O conjunto mágico do forte de São João Baptista em Portugal

As Berlengas estão também classificadas como Reserva Natural e há uma década foi eleita Reserva da Biosfera pela Unesco. O forte tem uma vista de 360º. Para o mar, para a ilha Berlenga e para a ponte estreita de arcos que deve ser o local mais fotografado pelos visitantes. A vista é fantástica e o enquadramento natural é muito bonito. Até a pequena baía que se forma ao lado da fortaleza é lugar de visita de cardumes com centenas de peixes e que quebram a tonalidade verde e límpida do Atlântico.

A fortificação assenta numa pequena ilha que está separada da ilha da Berlenga. Os mapas antigos mostram com detalhe as fortificações. Em todas as plantas das Berlengas encontra-se a referência à ilha grande, a Berlenga, e depois ao ilhéu onde o forte está implantado. Daí a presença destes arcos que fazem a ligação entre os dois ilhéus.

A ponte de alvenaria é estreita e faz um ângulo reto, com base em arcos. Muitos visitantes seguem depois a pé por um caminho que sobe a Berlenga e repetidas vezes olham para trás para contemplar o forte irmanado com o ilhéu no meio do oceano e a ligação com a frágil e bonita ponte de arcos.

créditos: andarilho.pt

É hábito os passeios de barco passarem por debaixo da ponte e em redor da fortaleza. Ali é fácil imaginar como foi a rotina dos militares durante três séculos e meio. Desde meados do século XVII até 1914. O escudo coroado em cima da porta de entrada e as 11 canhoeiras que deixam ver o oceano em pequenas aberturas revelam, a partir do interior do forte, a história e a façanha de, num lugar tão inóspito, se lutar contra invasores.

O episódio militar mais relevante do forte de São João Baptista ocorreu em 1666. Uma esquadra espanhola de 15 embarcações e com mais de mil homens só conseguiu a rendição dos menos de 30 portugueses porque um deles fugiu do forte e foi contar aos invasores a frágil situação em que se encontrava a guarnição portuguesa. 

Os espanhóis, antes de deixarem as Berlengas destruíram o forte e, mais uma vez, teve de ser reconstruído. Tinha sido edificado cerca de uma década antes, depois da restauração da independência. Nessa altura, uma das grandes preocupações do Conselho de Guerra, criado para apoiar o processo de fortificação de todo o território nacional na luta contra Espanha, identificou Peniche como o principal acesso marítimo.  A experiência pouco anos antes do desembarque de um contingente inglês tinha revelado que era fácil entrar em Peniche e chegar a Lisboa e, eventualmente, tomar a capital do reino.

A partir daí, inicia-se um processo de fortificação com a frente abaluartada que corresponde às muralhas de Peniche, a construção da Fortaleza de Peniche, o Forte da Consolação e o Forte de S. João Baptista na Berlenga.  

créditos: andarilho.pt

O forte teve ainda um papel relevante nas Invasões Francesas e nas Guerras Liberais. Em 1914 deixou de ter utilização militar. As fortificações da costa portuguesa, do lado atlântico, deixam de ter a sua utilização a partir de meados o século XIX. A partir daí inicia-se um conjunto de outras utilizações. No caso do Forte de S. João Baptista na Berlenga foi abrigo de pescadores que faziam a sua faina a partir da Berlenga. A utilização como espaço de abrigo prolonga-se até à década de 50 do século XX. Nessa altura é construído um bairro para abrigar esses pescadores.

O Estado português, através da então Direção Geral dos Edifícios e Monumentos Nacionais fez uma intervenção de fundo em 1953 com o objetivo de instalar uma pousada que funcionou durante algum tempo naquele espaço. Desde 1976 que o espaço é gerido por uma associação de Peniche, a Associação dos Amigos da Berlenga, que também disponibiliza um alojamento local naquele espaço.

Vale a pena contemplar a beleza natural e também o formigueiro de visitantes que atravessam a ponte em direção à Berlenga.

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