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Lagos, a landmark of the Portuguese Discoveries

Lagos, Portugal
Clara Campos

Lagos is a lovely city of the Algarve inhabited for more than 2000 years. It played an important role during the Golden Years of the Portuguese Discovery Age

Lagos is located in the Algarve and it’s one of its most visited cities. The quality of its beaches and waters, as also its hotel offer, has put Lagos on the top of the 2012 list of the 15 touristic destinations on the rise by the Tripadviser readers.

More on Lagos

History of Lagos

Throughout its more than 2000 years of history, Lagos has always been strongly linked to the sea. The city’s name derives from the Celtic word Lacobriga, resulting from the influence of the Celtic tribesmen recruited by the Carthaginians to help them against the Romans, during the Punic Wars.

However, Lagos, which was already an important harbor, fall into the rule of the Romans whose presence is still visible in some remains existing in the city and its surroundings.

In the 6th century Lagos was occupied by the Visigoths from the Kingdom of Toledo and, later on, by the Byzantines. Two centuries later the Moors arrived and renamed the town Zawaia that means Lago (lake). They were responsible for fortifying the city and for the establishment of crucial trade links. As curious as it may sound, the oldest church in the Algarve, namely the church of St. John the Baptist, dates back from this period as its construction was allowed by the local Wali as a demonstration of religious tolerance.

Lagos – as the all of the Algarve – remained under the Moorish domination long after the rest of the Portuguese territory as it was only conquered by King Afonso III in 1241. The city became an independent jurisdiction in 1361 according to the orders of King Pedro I.

Lagos, Portugal

Photo by 77strummer

The geographic strategic importance of Lagos emerged during the 15th century as it was here that King John I assembled his fleet aiming the siege and the conquest of the city of Ceuta in 1415. This importance was even enhanced during the Portuguese Discoveries as Lagos was the home of Prince Henry the Navegator who organized from here several expeditions to the Morocco and other places on the western coast of Africa. It was also from Lagos that Gil Eanes sailed away to became the first sailor to go beyond Cape Bojador in 1434, which represented a huge breakthrough as the Cape was then considered the end of the world and open the way to Vasco da Gama and the discovery of the maritime route to India. Unfortunately, Lagos is also closely linked to the dark side of the Discoveries, namely slavery; in fact, Lagos was the arriving town of the first slaves brought to Europe and the city became a trading market of slaves until the death of Henry the Navigator when all the major trading houses moved to Lisbon.

Lagos recovered once more its importance when King Sebastião sailed away from this city to face a huge defeat at the Battle of Alcácer Quibir where he and many of the Portuguese nobles lost their lives, opening a huge succession problem.

As a consequence of the role played during the Discovery Age, Lagos developed and acquired some magnificence with several impressive monuments that unfortunately were destroyed by the earthquake and following tsunami of 1755.

From the glorious days previous to the earthquake remain some walls from the 16th century, the governor’s castle and the site of what is believed to be the first black slave market in Europe for you to discover. Yet Lagos has much more to offer as you may check here…

Arriving in Lagos

If you are flying in, Faro airport is your destination. There you may hire a car, head for Via do Infante (A22), following the direction Portimão and Albufeira straight ahead; one hour later, you will reach your destination.
If you are coming by car from Spain, you just need to go straight ahead along Via do Infante (A22), crossing almost the entire Algarve on a ride that will take about 1h30m.

Where is Lagos?

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Ponta da Piedade: 37.079558, -8.667955
Governor Castle Lagos: 37.099910, -8.669763

Main image credits

Photo by luzux

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