The human occupation of Berlenga Grande (the only habitable one) dates back to Antiquity, being designated as the island of Saturn by Roman geographers. Later it was visited by Muslim navigators, Vikings, French and English privateers. In 1513, with the support of Queen Leonor, monks of the Order of Saint Jerome settled there with the purpose of offering assistance to navigation and to the victims of frequent shipwrecks on that Atlantic coast, ravaged by corsairs, founding the Monastery of Mercy of Berlenga , in the place where, since 1953, a restaurant has been built. However, food shortages, disease and constant attacks by Moroccan, Algerian, English and French pirates and corsairs made it impossible for the friars to live in seclusion, often incommunicado due to the inclemency of the sea.
WHY THIS PLACE
In the context of the War of Restoration, under the government of D. João IV (1640-1656), the Council of War ordered the demolition of the ruins of the abandoned monastery and the use of its stones in the construction of a fortification to defend that strategic point from the coast. Although the date on which the works began is unknown, in 1655, when it was still under construction, it successfully resisted its first assault, when it was bombed by three Turkish-flagged vessels.
With no greater military value, given the evolution of war means in the 19th century, it was dismantled (1847) and abandoned, starting to be used as a support base for commercial fishing.