History Files
 
 

 

Northern Europe

Kõpu Lighthouse

by Peter Kessler, 20 August 2021

 

Kõpu Lighthouse, Estonia, by Kersti Hansen
Photo © Kersti Hansen

Reputedly the third-oldest still-working lighthouse in the world (after examples in Spain and Genoa), Kõpu lighthouse stands on a raised mound on the western Estonian island of Hiiumaa.

Its construction began in the form of a beacon in 1514, at the request of the Hanseatic League of maritime trading cities. At that time Hiiumaa was part of the prince-bishopric of Ösel-Wiek (Saaremaa and Läänemaa). In 1649 that beacon was converted into a lighthouse when a fire was lit at its top to warn vessels. The fire was lit only during the day, on a lighthouse base which was lower than today's tower.

Kõpu Lighthouse, Estonia, by Kersti Hansen
Photo © Kersti Hansen

The base was increased in height in 1659, and in 1805 it gained its distinctive white paint. A stone staircase of sixty-nine steps was added to the southern pier in 1810, along with a lantern room which contained twenty-three lanterns. A further forty-eight wooden steps were added later.

Kõpu Lighthouse, Estonia, by Kersti Hansen
Photo © Kersti Hansen

In 1845 a wooden lantern room replaced the original, and in 1859 the lantern was replaced, becoming operational in 1860. Petroleum lighting was fitted in 1877 while the lantern room's roof had already been painted its distinctive red.

Kõpu Lighthouse, Estonia, by Kersti Hansen
Photo © Kersti Hansen

The World Exhibition in Paris in 1900 produced a technologically modern lamp which survives to today. The concrete 'shirt' around the main body of the tower was added in 1989-1990 to help keep it standing. The last lighthouse keeper left in 1996, replaced by automation technology.

All photos kindly contributed by Kersti Hansen, taken in August 2021.

 

Images and text copyright © Kersti Hansen & P L Kessler except where stated. An original feature for the History Files.