1128, a little less tall than the actual tower, with a similar architectural structure, but with three overlapping crenelated logs. At its top, to advise approaching ships, bundles of dry stalks of heather or broom were lighten up.

The documents of the XI century, the first chronicles and the official acts of the rising municipality of Genoa, provide sure facts on the signal tower, but not on its exact building data. The first “Lanterna” was established in 1326; the oil lamp was fed by olive oil. 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 1778, the “Lanterna” was equipped with lightening conductor, 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.

Built for the first time in 1128, and in its actual shape in 1543, the “Lanterna” is 77 meters high, and rises on a rock 40 meters high. Therefore, it rises 117 meters above the sea level. Its beam of light is projected for more than 25 nautical miles.

Reason For Nomination

(Text extracted from nomination form submitted by Italian Navy in 2021, updated 2023)
Intrinsic Heritage Interest of the Lighthouse

For example, the lighthouse’s architecture features of interest, historic importance,associations, impact on culture, impact on world lighthouses etc. What is special about the lighthouse?

The Lighthouse of Genoa (Italian: faro di Genova, but simply called “Lanterna”), is a symbol for the city. It is the main lighthouse for the city’s port. Besides being an important aid to night navigation in the vicinity, the tower serves as a symbol and a landmark for the City of Genoa. Rebuilt in its current shape in 1543 replacing the former lighthouse, it is the world’s third oldest lighthouse. When it was built, it was the highest lighthouse in the world and even if arts and literature had already entered the Renaissance era, the tower was built in a medieval shape, quite similar to the old one, and it is the same that, crossing the centuries, still stands today. Actually is the highest lighthouse in the Mediterranean sea, and the second highest in Europe.

The Monumental Complex of the Genoa Lanterna is part of the four museums united in a single strategic structure of the Municipality of Genoa, the Mu.MA Migration and Sea Museum Institution”, founded in 2005. It constitutes a cultural center linked to the themes of the sea, travel and dialogue between peoples, knowledge and religions. Distinguished by a virtuous management between public, private and privatesocial, over the years the Mu.MA has put into focus guidelines that identify its unity and purpose, becoming the cultural soul of a sea system to be enhanced also through collaboration with similar institutional, economic, tourist and cultural realities of Genoa. The Lanterna Monumental Complex, which includes the park and museum as well as the lighthouse, has recently passed under the management of the Mu.MA.

Conservation

The state of conservation is excellent. The structure is subjected to continuous restoration works that involve both the structural and architectonic part.

The tower was shelled during the bombardment of Genoa in 1684; the windows which were damaged were replaced on the orders of Louis XIV in 1692. In 1778, construction began on a new lighting system designed to counteract damage done to the lighting apparatus over several centuries of use. In 1840, a rotating Fresnel lens was installed; the system was formally inaugurated in January 1841. It was modified up until the end of the century in order to increase its capability; the entire lighthouse was modernised again in 1913, but the electrification was poorly done, and had to be refitted in 1936. One last major restoration project, begun after air attacks of World War II, was completed in 1956.

Adjacent to the tower is the “Museo della Lanterna”, which may be reached by a walk from the old city walls. Work on the facility was completed in 2004, and the museum was opened to the public in 2006; at the same time, a new entry door was installed in the lighthouse. Further restoration involved replacement of some decorative elements on the attic of the tower and systematic paving, in stone, of the access way. The city park to the north has also been rehabilitated.

The museum mainly covers the history of the city and the port, and contains a good deal of archival material. Some of the displays also cover the history of navigation and navigational aids in Genoa, and describe various signalling systems that have been used at sea. Part of a Fresnel lens, similar to that found in the lighthouse itself, is shown in such a manner as to display its inner workings. In addition to the permanent displays, temporary exhibits are also sometimes shown at the museum.

The tower has been struck by lightning several times in its career. The most serious occasion, in 1481, led to the death of one of its guardians. In 1602 lightning demolished a part of the crenulation on the top tower, and in 1603 another strike, again on the same tower, hit a decorative marble tablet with the text “Jesus Christus rex venit in pace et Deus Homo factus est” (Jesus Christ king came in peace, and God became Man). This tablet may still be seen today; it is mounted on the ground at the base of the top tower.

In the past, the lighthouse worked in pair with a smaller tower, posted at the other end of the harbour where the cotton warehouses in the Porto Antico now stand.

Public Access and Education

There are numerous events that had the lighthouse of Genoa as the protagonist or in background. Even during the pandemic period, by respecting all safety regulations, it was possible to access the structure.

The “Lanterna” can be accessed via a virtual tour (https://www.lanternadigenova.it/tour-virtuale-3d/), so that it can be visited by anyone at any time and from all over the world. Every year, the Lanterna and the connected museum receive the visit of thousands of tourists and students. The city also spreads the culture of the sea through its famous aquarium (Acquario di Genova), the Museum of the Sea (Galata Museo del Mare), and the Naval Museum (Museo Navale di Pegli).