Monumento Meridiano Cerro (Meridiano Zero Monument) in La Frontera, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain

Ferro Meridian

Today, Greenwich is generally associated with the prime meridian, but this was not always the case. In fact, before Greenwich, the Ferro meridian was known as the original prime meridian since the times of ancient Greece.

The idea of using the westernmost point in the world for the zero meridian is an old concept, with evidence dating back to the days of Ptolemy. This westernmost point was located at the semi-mythical Islands of the Blessed, which was believed to be to be the Canary Islands. 

This meridian was later made official by France in 1634 under the rule of King Louis XIII. However, there was a problem. France did not actually use this location for calculating the meridian, and instead just decreed that it was 20 degrees west of Paris. 

Oher countries disagreed and a squabble ensued. The Netherlands drew the meridian through Tenerife, Britain used Greenwich, and most other countries used their own capital. Eventually, the title of prime meridian was given to Greenwich at the 1884 International Meridian Conference, however, the decision did have detractors.

The Ferro meridian was all but forgotten after the decision but not by the people of the island. Whoever visits the location today will find a large monument commemorating the location. A sign below the monument reads. 

“Punta de Orchilla El Hierro
The westernmost Spanish land. It was raised monument in memory of the meridian of El Hiero, origin of longitudes in the cartography of various European countries until the mid-19th century.
Captaincy General of the Canary Islands
May 17, 1982.”

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