When the ancient mariners from the east arrived in this region in the eighth century BC, they once again homed in on the beacon which was the Rock and were attracted to large marine caverns close to these southern platforms. We know that Phoenicians and ancient Greeks came here. It has also been suggested by some, on the basis of cave paintings of sailing ships in caves near Gibraltar that perhaps even earlier civilisations, the Mycaeneans for example, might have sailed to the Strait as far back as the sixteenth century BC.
Whichever way, the Strait and the Rock were known in the classical eastern Mediterranean world. According to legend, Hercules passed through here to take the cattle of Geryon - his tenth labour - and opened up the Strait, creating the pillars which received his name (Hercules to the Romans). These pillars are still clearly identifiable today: the Rock of Gibraltar on one side and the Jbel Musa on the other. The legend matches the scientific reality although the timescales are somewhat different. The last time the Strait opened up was around five million years ago and there were no humans around to watch it happen. It must have been a spectacular event indeed. The Mediterranean had been land-locked for a very long time and had evaporated. Then as a fissure developed where the Strait is today, the Atlantic gushed in filling the basin in just one hundred years, with a huge ten thousand foot waterfall at the entrance to the Strait.
Respect for the sea and fear of the unknown must have dominated the lives of the ancients as many perished in their small ships during violent storms as is clear from reading an ancient text such as Homer’s Odyssey. The Strait is a narrow channel which funnels winds. Violent storms develop quickly with little notice, especially from the east and south-west. These winds have been known to sailors from time immemorial - the east winds, for example, are known as Levantes. The idea of venturing past the channel must have filled the ancients with trepidation - it was only their curiosity and the lure of mineral and other resources beyond which made them take the risk.
They took the risks with certain safeguards. One of the caverns at the eastern side of these cliffs, known today as Gorham’s Cave, was a place of worship, a shrine. Many pieces of Phoenician, Carthaginian and Greek pottery have been found here along with glass beads, amulets and scarabs bearing classical and Egyptian gods. Many of the ancient references to caves on the Rock probably related to Gorham’s Cave.
Europa Point Trinity Lighthouse
(position 36 06’.67 N 05 20’.62 W)
Europa Point Lighthouse stands at the southernmost point of Gibraltar. Situated at the gateway between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean it serves as landfall and waypoint for vessels passing through the Strait. Responsibility for the lighthouse was vested in Trinity House by an Act of Parliament of 1838 and under the Merchant Shipping Act 1894 the Corporation became the General Lighthouse Authority for Gibraltar.
Europa Point was first lit in 1841 and initially a fixed light was exhibited by a single wick oil lamp augmented by a dioptric fixed lens and catoptric mirrors. In 1864 an improved light was exhibited, a Chance Brothers four wick burner with new lens and a red arc incorporated to cover the Pearl Rock, a dangerous group of pinnacle rocks on the western side of the entrance to Gibraltar Bay. In 1875 the light was improved again with a four wick mineral oil burner installed.
In 1894 the power of the light was increased with a Douglas eight wick burner and the character changed from fixed to occulting. A new lantern was fitted with the power of the new light being 35,000 candelas. An explosive fog signal was also installed at this time with a character of two reports in quick succession every five minutes. In 1905 a new light source was installed, a three incandescent mantle burner. This was replaced by the Hood petroleum vapour burner with single mantle in 1923.
Extensive structural alterations were carried out from 1954 to 1956 and the optical apparatus modernised by the introduction of an electrically operated lighting system. A revolving lens system of much greater power was installed for the main light and a subsidiary light was installed below the main optic to give a fixed red light over the Pearl Rock in addition to the red sector of the main light that already marked this hazard. The height of the tower was raised by six feet in order to accommodate the subsidiary light apparatus over the service room.
Automation of Europa Point Lighthouse was completed in February 1994. The existing optic has been retained and fitted with a three position lightchanger. The air fog signal has been replaced by an electric system, a single directional 500 Hz emitter stack mounted on the lantern gallery. The station is fully automatic with no external control facilities; the monitoring of aids to navigation, power supplies, fire systems and intruder alarm being through a simple reporting station linked by telephone to the Gibraltar Port Office which is manned 24 hours a day.
Established - 1841 Automated - 1994
Height of light above mean high water - 49m Height of Tower - 20m
Electrified - 1956 Lamp - 240v, 1500w filament
Optic - 2nd order catadioptric, 700mm focal length
Character - 2 white and red flashes every 15 seconds
Intensity - white 1070 candela, red 208 candela
Range of Light White - 19 nautical miles; red 15 nautical miles
A new memorial dedicated to General Wladyslaw Sikorski, the Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Army and Prime Minister of Poland who was killed in exile in 1943, was dedicated by Vice Admiral Sir Adrian Johns, Governor of Gibraltar on the 70th anniversary of the crash.
The memorial which replaces the second of three commemorative dedications was relocated to Europa Point, close to the Lighthouse and Harding’s Battery. Its design was based on a concept by the late Charles Caruana, Bishop of Gibraltar, who had a long interest in Gibraltar’s connection with Poland and in Sikorski’s history and memory.
This is the third memorial to commemorate General Sikorski’s death. The first in January 1945 consisted of a plaque designed and constructed by a Polish company made from sandstone and was positioned at the east end of the runway of what was then RAF North Front and is today Gibraltar International Airport.
In 2003, the RAF donated the plaque to the Government of Gibraltar and a new monument was erected, consisting of a plinth on which the plaque was mounted along with a propeller recovered from the crash. However, its position proved too restrictive to accommodate the number of Poles that visited the site each year and a new position and updated commemoration was allocated.
Dedication of the new structure took place on July 4th 2013, the 70th anniversary of the crashed B-24 aircraft. The occasion was attended by the Governor of Gibraltar Vice Admiral Sir Adrian Johns who described General Sikorski as ‘a man who lived and died as a fearless soldier and indomitable champion of the Polish cause’.
British, Polish and Gibraltarian Government officials alongside past and present members of the Polish Armed Forces were also in attendance. The President of Poland, said in an address read on his behalf that he wished for the memorial to ‘symbolically point at those highest values which are common to us: brotherhood and freedom’.
The new design is a semi-circular construction with the B-24’s propeller from the previous memorial remounted onto a new plinth. A disc of sandstone from Szydlow in Poland is set into the ground forming the base. Behind the disc is a semi-circular wall upon which a carved Polish military eagle stands. The Polish Naval pennant and Air Force emblem are embedded at opposite ends of the wall. Tablets name the other 15 victims who also died in the crash.
This battery was constructed on part of the old 7th Europa Battery and in between the later 1st and 2nd Europa Batteries of 1859. The battery was named after Sir George Harding, who was Chief Engineer in 1844. It had also been known as Harding’s Fort.
Originally, two 18 pounders were located on site. In 1863 there were two 32 pounders located here.
In 1868 a new scheme of artillery defence, recommended by Colonel W F D Jervois, was approved. As a result, Harding’s Battery became one of several new batteries to house a heavy Rifled Muzzle Loading (RML) Gun.
In December 1872 the Director of Artillery and Stores reported that it was intended that one 9” RML gun should be installed but the proposal was never implemented. Authority for the battery was eventually given in October 1876 and work started in March 1877 on the reconstruction of the battery to take a 12.5” RML on a barbette mounting. Work was completed in 1878.
Later there was much criticism of the site as it was thought that the men would not be able to fire the gun in such an exposed location when under enemy fire. There was a proposal to move the guns further away but nothing was done. Instead, authority was given to place a 6” Breech Loading (BL) Gun, later changed to a 9.2”, but this never actually happened.
We have no record of when the 12.5” gun was dismounted but by 1939 the site housed an AASL (Anti Aircraft Searchlight). This had been provided for in the 1929 Air Defence Scheme as a sentry beam to search from southeast to southwest and cooperate with the proposed Gun Position No1 at Windmill Hill.
This AASL emplacement was turned into the viewing platform some time later.
Shrine of our Lady of Europe
The image of Our Lady of Europe and Patroness of Gibraltar, is a wood carving approximately two feet high and beautifully polychromed which dates back to the end of the fifteenth or early sixteenth century.
The capture of Gibraltar by the Spaniards from the Moors dates from 1462. Then subsequent to his conquest the Christians won the battle against Islam's last stronghold in Europe in the Kingdom of Granada, the Duke of Medina Sidonia the champion of the Crusade; returned to Gibraltar. In thanksgiving the people of Gibraltar converted the mosque at Europa Point into a Christian shrine in honour of the Mother of Christ, venerating her as Our Lady of Europe and placing the whole of Europe under her protection. A statue of Our Lady sitting on a simple chair and holding the Child was carved and placed in the Shrine.
That the Christians should have chosen Europa Point for the enshrinement of Our Lady was quite natural to them since in the estimation of the people it was the southernmost point of the Continent of Europe. To the Kings of Spain, the Duke of Gibraltar and the people, the Rock was very much the Key to the kingdoms of East and West. It is interesting to note that on the seal of the City the words "Gibraltar, the key to Spain" appeared.
The devotion to Our Lady of Europe spread far and wide. Statues similar to the original image were carved and Bishops all over the Iberian peninsula granted generous indulgences to those who invoked the Mother of Christ as Our Lady of Europe and numerous miracles were attributed to Her. The Shrine thus became a place of pilgrimage. Even ships passing the Strait paid homage to Her by firing salvoes, and more often than not, sea captains and generals on their way to battle would stop and pray at the Shrine.
Generals like John Andrea Doria donated large silver oil-lamps with provisions in order to ensure permanent lighting, and these lamps served as warning beacons to passing ships.
In 1540 the Shrine, which was a converted Mosque was ransacked by Barbarosa who deprived the Shrine and statue of all valuables.
As a result of this, the Hermit who looked after the Shrine petitioned Charles V to make the Shrine safer, more worthy of Our Lady, one which would also serve as a lighthouse to mariners. This suggestion was adopted in the reign of Philip II, who enlarged the site of the Shrine to greater proportions. The people of Gibraltar always turned to Our Lady of Europe for protection in times of crisis. During the Conquest of Gibraltar by the British in 1704, the statue was lost and when eventually discovered, it was found that the Child had been destroyed. Father Juan Romero de Figueroa, the priest-in-charge of the Principal Church and the person responsible for the recovery of the statue, fearing that it might be further mutilated, took it to Algeciras in Spain where it remained for 160 years; the Shrine became a guardroom and later a store.
In 1864, John Baptist Scandello, Bishop of Antinoe and Vicar Apostolic of Gibraltar, himself a Gibraltarian, brought the image of Our Lady of Europe back to Gibraltar. As there was now no Shrine at Europa Point, the image was entrusted to the Loreto nuns and kept in the Town Convent Chapel. Meanwhile, a new Child was carved at Seville. The Bishop completed the construction of a new temporary Shrine to Our Lady at the Convent of the Little Sisters of the Poor, in St Bernard's Road, now known as Mount Alvernia. In 1866 the statue was carried in solemn procession and unceremoniously enthroned there above a beautiful marble altar donated by Pope Pius IX. Needless to say the whole of Gibraltar turned out to pay homage and the streets were lined all the way to the Shrine by soldiers, the procession being led by the band of the 86th Regiment. A commemorative stamp to celebrate the centenary of the re-enthronement was issued by the Gibraltar Government (Post Office) in October 1966.
The statue was finally transferred to the site of the original Shrine at Europa Point on the 7th October 1967.
In the face of the present crisis brought about by the Spanish claim over the Sovereignty of the Rock, the people of Gibraltar, who wish only to remain British have regularly made pilgrimages to the Shrine to pray to Our Lady for Her intercession. To the joy of the people of the Rock, the New Constitution, stating that Gibraltar would never be handed over to Spain without an act of Parliament and the people's consent, was published on the Feast of Our Lady on 30th May 1969.
Since then, Pope John Paul II has officially approved the title OUR LADY OF EUROPE and has authorised the transfer of the annual feast of OUR LADY OF EUROPE to EUROPE DAY, which is May 5th.
The Shrine was consecrated by Bishop of Gibraltar MSGR Edward Rapallo DCL, on 5th October 1980. A special Commemorative Cover was issued to mark the occasion.
The Mosque of The Custodian of the The Holy Mosques
The new mosque has already become a landmark at Europa Point, together with the newly refurbished Shrine of Our Lady of Europe and the Lighthouse, all lying within a few yards of each other an excellent beacon for peace and harmony between religions.
This must surely be the most southerly mosque in the continent of Europe. The beautifully designed mosque blends the classic Islamic designs with all modern, high tech utilities. Some of the decorators are reminiscent of the Alhambra in Granada.
The project cost some five million pounds, and it is said that this is possibly the most expensive mosque in Europe per square metre. For the inauguration ceremony and reception, the brother of the late King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, the project’s sponsor, HRH Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, and the King’s youngest son, HRH Prince Abdulaziz Bin Fahd Bin Abdulaziz, visited the Rock, together with many other members of the Saudi royal family and other invited guests in an incredible entourage comprising some sixty limousines, accompanied by some incredible scenes of security measures.
The mosque has been funded by the Ibrahim Bin Abdulaziz Al Ibrahim Foundation and its name is The Mosque of The Custodian of the The Holy Mosques.
The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques is the official title of King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, the project’s backer. The two mosques referred to be the ones at Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia, the holiest in Islam.
The complex’s ground floor area covers 985 square metres and contains the Imam’s house, accommodation facilities for the caretaker, six classrooms, a conference hall, a morgue, a well-stocked library, administration offices, a kitchen and ablution facilities and for male and female faithful.
The first floor includes an exquisitely decorated main prayer hall covering an area of 480 square metres and can hold approximately four hundred faithful. The ceiling has nine solid brass chandeliers, which were made built in Egypt. Eight surround the hall and a huge one, weighing two tons, hangs below the dome in the middle of the hall. Marble tiles, imported from Carrara in Italy, have been used in all the external cladding and also cover the columns supporting the main prayer hall and its Kabila (main altar). The niche (which is oriented towards Mecca) is covered in decorative plaster. A massive carpet covers the entire area of the main prayer hall (it has been woven in one single piece) and the women’s prayer hall has been custom made in Saudi Arabia. Its design follows the same design motifs as those, which appear, on the brass chandeliers, the stained glass windows and the large dome on the ceiling of the prayer hall. The brass decorative lamps also come from Egypt.
A lift connects the ground floor with the mezzanine floor where the women’s prayer hall and the nursery are situated, overlooking the main prayer hall, but screened by a wooden Masharabia screen.
The minaret measures 71 metres in height from the ground floor to the top, crowned by a six metre high brass crescent.
All the wooden doors are made of teak, decorated with brass ornaments and made in Egypt. On the ground floor, all the panel doors are made of 51mm thick solid timber. The decorative screens on the outside windows are made of glass reinforced concrete, precast in Madrid. The two huge crescents which top the dome (the outside of which is covered with mosaic tiles) and the minaret are made of steel frames covered with brass plates, manufactured in Egypt. The whole building is fully air-conditioned throughout.