The stone Forte da Ponta da Bandeira fortress, which you enter by crossing a drawbridge spanning the narrow moat, was constructed when Lagos was still the most important town on Portugal’s Algarve coast.
Prior to the Great Earthquake of 1755 the walled city of Lagos was noted for its beauty and wealth, some of which was derived from trading African slaves. The squat, compact Ponta da Bandeira Fort was erected between 1680 and 1690 to defend the east and south-eastern sides of the city.
Lagos’s historic waterfront landmark
The fort’s thick walls were built to withstand attack by cannon and, at the time of its completion, the fort was a robust, modern example of military architecture. Standing within the fort’s small quadrangle it’s easy to see why this harbourside fort has survived the passage of time.
The artillerymen stationed here had an azulejo (tiled) chapel constructed and dedicated to their patron saint, St Barbara. Perhaps, some might think, in choosing their saint, there was a touch of ironic humour among the gunners who spent long periods of duty, without action, looking over fortress walls. St Barbara was locked in a tower by her father in a vain effort to prevent her conversion to Christianity.
The legend of Saint Barbara
When she refused to marry, because her prospective husband was not Christian, her father tortured and decapitated her. In turn he was struck dead by lightning. This is the reason why St Barbara is the patron saint of artillerymen.
The fort is relatively small so perhaps it would be unrealistic to expect to find too much inside. That said, a series of panels, written in Portuguese and English, provide details on the life of the prince, the Infante Henrique, today better known as Henry the Navigator.
Henry the Navigator at Sagres?
Interestingly they debunk the popular myth of a navigation school at Sagres and suggest our image of him – as a man in a broad hat – may come from a skewed interpretation of the dignitaries shown on the panels of St Vincent de Fora, painted by Nuno Goncalves.
Outside, on the flat roof of the Ponta da Bandeira Fort, a series of metal sculptures by Jose Maria Pereira adorn the space on which cannons would once have stood ready for action.
Portugal’s Age of Discoveries
While you’re here you can view a short video about Portugal’s Age of Discoveries.
The Ponta da Bandeira Fort is located off the Avenida dos Descobrimentos (meaning ‘Avenue of the Discoveries’), by the marina at the mouth of the Bensafrim river and is open from 10.00am to 6.00pm six days a week (closed Mondays). The last ticket is sold half-an-hour before the gate closes.
For information about tourist attractions in the Algarve, see the Visit Algarve website.
See the Visit Portugal website for information about tourist attractions across the country.
If you enjoyed this post why not sign up for the free Go Eat Do newsletter? It’s a hassle-free way of getting links to posts on a monthly basis.
‘Like’ the Go Eat Do Facebook page to see more photos and content.