Situated in the extreme Southwest of the Algarve
region of Portugal, the city of Lagos has its roots in the ancient
Roman settlement of Lacóbriga. It also probable that
prior to the Romans the Phoenicians had a settlement on or close
to the present town.
During the 7th Century AD, the southern part of the Iberian
Peninsula including the Algarve, was conquered by Islamic tribes
emanating from North Africa and the Middle East. These people
were know as "the Moors" or "Arabs", but,
in fact, their origins were as diverse as Syria, Persia and
Judea, a fact visible even to day in the names of many Algarve
villages and towns. Those who settled in Lagos contributed to
the development of the nascent city
walls and defences.
Following the renaissance of the Christian Kingdom
of Portugal in the 12th Century AD, the Portuguese royal family
made various efforts to re-conquer the Algarve, which was effectively,
accomplished by the end of first half of the 12th Century AD.
Lagos increased in importance when shortly after the conquest;
the regional military government was transferred from Silves
However, this was not to be its only claim to
fame. The city, together with the village of Sagres,
30 kms. distant, during the next three centuries, was to become
key not only to the future development of Portugal but also
to the whole Western Europe.
It was from here, that the famous scion of the Portuguese Royal
Dom Henrique or Prince Henry the Navigator, sponsored
missions of exploration along the West Coast of Africa. This
resulted in the opening of the sea route from Europe to India
and the subsequent development of the empires of not only Portugal,
but also the Netherlands, United Kingdom, France, Spain and
Many seamen on the voyages of exploration originated from Lagos,
which resultantly turned into a commercial and naval port of
consequence. It was from Lagos that the caravels, developed
by Portuguese shipwrights, sailed to encounter new worlds in
Africa and America and subsequently brought back gold, ivory
and slaves, all of which greatly contributed to the wealth of
both the city and nation. The Slave Market
building still standing today in central Lagos was
built to accommodate this trade.
Several famous ships masters on the original voyages licensed
by Prince Henry, hailed from Lagos Navigators. Several such
Eanes, Álvaro Esteves and Lançarote Freitas
are, to this day, commemorated in the names of some of the principal
streets of Lagos.
When the Prince died in 1460, his body was first buried in the
of Santa Maria. Subsequently, it was transferred to
the Chapel of the Monastery of Batalha, situated 100 kms. North
In 1578, the then king, D.
Sebastião, raised Lagos to the status of a city,
and from its harbour left on a fatal expedition against the
Moors in North Africa from which he never returned.
Construction of the outer town walls was started in 1520 during
the reign of King Manuel to afford increased protection from
piracy and raiders.
The security Lagos thus afforded both, in military, and in naval
terms owing to its excellent harbour situated close to the Atlantic
and the routes to India and America, resulted in it becoming
a major port during the XVIth and XVIIth centuries. Several
important naval engagements were fought in Lagos bay, including
an infamous occasion when the ships of Sir Francis Drake were
reported to have fired on vessels in the bay.
Lagos remained the capital of Algarve until 1756, when owing
to the fact that a large part of its infrastructure and architectural
legacy was destroyed by the earthquake of 1755, the capital
was transferred away from the city to Faro.
Today, the town is primarily a destination for holidaymakers.
However, it still retains the atmosphere of its great cosmopolitan
heritage, a fact readily visible to the visitor in its wealth
of architecture and monuments.
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