“At night I am a diamond that turns to warn men, for whom I live, even when I do not see them.” It is with this phrase by Luís Cernuda that the musicological nucleus of the Santa Marta Lighthouse Museum in Cascais opens to the world. I invite you to join me on this enlightened journey.
Since the Lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World to our days, the lighthouses have been evolving. They were places of experimentation and technological progress, but you should know that in the beginning, nothing was easy for the lighthouse keepers. About every 4 hours, they had to pull a steel cable similar to a rope, that worked as a clock mechanism, making the lighthouse work for a period of time. Higher the lighthouse, the more they had to pull. Later, from the hands of noble Portuguese architects, after the 1755 earthquake, the Portuguese coast light up, until then the story was quite different.
1. Lighthouse keepers: the meteorologists of the past
The lighthouse keepers were sort of meteorologists. They had wind indicators and measured the number of hours of sunlight through an object that is currently displayed in the museum collection of Santa Marta Lighthouse. “This is the only lighthouse in Portugal converted into a Museum, dueto his art and aesthetics, essential to life,” says Maria do Carmo Pinto, Coordinator of the Santa Marta Lighthouse Museum.
The former houses of the lighthouse keepers are now part of the museum, through a protocol established between the Cascais City Hall and the General Directorate of Lighthouses.
Inside, an endless wealth of objects with history, from the lighthouse keepers diary where everything was pointed out in detail, to the surprising crystal lenses used in the lighthouses, it is through them that the light beacon guides the boats. In the case of Santa Marta Lighthouse, his light achieved a range between 28 and 32 kilometers.
In the complex where the Lighthouse is inserted, there is also an exhibition called “Lighthouses from Portugal, Architecture and Skill”, by Joaquim Boiça, which tells part of the stories of many lighthouses in Portugal, all this heritage is full of knowledge…and you can also watch an interesting documentary: “Portuguese Lighthouses, 5 centuries of History.”
After the visit to this nucleus, Sónia Sousa, museum guide, climbed with me the 90 steps that lead us to the top of the lighthouse. The view from there is absolutely stunning. But the difficulties are not hidden by the present… in a trip to the past, Sónia told me that “in the 19th century it was considered that Portugal had what they called the black coast, because it was unprotected and dangerous”. The entrance to the country, made through the Tagus river, was full of traps, which made the boats sink.
2. And the Future Happens
In 1981, technology took over the lighthouses, starting an automation process. Each lighthouse became an ancestral and living memory, with current functions. Despite that, there are still 120 effective lighthouse keepers. Some of them tell stories of the villages that were born around the lighthouses and developed due to the need to have schools for their children, among other infrastructures, and then the future simply happened.
In Santa Marta Lighthouse Museum, there is still a lot of room for evolution and ambition for the future. That’s why in January 2020, a different concept was born, a coffee and a radio, which together, make the delights of those who visit the lighthouse.
3. One Coffee and a Radio, please!
It is with this slogan that Lusophonica radio presents itself. “It’s an online platform in which, one of the main goals, is to connect the Portuguese-speaking countries, and unite them,” says Pedro Avillez, musician and founder of this creative space, that seeks to promote and bring more people to Santa Marta Lighthouse.
Lusophonica has several programmes, among them holistic sessions that seek to enhance well-being and to stimulate the choice for a balanced diet. Nuno Rodrigues, managing partner, barista and DJ, says that “the radio intends to be eclectic” because they try to include all kinds of music genres, from classical Portuguese music, techno, house, among others, with a strong alternative component. Smiling, Nuno says he’d like to implement “live music and sunsets shows,” while they interview their guests. Cascais is grateful for the magnificent brunches served in this unique space, as well as for the fruit smoothies, iced teas and delicious cheese boards, they bet on healthy eating with a magnificent view of the sea.
A client named José Maria says that “this space is a breath of fresh air of sound, culture, and art in Cascais”. Enthusiastic, he gets up from the chair and adds, “there’s a need for dynamism and there has to be culture beyond heritage”.
Also, Maria do Carmo Pinto, give her opinion: “The terrace, surrounded by the sea and an extraordinary landscape, is a moment that will be remembered. This is an amazing place.”
Pedro and Nuno have in common a past outside Portugal and a taste for music and culture. It was in the United States that Pedro was inspired to bring this new concept of a coffee/radio, and installed it in a monument with a fabulous heritage, flanked by the crystal blue turquoise waters of Cascais. Come to see heritage, breathe culture and listen to good music.