If you ask any visitor in Mallorca, they will tell you that Porto Pi is a big shopping centre located across from the port of Palma in which you can find all services and entertainment options that you wish. It is also a neighborhood located in Palma, between Bonanova and el Terreno.
All that is correct, but Porto Pi isn’t just that. In fact, this shopping centre, which has been reformed several times, and inside which there is a casino, hides the history of a sailor reference place. This place has been a witness of the pirate attacks as well as of the progress in commerce and international relations. We are talking about the Porto Pi lighthouse.
The Porto Pi lighthouse, also known as the Signal Tower, started being used at the beginning of the 14th century. This is why it has earned the name of second oldest lighthouse in Spain (only surpassed by la Torre de Hércules), and the third in the world, after the known Lighthouse of Genoa.
The original lighthouse, dates back to 1300, when it appears mentioned in the testament of King Jaime II of Mallorca. It occupied the place that the Castell Sant Carles occupies today, now being a museum.
It is curious to know how they managed to light such a big lighthouse back at the time. It was lit with little iron lamps that were placed in the interior of the lantern and had wicks impregnated with oil. When the current Castell de Sant Carles was built, the Porto Pi lighthouse had to be transferred because of the high activity of the castle. The lighthouse was suffering damages due to the vibrations from the canon bombs.
That is why it was decided that the new location for the Porto Pi lighthouse was to be the base of the Signal Tower, for which a new base had to be built (it was still being used up to 1971) and transfer it. From that moment on a series of new improvements that came with the evolution in technology were added. The biggest improvement was changing the lighting system which passed from being oil-fed lights to having mechanical flashes with the installation of a turning optical machine. After some years, little by little the lighthouse was adapted to the new technological era.
It was in 1927 when paraffin was replaced with lamps that worked with electricity and from that year up till our days one of its main characteristics was installed, the intermittent flashes every 15 seconds, which can be seen from Cala Figuera, with a nocturnal reach of 22 nautical miles.
In 1958, with Palma’s renovations (most of them derived from the interest of facilitating the tourism access to the island) it was suggested to move the Porto Pi lighthouse to a different place (specifically to el Dique del Oeste) as they required the place that is was located in. This decision wasn’t accepted by many people, and so this idea was finally forgotten.
From 1983, this beautiful and ancient lighthouse has the title of Historical-Artistic Monument and has a permanent exhibition that is considered one of the best in Europe, where you can find maritime equipment used during history.