A city where Julius Caesar, Charles V, Francis Drake and even Hercules himself have been, could not be an ordinary city. That’s for sure!
To begin with, we will tell you that A Coruña was born at least twice. The first time it was baptised with the name of Brigantium, and it was around that era when Julius Caesar, very interested in its natural resources, came to this area. That population was of Celtic origin, but the time had come for it to be Romanised and it was going to be done thoroughly, so towards the end of the first century, a lighthouse tower was built which, after several reconstructions, is today an emblem of A Coruña.
According to a somewhat less credible version, the tower had been erected by Hercules long before, after he had killed the giant Geryon and buried his skull right here. The coat of arms of the city illustrates that legend very well, but the most important thing is that, of all the active lighthouses on the planet, the Tower of Hercules is the oldest. Yes, yes… exactly as you hear! There is not a working lighthouse in the whole world older than this one.
The city of Brigantium lasted for a long time, but the Roman Empire collapsed and gave way to a somewhat chaotic era. Around the seventh century, the town was sick of continuous attacks that arrived by sea and ended in disasters, fires and all types of calamities so frequent in the battles of the past, of the present and of always. In addition to this, sometime later, the terrible Viking assaults, and it is even possible that Almanzor, in one of his incursions around the Northwest, also dedicated some of his time destroying this place.
In such a chaotic scenario, the inhabitants decided to move to zones more protected and quiet so the city, little by little, was extinguished.
But A Coruña had to be reborn, as we were telling you. Alfonso IX refounded it in the thirteenth century, and the port of A Coruña gained importance rapidly. The Catholic Kings and Charles V gave a significant boost to its maritime trade, and in 1587 the construction of San Anton’s Castle began, to defend the growing town.
A timely idea, because two years later, with the scaffolding of the fortress still in place, came the attack of the English corsair Francis Drake and the consequent and heroic defence of the city personified in the figure of Maria Pita. Francis surely came emboldened after the recent disaster of the Invincible Armada, which left from A Coruña to England and in the end proved to be quite vincible.
The trade with America and some other wars kept the A Coruña people occupied for the following centuries, but the nineteenth century brought new ideas that ran freely through a city with a desire for modernity: houses with galleries made of iron, glass and wood and which today are another of the icons of the capital, were multiplied.
You have to see them, of course. And also the Port, the Maria Pita Square and the great stones of the old town, with its several churches, the San Anton Castle, the Santa Maria Collegiate Church… and if after the walk you feel like sitting on the sand and breath in the sea air, you can go down to the beach of Riazor. Because having the Bay of Biscay as a neighbour, is another of the lucky things that the people of A Coruña have.