last update: 12 January 2021
"Quien no ha visto Sevilla, No ha visto maravilla"
He who Seville has not seen, has not seen a marvel great
Popular Spanish saying
A glance back in time…
In a book published in 1853 the author C.J. Gayley employed the term "Sevillised Life" to describe his winter stay in the city. It was a time when young English gentlemen 'presented letters', smoked cigars with the local Marques, visited gentlemen's clubs and the opera, took shelter from the rain in estancios de tabacos, read Don Quixote, breakfasted on chocolate and toast whilst smoking a cigarillo, and were ardent members of the "drawing-room of Sevillian society" - the afternoon walk along the pleasant shore of the Guadalquivir.
They would buy a corse capa (cloak), carry a porro (a long polished yew stick with a heavy knob), wear a faja (a kind of very long, scarlet woven scarf wrapped around the waist), learn to eat for breakfast eggs fried in oil and miga (bread-crumbs steeped in water and sprinkled with salt, with hot oil poured over it, and a touch of garlic added), and when venturing out alway replace the dagger in their faja with a loaded six-barrel revolver.
A separate hand-book for travellers in Spain dated 1845 allocated three full pages to informing our young English gentleman how to wear properly a capa, noting that it covered a multitude of sins whilst giving the wearer an air of stately decency. The conclusion was that a genuine Spaniard "would sooner part with his skin than his capa".
"Courting at a Ring-Shaped Pastry Stall at the Seville Fair" was painted in 1852 by the Sevillian artist Rafael Benjumea (1825-1887). The young man is dressed in what I think might be a Calaniés hat, and a coarse capa (cloak) of panno pardo (brown cloth), turned up with scarlet.
That same guide book of 1845 tells us "Seville is one of the most agreeable towns in Spain for a lengthened residence. The shooting is first-rate, the theatre is tolerable, the masquerading at carnival time entertaining, … Seville is the alma mater of the bull-fight, … and the ceremonial of the Semana Santa is second in interest to that of Rome alone". What's more Sevillians "delight in cool repose and the cigar", hate bustle, exertion, or being put out of their way, but enjoy the occasional pleasure "with the rapture of children".
First things first…
The first thing to do in our hunt for "Sevillised Life" is to understand the map of the city (ciudad), with its 11 different districts (distritos) and 108 neighbourhoods (barrios). According to a Spanish law of 2003 (Ley de Grandes Ciudades), as capital of Andalucía, Seville decided in 2005 to create 11 districts. Each district has its own Junta Municipal de Distrito, and as a municipality (municipio) the city has its own town hall (ayuntamiento). Just to make things that bit more complicated, the city is also capital of a Spanish province (Provincia de Sevilla) with the same name, and which is the largest of the 8 provinces that make up Andalucía.
So Seville is a city, one of 106 municipality of the province of Seville, capital of the same province, capital of Andalucía, and Spains 4th largest metropolitan area.
Above we can see the 11 districts (distritos) of the city, surrounded by some of the municipalities that make up the province of Seville. Below we have the barrios that make up the Casco Antiguo, the old city centre.
Casco Antiguo is the central area of Seville where the main shops and the principal tourist attractions of the city are located, including the Cathedral, the Giralda, the Alcázar, the Archivo General de Indias, the Torre del Oro, the Casa Consistorial de Sevilla (City Hall), the Palacio de San Telmo, the Museo de Bellas Artes, the Palacio de la Condesa de Lebrija, the Casa de Pilatos, and the distinctly modern Metropol Parasol.
Distrito Sur is notable for the presence of the Plaza de España, the Parque de María Luisa, the Museo Arqueológico, the Prado de San Sebastián and the Museo de Artes y Costumbres Populares.
Triana was historically split from the main city, and it was known as an arrabal, i.e. outskirts, or a small working-class town with its own houses, shops and businesses. Triana is placed on an almost-island between two branches of the Guadalquivir, narrowly linked to the mainland in the north. At the top of the district is the Monasterio de la Cartuja, the Isla Mágica amusement park, and the original site of Expo '92.
Macarena is the name of the area of Seville located north of the city centre, and includes the Basílica de la Macarena and the Parliament of Andalucía (in the old Hospital de las Cinco Llagas).
Distrito Norte includes the Cementerio de Dan Fernando and the former monastery of San Jerónimo de Buenavista.
Los Remedios, south of Triana, derives its name from a Carmelite convent (Convento de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios) of the same name found in that area. It is also on the Isla de La Cartuja, and includes the Puente de San Telmo and the Museo de Carruajes.
In 2019 it was reported that the average income per person in Seville was € 11,056, considerably lower than that of Madrid and Barcelona (where it exceeds € 15,000). Variations across the city are quite substantial, with the average income per person in Los Remedios being € 15,910, but only € 7,334 in the district Cerro-Amate. Again for income per household, the highest is in Los Remedios with € 43,406, and the lowest in Cerro-Amate with € 19,821.
Around the same time the average price per square metre in the Andalusian capital was € 1,631, but could easily exceed € 2,000 per square metre in Casco Antiguo (€ 2,516), Triana, Los Remedios and Nervión (€ 2,262). Price increases in excess of 10% annually have been seen in recent years. More markedly in Cerro del Águila-Amate, prices actually decreased by nearly 4%, to a low of € 915 per square metre.
The early and intense human presence in Andalucía is visible in the abundance and wide distribution of archaeological records, ranging from the most remote dates to the pre-Roman cultures of the final centuries of the 1st millennium BC. We can see below that Seville might not have been as popular with prehistoric man as the regions around Málaga or Jaén, but Seville is nevertheless known for the Dolmen de la Pastora at the famous Copper Age Valencina de la Concepción site. And around Seville there are other Neolithic sites dating back to ca. 4500 BC.
The site was first studied in the late 19th century for its monumental megalithic constructions, but over time it has probably become the most intensively excavated prehistoric settlement in Spain (many were 'rescue interventions' due to urban developments). Above we can see a dolmen, on the site that has been called "the Stonehenge of Sevilla". Radiocarbon dating suggests that the site was occupied from the around 3000 BC to possibly as late as ca. 1500 BC, and the settlement covered between 3 and 4 million square metres (but probably not all at the same time). This was a Copper Age settlement, as evidenced by the large number of crucibles, crucible-furnaces, slag and minerals found. Most of the objects found were tools and weapon-tools, especially axes, although ornaments and some weapon-tools have been found in burial contexts.
In a site very near to Valencian de la Concepción is the Tholos de Montelirio, where a tholos is a kind of beehive tomb. It was probably built sometime between 2900 BC and 2800 BC. Numerous artefacts made of exotic materials such as ivory, gold or amber, as well as ceramic, lithic, bone and textiles were found there. In particular a total of 159 objects made of ivory were found, i.e. combs and numerous zoomorphic figurines. It is one of the most important ivory assemblages recovered so far from a Copper Age site. But in addition a collection of amber artefacts were found, considered to be "the largest collection of amber objects from recent prehistory found on the Iberian Peninsula". Another report noted that the amber found represented by weight 90% of all the amber objects found on the peninsula.
In a recent article two beads from a cave at La Molina (near Seville) were analysed in depth. They date from the 3rd millennium BC and the suggestion is that they were coated with a tree resin in an attempt to imitate the appearance of amber. Amber was already in the 4th millennium BC considered a rare, exotic and high prestige item with important symbolic properties. An outstanding question concerns the owners of these beads, did they know they were imitations, or are we looking at prehistoric fakes?
It is thought that around the 8th century BC, when iron took the place of bronze for the first time in Andalucía, the Turdetani (see the Tartessos culture) built a town (Spal or Ispal) on the banks of the Guadalquivir. This makes the city of Seville at least 2,700 years old. The area was very fertile, rich in natural resources, and accessible with the navigable Gualalquivir. In addition, the location offered abundant drinking water and was considered 'temperate' in the long, dry, hot summers. On the other hand, the land was 'swampy' and prone to flooding. The original town was (probably) on a long, narrow island (or dune about 450 m by 200 m) defined by two rivers (streams) flowing into the Gualalquivir, the Barqueta and the Tagarete. This meant that the town could be approached by ships arriving throughout the year. Both these rivers/streams have disappeared, with the Tagarete now being deviated by the Tamarguillo into the Corta de la Cartuja (which as far as I can see is artificial canal which, with the Guadalquivir, created the Isla de La Cartuja).
Below on the left we can see how the Corta de la Cartuja created the Isla de la Cartuja, and on the right Seville's major road infrastructure and bridges.
The first archaeological remains place man in this region sometime between 4500 BC and 3500 BC, when Lacus Ligustinus (Ligustino Lake) was still open to the Atlantic Ocean (it is thought to have remained open until about 1000 BC). Flooding regularly occurred along the lower Guadalquivir Valley (now known as the Doñana National Park) almost up to where Seville is located today. Sediment formed a system of islands or dunes, and it was there that the “mythical” port of Ispal was built between 1000 BC and 800 BC. The region gradually silted up, probably in part due to removal of forest cover.
The Guadalquivir floodplain is through to have evolved as follows. During the Neolithic period (say ca. 4400 BC), the last post-glacial sea level rise created a marine-estuarine environment (a) that fully occupied the bay but did not quite reach the future site of Itálica. During the Late Bronze Age (1150–750 BC), tide flats and sandy spits rapidly increased and the alluvial plain became a river delta (b) near Coria del Río. The river mouth was displaced towards the Atlantic in a gradual process of silting up. During the Turdetan-Iberian and Roman periods (i.e. late Iron Age to Roman times), supra-tidal marshes and alluvial plains were consolidated and the coastal spit and the dune system increased (370 BC–418 AD). The estuarine shore, created a multitude of floodplains behind it, including Lacus Ligustinus (c).
Since the Late Bronze Age there was an intensive occupation of these lands. The Orientalising period and the Tartessian culture, which expanded in the Southwestern Iberian Peninsula, coincided with the arrival and settlement of the Phoenicians. The coastal settlements located from the Strait of Gibraltar to the mouth of Guadalquivir were connected to the Phoenician colony of Gadir (today Cádiz). Metals from the mining zone in the current province of Huelva were exported through the Guadalquivir and its tributaries, such as the Guadiamar River. This trade is presumed to have increased the population and the number of sites on the estuary banks, and Strabo (ca. 64 BC - 24 AD) wrote about the estuary zone with navigable waterways and densely populated shores.
Poor agricultural soils are found on the northern side of the Lacus Ligustinus watershed, on the right bank of the Guadalquivir. Furthermore, the topography did not offer convenient high ground for the protohistoric settlement. A polynuclear-style pattern of settlement, characterised as numerous oppida (fortified Iron Age settlements), have been found on the southern side of the Lacus Ligustinus, especially from Los Palacios (Seville) to the mouth of the Guadalquivir. Some of the main locations became Roman cities, such as Nabrissa (indigenous place name Lebrija), Asta (Mesas de Asta, Jerez de la Frontera), Ebora (Cortijo de Évora, Sanlúcar de Barrameda) and Conobaria. They were positioned in elevated and well-defended positions, with fresh water supply, protection against the floods, and with navigational control from their ports.
At the end of the Tartessian period, during the transition to the Turdetan era (ca. 500 BC), the small sites disappeared and the population was concentrated in large sites with access to the sea or the estuarine waterways, as in the case of the city of Asta. The beneficial trade of metals declined after the fall of Tyre in the 539 BC, and the related Phoenician colonies and indigenous cities in the Iberian Peninsula also declined. During the 5th century BC, the main urban sites, surviving from the Tartessian period, were located in elevated positions beside the marshes. They exploited the agrarian hinterland and the sea resources, and they used the ports to trade their agrarian surpluses.
After the Second Punic War (218-201 BC), Roman control of the region probably changed the relationships between the local civic powers. The defeat and punishment of Asta, one of the main territorial centres, is confirmed in written and epigraphic sources. It probably affected the political order on the Ligustinus banks to a considerable extent. Afterwards, the arrival of Italic peoples to this city will have been very influential to the economy of the zone. The record of Campanian pottery (black gloss tableware, types B and C) shows the intensity of the trade exchanges in the late Republican period (i.e. 146-31 BC). It will have continued during the Early Roman Empire (31 BC-193 AD), with the development of the viticulture (and despite the increasing enclosure of the Lacus Ligustinus). A transformation of the rural settlement pattern started in the 3rd century AD, as part of a general phenomenon in the Hispanic Roman provinces (to 472 AD). Trade and, consequently, navigation is supposed to have become reduced in the Lacus Ligustinus. The silting up of the estuary reduced the size of suitable channels for navigation, which became more dependent on tides. During this later period the alluvial landscape was widespread, the sandy spit augmented the enclosed feature of this space and the dunes expanded (d).
The early “dune/island” ran from Los Jardines de Murillo to Plaza del Salvador, so a small area south of the Casco Antiguo covering the barrio Santa Cruz (which in medieval times was the Jewish quarter of the city). Around the dune an island was built 550 m and 300 m wide, with a circumference of about 1.7 km. It ran from the corner of Calle Rosario with Calle Augusto Plasencia and over to Calle Gloria and Plaza de Doña Elvira, and from the corner of Calle de Placentines and Calle Francos, over to Calle Federico Rubio.
Experts suggest that the original name Ispal was first Latinised to Hispalis, then Išbīliya with the Muslim conquest, and then finally Castellanised to Sevilla. It is thought that Ispal might have its origins in the Phoenician language. The meaning would be an island that supports, or an island that bears a pillar, thus the often suggested relationship with the legendary foundation of the city by Hercules. Later suggestions point to a more realistic reference to the palafitte construction of the early city. However the language root is also linked to lagoon or marshy land.
The legend of Hercules, son of Zeus and the mortal Alcmena, is that he must do twelve labours. The 10th labour was to find Geryon and steal his red cattle (Geryon was thought by the Greeks to live in Tartessos). The story goes that once Hercules had killed the 3-headed, 3-bodied monster he decided to found a city (Seville) as a place of peace and fertile fields. One story has him nailing together some sticks in a swampy area on the banks of the Guadalquivir, and another story has him marking the place with six stone pillars (on which later Julius Caesar would found the city). Hercules is also associated with the general region in that the Pillars of Hercules separate Europe from Africa and connect the Mediterranean Sea with the Atlantic Ocean. Even within such a traditional story as that of Hercules, there are layers of even more ancient traditions. The Roman Hercules, was the Greek Heracles, to which they added some anecdotal details concerning the geography of the central Mediterranean. But Heracles has also been identified with Melqart, an earlier god of the Phoenician city of Tyre.
Setting aside all the stories, archaeological evidence suggests that the region was occupied in the period between 4500 BC and 3500 BC, and there are indications that man was using wooden stilts or piles ca. 800 BC. Despite mythology and tradition, there appears to be no information on why the earliest town later disappeared, and was then successively replaced by the Turdetana, Iberian and Punic cultures.
It is suggested that Phoenicians (from the city of Tyre) established their first settlement at Cádiz in about 850 BC. They then ventured out in three directions, north up the Portuguese coast to tap deeper into the Atlantic bronze trade, south down the African coast, and back towards the east along the coast of Andalucía. They established numerous sites along the cost, all having one feature in common. All were built on previously unoccupied land but in the vicinity of indigenous settlements and shared other features such as occupying a promontory at the mouth of a river, having a necropolis on the far side of a river to the settlement itself, and having a natural harbour. Their first buildings were, apparently, large mud brick dwellings divided into separate rooms. Some rooms had hearths and they were connected by high thresholds, another Phoenician habit. The buildings were organised along streets that were terraced to follow the slope of the hill, and some areas were protected by a defensive ditch. Warehouses were built with storage containers, and the storage capacity appeared to exceeded local needs, suggesting that it played a role in trade.
Evidence of metalworking also appeared from the 7th century BC. Large numbers of fish remains suggest that intensive fishing occurred from an early date. The period roughly 850 BC to 250 BC is sometimes known as the "orientalising period" implying that primitive native tribes embraced the architecture and standards of living of the more advanced civilisations from the east, including their ceramics, jewellery, clothing, beliefs and weapons. The Phoenicians were the dominant trading partners with the Tartessians and Iberians in Andalucía from the 9th to the 6th centuries BC. However growing competition from Greek traders and then the Punic colony of Carthage, combined with unrest back in Tyre was to prove fatal for them. In 539 BC Tyre was conquered by the Achaemenid Empire and Tyrhenians abroad effectively became stateless. The emerging Carthaginian Empire was poised to take advantage in the western Mediterranean. The Phoenician settlements in Andalucía had an option, become part of the Carthaginian sphere or cease trading.
Phoenician merchants are said to have arrived in the region of Seville about 700 BC to take advantage of the local copper and silver mines in the area of Huelva, turning Ispal into a commercial colony (here we have the link to the Phoenician god Melqart). As with most ports, Ispal probably was built on a mix of cultures, with the Phoenicians (ca. 1500 BC - 539 BC), the Tartésicas (ca. 1200 BC - 500 BC), the Turdetani (ca. 500 BC - 206 BC), and the Carthaginians (814 BC - 146 BC). It has been suggested that with the collapse of the Phoenician Empire, the Carthaginians fought and defeated the Tartessos, destroying Ispal.
On 30 September 1958, a treasure of gold objects was found by workmen refurbishing a public building at the top of a hill overlooking the fertile Guadalquivir river valley. The Carambolo gold hoard consists of two sets of objects, representing a total of 21 ornaments, including 16 rectangular plaques, two pendants, a pair of bracelets, and a pendant necklace. They have recently been dated to a period around the 8th century BC, except for the necklace, which was probably Cypriot in origin and dated to around the 6th century BC, the period when the treasure was concealed. Initially the location was considered a Tartessian settlement occupied by an indigenous people whom the Phoenicians would have found when they appeared in the lower Guadalquivir area. Claiming the settlement as genuinely Andalusian was an attractive option, although some experts argued that Seville only really emerged as a Phoenician settlement. This idea was later strengthened based on the original place name of the city (Spal or Hispal), which shows Semitic links. But for at least half a century Carambolo was seen as an indigenous village that arose before the oldest Phoenician presence in the area, and if the objects found were sacred, then they must have come from a Tartessian temple within a Tartessian settlement.
In parallel, but especially since the end of 1990's, some experts continued to accumulate evidence suggesting that the entire Carambolo site could have been an eastern sanctuary, and not a settlement belonging to the autochthonous community. In this context, the area known as “Carambolo Bajo” would have been, in reality, a service district situated in the heart of the temple. Therefore, Carambolo would not have been a Tartessian town with a Phoenician temple. To deny the indigenous character of the Carambolo, it was necessary to offer a functional rereading of the set of jewels that since 1958 made the place famous. The change would be substantial, the treasure would cease to be the luxurious garb of a monarch, and become the sacred garments of some sacrificial bovids and the liturgical garb of the officiating priest.
Field work carried out at the site in the first decade of the 21st century confirmed the eastern character of the settlement and its sacred function, but some experts still preferred to see the site as an example of Tartessian architecture. Yet others suggested that the site might have had a temple consecrated to a Phoenician goddess, and the articles found might be associated with rites practiced there.
To cut a long story short, recent excavations have fully confirmed the second hypothesis, the one that saw a religious ceremonial complex on the hill (see the sanctuary above). The building began as a simple rectangular structure before being dismantled and expanded in the 8th century BC. For those readers who would like to know more about El Carambolo I would warmly recommend this extensive article in Spanish.
The Roman Period
The Punic (i.e. Carthaginian) colonisation of the region (and the implied destruction of Ispal), led to the creation of the myth of Ispavilia (about which I can find little factual evidence). There is evidence showing a military presence of the Carthaginians in 237 BC, and a town certainly existed in the region, because in 206 BC Roman troops captured it during the Second Punic War (218-201 BC).
After their defeat in the First Punic War (264-241 BC), the Carthaginians, used the Southern and Eastern parts of the Iberian Peninsula to rebuild some sort of territorial and economic 'empire'. A big part of Spain became a logistical and military base, thousands of mercenaries were hired and local subjects and allies recruited, and by the time Hannibal (247-181 BC) marched on Italy, a sizeable part of his army was built around a hard core of African and Iberian or Celtiberian contingents (see Celtiberian horse fibula above). These troops were familiar with foreign warfare through their previous employment as xenoi in Sicily and Greece, i.e. free-born volunteers. They employed new types of weapons, such as the thureos (oval shield), the cut-and-thrust straight sword, and bronze Montefortino-type helmets.
From ca. 550 BC until ca. 400 BC, soldiers still used heavy and costly iron weapons, and armour made of bronze plate over a felt backing. Swords were short cut-and-thrust infantry weapons with a wide blade. Excavations yielded some beautiful daggers with a wide triangular tapering blade, often decorated with intricate silver inlay designs, altogether more suitable for exhibiting status than for battle. However, the main offensive weapon was still the long, heavy thrusting spear, with spearheads up to 60 cm long. Protection was a leather helmet reinforced with a bronze or iron rim, and a round bronze breast- and back-plate over a felt backing designed to cover the neck and shoulders. This was a heavy and costly panoply, apt for hand-to-hand combat between aristocratic "Homeric-type" champions. These are not the sort of weapons useful for light infantry or guerrilla tactics. Poorer troops would have been less well protected, but they have left little trace in the archaeological record, i.e. no monuments or imposing burials for those of the lower classes of society. During this period a proper ‘cavalry’ did not yet exist, i.e. mounted units, fighting in a concerted way, employing recognisable tactics, and capable of playing a distinct role in the battlefield. Some leaders and distinguished warriors probably went into battle on horseback, but would have fought on foot, i.e. a horse was a status symbol associated with warrior aristocracies. By the early years of the 5th century BC a distinctive ‘peninsular’ panoply had developed. Basically, it was the result of a strong local impulse founded on Tartessian traditions, but it also owed much to external influences coming from both Italy (prototypes for the falcata) and north of the Pyrenees, where the first soliferrea and pila were probably forged (ca. 4th century BC).
During this period ca. 400 BC to ca. 230 BC formal burial in cemeteries was extended to a wider stratum of the population (but not to everyone). Cemeteries with up to 500-600 burials were known, and those with 100-plus burials became common. Moreover, during the 4th century BC, anywhere between 35% and 60% of burials in Iron Age cemeteries contain weapons. Clearly weapons had become more accessible, but they had also been simplified and standardised. Armour became more functional and less conspicuous and expensive. Shields, now universally round and wooden, had a simple central iron handgrip with long triangular ‘wings’ to fix it to the shield body. During the 4th century there was no proof of bronze helmets or oval shields being used. As for offensive weapons, the curved pre-Roman style falcata became, during the first half of the 4th century BC, almost the only sword type used in Iberia. Iron spearheads and socketed iron butts for thrusting spears became shorter and had wider blades. Interestingly, arrowheads and sling bullets are completely absent in burials, and are never represented in art. Some experts have suggested that these types of long-range projectiles were rejected in warfare by the Iberians, as by other Mediterranean peoples during this period, as being considered cowardly and effete.
Overall, grave goods showed a clear standardisation of weapons typical of infantry fighting in close order, but also capable of opening its lines to fight in skirmish if necessary. The basic panoply consisted of a heavy javelin, a thrusting spear, sword and shield, together with a leather helmet and some form of textile armour. In this orientalising period horse bits, spurs and other elements of horse harness were very rare in Iberian tombs, but often found in the so-called ‘princely’ burials. It shows that during the 4th century BC there was no true ‘Iberian’ cavalry fighting on horseback, or riding as military units. Less that 5% of warriors rode into battle as nobles and leaders of men, but all would have still fought on foot.
In a later period (ca. 230 to ca. 100 BC) a substantial number of actual weapons have been found in cemeteries, although admittedly in much smaller numbers than in the 4th century BC. On the other hand, there were now the vases with many images of fully armed warriors represented either fighting in battle, in gladiatorial funeral contests, or performing ritual dances. These images are also quite detailed, and can be compared with each other to provide a picture for the different regions. A wealth of sculptural evidence is also available, as are the many bronze warrior figurines found in sanctuaries in Andalucía. Coins, minted in quantity since the second half of the 3rd century BC, also provide information on weapons.
Around 237 BC Iberia became an extremely important logistics base for Carthage in its struggle with Rome, providing silver, raw materials for the war effort, and soldiers. The peninsula quickly became a battlefield when the Romans landed in Empúries in 218 BC trying to sever Hannibal’s supply lines. An ever increasing number of Iberians and Celiberians took part in the war, fighting for both sides either as subjects, allies or mercenaries. During this phase, the traditional weaponry of the period was modified and adapted to the new situation of high-intensity warfare, i.e fighting to the death in big pitched battles.
The Carthaginians were expelled from Spain after the battle of Ilipa in 206 BC, but this victory was immediately followed by a war of resistance against the Romans, It was only at the end of the Celtiberian Wars (which ran from 181 BC to 133 BC), with a Roman victory at Numantia, that a lasting peace was found (at least until the Sertorial War in 80 BC to 72 BC).
After the battle of Ilipa the Romans went on to build a new city of Italica, just 9 km from modern-day Seville. There is historical evidence indicating that Scipio Africanus (236-183 BC) settled there a contingent of wounded soldiers in 205 BC. The location was both strategically well placed to control the region around the Guadalquivir, and also became an important centre of the re-distribution of metals mined at Rio Tinto and Aznalcóllar in the Sierra Morena. It is thought that a small pre-Roman Italica existed as early as the 3rd century BC.
Seville itself was renamed Hispalis, and developed into a large Roman city. Italica remained also an important Roman base, and was the birthplace of both Trajan (53-117 AD) and Hadrian (76-138). Hispalis was the Latinisation of Ispal, and Julio César renamed it “Colonia Julia Romula Hispalis”. It has been suggested that Italica was also built for the simple reason that, at that time, Seville being on dune islands could not easily be enlarged, and there was the constant risk of flooding. Archaeologists have found ceramic remains showing that the local styles slowly “fusioned” with those imported from Rome. There is a suggestion that the expansion of Hispalis only started after 150 BC, but there are texts showing that by 100 BC Hispalis rivalled Cádiz in importance and was a major port. There are later texts that reference the strong walls of Hispalis. So over time Hispalis became one of the most important industrial centres of Bética, whilst Italica evolved as a Roman residential city. Bética was one of the Roman provinces of Hispania, and took its name from the fact that the Guadalquivir was originally called the Baetis (the capital of Bética was Corduba). We should not forget that the region was known for its mines (gold, silver, copper and lead), and for its agriculture (cereal, olive oil and wine), as well as the famous garum or fermented fish sauce.
One report (from ca. 293 AD) placed Hispalis as the 11th most important Roman city, and there are records of at least two attempted invasions by the Mauri (Moors) during that period.
Christianity arrived in Hispalis in the later 2nd century AD, and the Saints Justa and Rufina were martyred in 287 AD for refusing to worship the old Phoenician god Astarté.
Initially Italica remained a Turdetanian settlement within which lived a growing community of Italians and Roman citizens, remembering that it was only granted municipal status under Augustus (63 BC - 14 AD). This was probably ca. 15-14 BC, since it was around then that the town minted a limited issue of low denomination bronze coins. But as Hispania Ulterior Baetica came to symbolise Roman power in the south-west, so Italica grew in importance. Excavations clearly show the existence of large public buildings, a temple to Apollo built from private and public subscription, substantial walls with at least one circular-plan tower, a large profusely decorated theatre and portico, and a large set of public baths. Italica under Hadrian grew considerably as it acquired colonial status, but most of the growth was residential buildings, some quite large and sumptuously decorated with mosaics (but few or no public tenement blocks). The baths (termas mayores) were probably the largest set of public baths in the Hispaniae.
Here we have just two mosaics from Italica, above is Helios, a detail from the Planetarium Mosaic, and below a detail from the Bird Mosaic. Check out this webpage on the mosaics along the Roman Baetica route.
The Vandals and Visigoths
In 426 AD the city was captured by the Vandals of Gunderico (379-428), before later becoming a Visigoth city (the city was in the hands of the Suevos between 429 until ca. 450). There are claims that Seville was the Visigoth capital for the kings Amalaric (502-531), Theudis (ca. 470-548), and Theudigisel (ca. 500-549), whilst other Visigoth leaders preferred Toledo. In fact the last king was said to have been assassinated by a group of nobles Sevillanos during a candlelight dinner. Tradition has it that the cause was about his liking for prostitutes, but it probably had more to do with the running conflict between the Hispano-Roman and Visigoth communities.
By this time Hispalis had become known as Spali. One tradition has it that the Vandals caused so much destruction during their conquests that they always settled in provisional camps called Vandalen Haus, and that this became Vandalen Hause, which became Vandalaus, and then Andalaus, and finally Andalucía.
In 580 Hermenegild, son of the Visigoth king Liuvigild, rebelled and converted from Arianism to Chalcedonian Christianity. He fled to Sevilla, and when that fell in 584 he went to Córdoba. Other stories say that Hermenegildo actually converted to Christianity in 585 in Sevilla and proclaimed himself king. His farther Leovigildo is said to have changed the course of the Guadalquivir, and the resulting drought was the downfall of the city.
It would appear that the Catholic bishop Leander of Seville was instrumental in converting Hermenegild to Catholicism, and when the father Liuvigild died in 586 Leander also convinced the younger son Reccared I to renounce Arianism for Catholicism (see the Third Council of Toledo in 589 for more detail). Tradition has it that from then on Seville enjoyed a period of great prosperity.
San Leandro (ca. 534-601) and San Isidoro (ca. 560-636) were brothers, and both became bishops of Sevilla. Leandro was instrumental in converting the Visigoth kings to Catholicism, and Isidoro has been called “the last scholar of the ancient world” and was famous after his death for his Etymologiae or encyclopedia (448 chapters in 20 volumes).
The story of Hermenegild given above is what might be considered the short-traditional version. But it's useful to delve a little deeper because it highlights how little we really know about events set in the distant past. The basic 'facts' are that Hermenegild (d. 585) was the eldest son of King Leovigild (r. 568-586). Hermenegild, from the seat of his authority in Seville, rebelled against his father and king. His rebellion lasted for only five years, with Hermenegild being defeated and captured in 584, and put to death in the following year.
The problem is that everything known about the rebellion and its aftermath is derived from four separate accounts written by bishops at various times in the forty years following the rebellion. Gregory of Tours (ca. 538-594), a Frankish bishop and chronicler, wrote parts of his Decem Libri Historiarum (Ten Books of History, but better known as the History of the Franks) contemporaneously with the rebellion, and thus his account follows the evolution of the rebellion over time. Pope Gregory the Great (ca. 540-604) wrote his Dialogues in the late 590's from his seat in Rome, and included the rebellion within his account, an event which occurred a decade before the beginning of his papacy. John of Biclaro (ca. 540-621), a Hispano-Roman bishop from Lusitania, was the first author of Spanish origin, and wrote his Chronicon in the early 7th century, nearly 30 years after the rebellion. Finally, Isidore, the Visigothic bishop of Seville, wrote both Etymologiae and his History of the Goths in 619, later revising and adding to it in 624, 40 years after the conclusion of the rebellion. While the four accounts agree on many parts of the rebellion, such as the general timeline and its outcome, they differ greatly in the details of the rebellion itself. One account may see religion as the primary motivation for Hermenegild's rebellion, while another may make no reference to religion at all, instead assigning his motivation to internal or external politics. This is the reality about what we think of as "true history".
Gregory of Tours portrayed Hermenegild and his rebellion in a positive light. In addition he wanted to promote the idea that widows should withdraw from public life upon the deaths of their husbands, and instead devote themselves to living a spiritual life. He thus assigned much of the blame for the rebellion squarely onto Leovigild’s wife, Queen Gosuintha, and her actions against Hermenegild.
Gregory the Great’s portrayal of Hermenegild is that of a hagiography, entirely focused upon the religious elements present within the rebellion. He painted a picture of Hermenegild as a martyr for his faith, and his rebellion as a holy war. He used this story of a Catholic fighting against an Arian to bolster anti-Arian sentiment, at a time when Arian Lombards were invading northern Italy. Hermenegild was seen as an example of an ideal ruler, who was willing to forfeit his life for his faith, and in doing so brought about the conversion of the entire kingdom.
John of Biclaro wrote his Chronicon in the decade following one of the most important events in Spanish history, which defined the Catholic legacy of its people. In the Third Council of Toledo, held in 589, King Reccared formally converted the Kingdom of Toledo to Catholic Christianity. John's goal was to portray the Kingdom of Toledo as the successor of the Western Roman Empire. John directly paralleled the Kingdom of Toledo to Rome, with Reccared leading as the new Constantine. As a result John sought to emphasise the positive aspects of Leovigild’s rule, and argued against anything that might have disturb this view, including Hermenegild’s rebellion.
Isidore of Seville, on the other hand, was writing approximately 30 years later, and following a period of instability. Isidore's writing strongly condemned rebellion under any circumstance, and emphasised family bonds. Thus Hermenegild’s rebellion was barely mentioned.
The Wikipedia article highlights the efforts of Gregory the Great to stress the martyrdom of Hermenegild in rebelling against the tyranny of his Arian father. The reality appears to be that Leovigild was an energetic monarch with an ambitious program of territorial, political and legal unification. He also fostered a court ceremonial of the majestic type. But Leovigild initially avoided a conflict with his rebel son Hermenegild, preferring to convene an Arian council in Toledo whose aim seems to have been to reach an understanding with the Catholics. Once his son had been defeated Leovigild was content to strip him of the royal insignia and remove him from the court, banishing him to Valencia and then to Tarragona. To some, Leovigildo acted more as a father would with a rebellious son. Many experts consider Leovigild's wife, Queen Gosuintha, a deeply Arian woman who was anchored in a past in which Visigoths and Hispano-Romans lived apart, each with their faith and also with their laws, customs and privileges. In any case it was finally the younger son, Reccared, who would bring both peoples to coexist under a single king and a single faith. There is a suspicion that Reccared was responsible for the death of his older brother, but it is also recognised that he achieved the eradication of heresy and the union of creed between Goths and Hispano-Romans. What is certain is that the Third Council of Toledo marked a turning point in the relations between the Gothic and Hispano-Roman peoples and was a landmark in the history of Spain. During the following centuries Reccared would be regarded as the model of a Christian prince.
Interestingly one often sees and reads about Saint Isidore of Seville, but much less about the true patron saint of Seville, Saint Hermenegild.
When Isidore became bishop of Seville, he brought about the conversion of Spain's Visigoth ruling class from Arianism to the Catholic observance. He also introduced important liturgical and administrative reforms in the Spanish church, clarified doctrine, and persuaded the church that every diocese should have a cathedral school or seminary. In portraits Isidore is traditionally pictured with a mitre, crosier, cope, and book. A curious legend had it that when Isidore was a boy his father saw him from afar amid a swarm of bees attracted by honey pouring from his mouth. Bees and beehives are now associated with the saint.
Saint Hermenegild is usually presented with a axe, crown, sword, and cross. In some images of him he has an axe in his the skull, in others he is beheaded, also with an axe. His feast day is the day of his martyrdom, 13 April. The Royal and Military Order of San Hermenegildo was constituted in 1814. It is understood that the King, Ferdinand VII, identified his own life with that of Hermenegild. It is for this reason that the Military Order of San Hermenegildo rewards the military in the categories of General Officer, Officer and Non-commissioned Officer, “for their consistency in service and their impeccable conduct”. This means "firmness and perseverance of mind in resolutions and purposes", "contributing to the preservation of good order, discipline and subordination", and finally to having a "spirit of sacrifice".
As one might expect, it is very difficult to unfold what life was like after the Islamic invasion. One expert note the difficultly as follows. Christian accounts are concise but often extremely brief, and they mirrored a society that feared the end of the world was near, i.e. an end that was part of God’s plan. Accounts were often taken from older narratives, and enriched by information that came to the ears of the authors. The Muslim chronicles were, on the other hand, full of rich details. Depiction of kings went beyond their physical appearance and virtues, and extended to their religious self. And there was much on a monarch’s ministers, wives, wars, and palace plots. The texts were sometimes bewilderingly vivid compared to the Christian versions, however they lacked geographic accuracy and were often driven by political agendas, so mixing historical details with fictional stories.
Al-Walid ibn Abd al-Malik (ca. 674-715), the Umayyad Caliph, ordered Tāriq ibn Ziyād to invade Visigoth Hispania in 711-718. By 713 they had conquered Carmona, Seville, and Mérida. Seville was taken after a long siege, and until 716 it was the capital of Al-Andalus. Then Córdova became the capital, however many writers put the 'head' in Sevilla, and the 'heart' in Córdova (i.e. Seville was the administrative capital of Al-Andalus). The name of Seville was Arabised to Išbīliya, and concessions were extended to those who converted to Islam (Muladi) but not to those who remained Christian (Mozarabs). Mozarabs were legally required to pay the jizyah (a personal tax) and abide by a number of religious, social, and economic restrictions that came with their status. The main power base of the Umayyad was Syria, with Damascus as their capital. Rivalries between Arab tribes had forced a branch of the Umayyad to flee to Al-Andalus, where they established the Caliphate of Córdoba which lasted until 1031.
One element often overlooked is the taking of Seville by the Vikings in 844. According to one chronicle they arrived unexpectedly in 80 ships and resistance was disordered and ineffective. After pillaging and looting the city, they encountered a Muslim force which caused "thousands of deaths in the barbarian lines", captured four hundred alive, and burnt 30 abandoned ships. The hostages were beheaded "before the eyes of the barbarians", who then left. There was a second attack in 859, starting with the Northmen arriving like magicians from "a country beyond the seas, close to the land of France". They killed men, captured children, and looted property. In the battles the Northmen lost 500 men and four ships. They then sailed for Algeciras and burnt down the mosque, before leaving for the African coast. Today historians see the first attack in 844 as a continuation of assaults on the Aquitaine shores in 843-844, and where the Vikings probably stayed only 15-20 days in Spain. The second attack involving wintering in France in 858 before moving on to Spain in 858-859. It is said that a part of the Viking fleet (mainly Danes) remained in the Mediterranean for three years. Check out this article for a more in-depth look at the Viking invasion of Spain.
From about 1023 through to 1091 Seville was the capital of a Taifa, a kind of independent principality ruled by the Dynasty Abadí (an old Arab family from Seville). However the Taifa were weak militarily, and in 1063 they were forced to buy peace and pay tribute to the Kingdom of Castile. In 1086 the Taifa princes invited the Almoravids to defend their territories from Alfonso VI (1040-1109). Being a Berber dynasty from Morocco, the Almoravids found it quite easy to return and annex the Taifa principalities in 1090.
In 1147 the Almohads (another, different Berber Muslim movement) conquered Marrakesh and by 1151 Seville had been absorbed into the Almohad Empire. The capital of Al-Andalus moved back and forth between Seville and Córdoba, but this did not stop Seville flourishing economically and artistically. In 1171 improvements to the outer walls were made to defend the city against floodwaters. Bridges were built, the Alcázar was enlarged, and the construction of a major new mosque was started (in the plot that is now occupied by the Cathedral). Over time Seville became the capital of the Almohad Empire.
The Almohad Empire absorbed Seville in 1151, thus began a time of cultural and social flourishing for the city. To reaffirm Islamic rule over the region, Caliph Abu Yaqub Yusuf (1135-1184) ordered the construction of a great mosque on the land currently occupied by a Christian cathedral. From March 1172 to April 1198, artisans and workers from all social classes collaborated in the construction of the site, which was inaugurated, despite not being completed, in 1182. Ahmad Ben Baso, renowned architect of Andalusian origin, had been commissioned to build the mosque. He followed the example of the Buhayra palaces, which he had built himself. For the mosque, he designed a rectangular ground plan measuring 113 m by 135 m, with a surface area of more than 15,000 square metres (the prayer hall was designed for 16,000 people). The seventeen naves were decorated with horseshoe arches. The mosque, which was accessed through the current Puerta del Perdón, on the south façade, housed the extensive landscaped space today known as Patio de los Naranjos.
It was Caliph Abu Yaqub Yusuf who forced the use of the unfinished mosque in 1182 (above left), without the minaret being started, nor its immediate surroundings resolved. It was only in 1184 (above right) he decided to construct the minaret in the southeast corner. Upon his death it was his successor, Abū Yūsuf al-Mansūr (1160-1199), who ordered the building of the tower to continue, and it was completed in 1198 with the placement of four golden spheres on top (see below).
It is clear that the original prayer room, the patio and tower, were located on swampy land on which a group of houses, oratories, markets and gardens had been built outside the city walls. The Almohads had expropriated and demolished what was a sloping surface. The architect had to level the ground first to ensure the stability and regularity of the prayer hall. In part of the patio they also carved a dozen cisterns, as if extending the naves of the oratory to the north, which allowed them to have abundant water. It's also thought that the patio was left as earth, but without trees.
The great tower, whose square base is 13.61 meters on a side and today reaches a height of 94.70 meters, is the result of the superposition of two different constructions, but visually integrated thanks to the Cordoba architect Hernán Ruiz Jiménez. The first work, that of the Almohad, was a gigantic brick parallelepiped that appears to suggest solid foundations, but nothing could be further from the truth. The building starts from an ashlar plinth that is only 3.30 meters deep.
All is not what it seems, for example the black tiles used alongside the sculptural details throughout the belfry, were in fact some of 2,066 tiles purchased only in 1564. What's more, tiles on the exteriors of the Andalusian buildings from the Almohad period were never used. Otherwise, based upon written accounts of the period, we are sure that the appearance of the tower is almost identical to the original.
Recently it has been discovered that the tower (the Giralda) was in fact painted red, but it is not clear when this was the case, and for how long it remained red (or when the colour disappeared).
Life as a caliph could be quite challenging. The newly appointed Caliph Sulaymān ibn Abd al-Malik (ca. 675-717) once asked Mūsā ibn Nuṣayr (ca. 640-716), the commander of the victorious armies, about the Berbers. Mūsā replied, “They are the non-Arabs who most resemble the Arabs in their bravery, steadfastness, endurance and horsemanship, except that they are the most treacherous of people - they have no care for loyalty, nor for pacts". By all accounts, Berbers, recruited during the long conquest of North Africa, had made up the overwhelming majority of the army that crossed the sea to Iberia. Subsequent decades brought waves of additional Arab settlers to Islamic Iberia, but Berbers remained an important demographic force in the Peninsula. Politically, however, they were out in the cold for long stretches of Andalusian history, and culturally their position was an ambiguous one. Indeed, in the literary sources of the time, Berbers were either members of the army, mercenaries, rebels, or semi-idolatrous ethnographic curiosities. Indeed, the very term 'Berber' is a problematic one, imposed upon a great diversity of peoples and languages by hostile observers, i.e. an expression of contempt derived from the Latin barbarus (barbarian), and also associated with the verb barbara (to babble, speak nonsense) in Arabic.
Perhaps an oversimplification, but it was said that Arabs lived in towns and Berbers in clans in remote or rural areas. This putative ethnic-territorial divide has sometimes been portrayed as a consequence of Arab chauvinism, driving the Berbers from political and economic centres, and from more fertile land. Arabs, and increasingly also the Hispano-Roman Muslim converts known as muwalladūn, dominated administrative posts and the cultural patronage associated with the Umayyad capital of Córdoba. But it is also possible that Berbers had compelling reasons to choose such lands, e.g. they were herders rather than farmers. Also living in remote places avoided centralised control, so they might have traded comfort for autonomy. Many of the regions most strongly associated with Berber settlement were frontier zones, where Córdoba’s reach was weak and where ambitious individuals and families could carve out autonomy or power for themselves.
The Berbers had fought the Byzantines from as early as the Battle of Mammes in 534, and appeared to have been in constant conflict with the Arabs from 647 through 703, so its not surprising that they revolted in 740-743. During the Umayyad conquest of Iberia, Berbers had formed their own military units based on tribal allegiances, with little contact with their Arab masters. With victory, Berbers were superficially Islamised, but in reality hung onto their traditions with varying degrees of religious assimilation to Islam. During the Taifa era, the petty kings came from a variety of ethnic groups, some of Berber origin. After the fall of the Caliphate in 1031, the taifa kingdoms of Toledo, Badajoz, Málaga and Granada had Berber rulers.
Still today in Spain, mention of the year 711 causes intellectual convulsions that are echoed in popular debates whenever the subject is raised. In general everything relating to Al-Andalus is subject to controversy. Spanish Arabists and historians have split into two clearly divided camps, each with their respective followers periodically cheering them on. One group considers that the 'invasion' marked the start of a dark interregnum in peninsular history that only ended with the restoration of universal Catholicism in 1492. The other imagines that the period that began in 711 incorporated everything most advanced at the time, that is to say Islamic culture. Without doubt, 711 supposes a breach in peninsular history. Some are convinced that history itself was amputated at the time, while others contend that the arrival of Islam, with or without invasion and despite the inevitable conflict it engendered, gave rise to a Golden Age in the south of the peninsula (remembering that Al-Andalus actually referred to the entire peninsula, and not just todays Andalucía). Some writers focus on treachery and greed, others on romance, art and literature. I have no interest in getting involved in such a debate, but I would like to mention that some go to the extreme and highlight "the Arab invasion nourished the Andalusians, above all, with a torrent of Arab and Berber blood". Whereas a publication in 2001 found a striking result, that contemporary NW African and Iberian populations were found to have originated from distinctly different patrilineages and that the Strait of Gibraltar seems to have acted as a strong (although not complete) barrier to gene flow. In NW African populations, an Upper Palaeolithic colonisation probably had its origin in eastern Africa, whereas in comparison, about 78% of contemporary Iberian Y chromosomes originated in an Upper Palaeolithic expansion from western Asia, along the northern rim of the Mediterranean basin. A limited bidirectional gene flow across the Strait of Gibraltar was detected. The genetic contribution of European Y chromosomes to the NW African gene pool is estimated at 4%, and NW African populations may have contributed 7% of Iberian Y chromosomes. The conclusion was that the Islamic rule of Spain, which began in A.D. 711 and lasted almost 8 centuries, left only a minor contribution to the current Iberian Y-chromosome pool.
The Siege of Seville (1247-1248) lasted 16 months, and was both highly complex and a great success for Ferdinand III of Castile. He had already captured Córdoba in 1236 and Jaén in 1247, so the taking of Seville was a major step to dominating the Iberian Peninsula (Granada would finally fall in 1492).
Attacking Sevilla was no easy problem, since the city had more than 6 km of walls. Ferdinand started by consolidating his logistics. Agreements had to be made with both James I of Aragon and the Nasrid rulers of Granada. In 1246 he assembled an impressive army, it is said that such an army had never been seen in the Middle Ages. A naval force was created, and it has also been said that cannons were used (this is often said to be the earliest recorded use of gunpowder in the West). Pope Innocent IV issued a Papal Bull so that economic and military support could be provided by the French, Germans and Italians. The Pope also issued another Bull to ensure that the churches of Castile and Leon could apply a tax to cover the expenses of the war.
In fact it was the naval force that dealt the critical blow. In May 1248 it destroyed the pontoon bridge between Sevilla and Triana over which supplies were delivered to the city. The city capitulated due to famine in November 1248. Ferdinand III did not have a fixed capital but the court often lodged in Sevilla, and in 1252 he died and was buried in the Alcázar.
The story goes that in 1248 Femando III, after arduous negotiations, agreed that the Almohad's could leave the city with all their personal property. Houses, streets, squares, mosques, walls, the city itself, had to remain intact. The physical space of the city remained while its people undertook an exile without return. The king ordered that after the departure of the Almohads, the city should remain empty for three days. The king's troops waited impatiently to receive their reward and share a loot that was a whole city. We do not know the size of the Sevillian population at the time of the conquest. We don't know how many people were involved, but we do know that at the beginning of the 15th century the Sevillian population comprised about 50,000 inhabitants (Cologne, one of the most populated cities in Europe, only had 30,000 people during the same period). In any case, the Christian population that occupied Seville after the conquest was much smaller than the original Almohad population. Being that Seville was a border city with many resources, the Castilian kings favoured repopulation through emigration by donating properties and granting privileges. The initial beneficiaries were those knights, infantrymen and sailors who participated directly in the conquest. As might be expected, the Castilians made up the bulk of the immigrants, but other nationalities were also well represented in Seville, namely Italians, Catalans, Portuguese and French. Among the groups of foreigners, it was the Genoese that had the most influence and the one that left the most complete story of their time in the city.
After the attacks of the Vikings, the Umayyad Emir had rebuilt the walls around the city, and despite them being destroyed and rebuilt several times, they were again reinforced in 1023 as a defence against Christian troops. After the Reconquista the same walls were kept, but the monarchs often took possession of the gates as symbols of their power. Still in 1836 the walls were practically intact, but after the 1868 revolution they began to tear them down. In the Almohad period the walls covered approximately 273 ha and more than 6 linear km. They were built almost exclusively with rammed earth, with the exception of some decorative brick courses in the towers and upper parts of the walls. The main wall was between 1.7 m and 1.8 m thick and an average height of 8 m. In addition there was a barbican 1.3 m thick and 5.0 m high, a ditch, and a moat.
Above we can see a model of a portion of the wall, and below a cross section of a still intact section of the wall with dimensions, etc. You can see where the cores were extracted to understand how the wall was built and how best to conserve and restore it.
Between the reigns of Alfonso X of Castile (1221-1284) and Pedro I (1334-1369) the court usually stayed in Sevilla. The Battle of Tarifa (1340) opened the Strait of Gibraltar to increased naval trade between southern and northern Europe. Sevilla became an increasingly important commercial hub, particularly for Italian and Flemish traders. However the city was hit hard by the Black Death (1348) and an earthquake in 1356.
Interestingly the Black Death changed working practices for rural salaried worker. The charters of the 12th century and the first half of the 13th century defined the rights of the worker and the employer. A worker could quit a job without motive, but they were obliged to return the wages received until then and, even, to compensate the employer for possible losses. If dismissed by the employer, they only had to be paid for the work done. The employer established the quantity and quality of the work needed, and dismissal was at the employer's discretion. The duration of the working day was set for all workers, and generally indicated by the ringing of a bell. Normally the worker had to complete the work started before the bell rang. Regardless of whether the worker continued to work the next day or not, at the end of the day the employer had to pay for the work done. However, the situation changed as a result of the Black Death, and massive drop in population figures. Two changes were introduced. Firstly, the obligation to work, prohibiting a worker to remain idle. Workers were forced to go daily, at the crack of dawn, to the place where it was customary to hire workers. The authorities had to ensure that there were no workers wandering around and not working. Secondly, general rates were dictated for the entire kingdom, but each region was allowed to adjust the rate on a daily basis according to the price of meat.
These medieval regulations were later greatly diminished by the Crown, but they did renew the earlier laws mentioned above. However, in the agricultural labour market the insufficiency of the general legislation allowed the promulgation of municipal ordinances (ordenanzas) by local councils. Here the problem was that only a small number of families had access to local councils, and they were usually the largest farmers in the area. Whereas the tenants of land belonging to large landowners were usually absent. So the local oligarchies ruled the municipalities for their own benefit, both in terms of the rural labour market and access to communal lands. Most of the time priority was given to regulating the job offer and wage rates. Other aspects included the early termination of work, either by the worker or by the lord, where either could be punished if the cause was not just. The length of the day and breaks were also regulated, as was the issue of damage and theft of a harvest. In addition workers were not allowed to tie their animals near the grain sheaves, or carry sacks of grain "with the master's license or without it".
We know the regulation of wages for 1552 in Seville. The rate was established according to the tasks and the time of year in which they were carried out. Except in the case of vine pruners, wages were quoted on a monthly basis, depending on the number of days worked during the month (26 if the holidays were not worked and 30 if it was the full month). The highest wages were for the period between the end of May and the last days of June. Food was always included if the workers remained on the farm, although it is not specified what that meant. The salaries of workers related to cattle, shepherds, cowboys, pigs, etc., were established by month, season or year, and they also differed according to the season. Regulations varied, but all were concerned with wages and ensuring a regular supply of jobs, and in particular with the shortage of labour for sowing and harvesting. The penalties were very heavy, in 1,000's of maravedí for breaking the rules. For example no man over 16 years of age was allowed to pick olives during the sowing season (the work was reserved for children and women). If a farmer reaped the field of a neighbour they could be fined 2,000 maravedí. Any man not agreeing to the wages was fined 1,000 maravedí and 6 days in jail. Another rule was that workers could not be hired from a different village, and all farmers and reapers had to be present in the village centre to contract work. Everything seems to indicate that the ordinances were intended to smooth fluctuations in the supply and demand of labour from one agricultural season to another. In years of low demand for labour, farmers had to offer work to the local labour force, while in years when the demand was high, local workers were obliged to work in the village.
Even in those medieval times in Baja Andalucía employment contracts signed before a notary were freely established between the parties, in particular for harvesting (but contracts could include seeding, olive harvesting, plowing, wheat harvesting, mowing, etc.). In part this was due to a shortage of labour supply at times of greatest demand, and explains the prohibition on worker to not go to work outside the municipality. In some cases wages were paid in instalments, or as an advance, or kept in part to the end of the work. All designed to create a dependency of the worker on the employer. This was explained by the fact that harvesting was an extraordinarily expensive task due to the high investment in labour and capital. In the case of cereal, the cost of just manpower could amount to a third of the total annual costs for an employer. This explains the diversity of formulas tested by farmers to carry out the harvesting of cereal or olives. The problem was that a fixed contract with a fixed salary was not the best way to ensure the needed productivity during harvest time. The piecework contract was fundamental since the employer could define the structure of the crew, the way in which the tasks were to be carried out, time limits, etc. The benefit for the workers was that they obtained employment contracts for several weeks with a guaranteeing income, despite the harsh conditions. What about migrant labour? It would appear that in some cases crews of outsiders developed a trusted relationship with an employer, and they would return knowing that they would be hired in the following years. In other cases the migrants were integrated into local crews. Migrants were often paid less that locals, in part because employers had greater confidence in local workers, and part because they had greater ability and dexterity in carrying out the tasks.
In 1767 there was a decree that established freedom of work, the result was that employment contracts disappeared from notarial protocols in the final decades of the 18th century, leaving parties to create their own agreements as needed. Interestingly an analysis of actual contracts showed that they were almost all offered by large tenant farmers, holders of municipal offices, members of local noble families and ecclesiastical institutions. More interestingly still, the workers were always part of a collective agreements, in which a handler (manijero or foreman) and a certain number of workers assumed responsibility and appeared as signatories of the agreement. Some contracts broke down the workers into reapers (sickle men) and riggers, and sometimes one or more trainees were included, generally paid half rates. Working conditions were often set in contracts for harvesting, etc. where quality and speed were essential. Words such as "... no excuse, no delay", and the work must continue "hand over hand" until it's completion, "without raising a hand". Usually the contracts included the rules on both the quality required and way to carry out the work, although some were left "to the satisfaction" of the farmer. Yet other contracts referred to the exact height at which the cut must be made and the proportion of stubble and sheaf that must be left. Other clauses referred to the way sheaves were to be tied in round bundles, tied with their tie and without interposing "braid or brushwood". And the focus on harvesting explains why there was a penalty of the early termination of the contract, if the work was not done to his satisfaction, the farmer could immediately employ new harvesters. In terms of pay, it was usually based upon a true price for a service, e.g. for piecework as in a payment based on the area to be harvested. Food was included and it was specified as to be a varied range of food. Mention was made of oil, vinegar, garlic and salt "what is necessary", a certain number of units of cheese, and meat, for example, in the form of one sheep or eventually in weight. Large farms also provided basins, pitchers, etc., whereas smaller farms might simply pay a "dry" salary, i.e. without food.
There are some very precise details concerning a farmhouse, property of the monastery Cartuja de Sevilla, which was located very close to the city of Seville. The accounts covered the period 1704 to 1740, and involved 350 hectares of rain-fed cereal (grown biennially), 100 hectares of olive groves and between 5 and 10 hectares of vineyards. The farmhouse work had a marked seasonality, the tasks being distributed very irregularly throughout the year, with very marked highs at certain times of the year, related to harvesting activities. During the forty to sixty days for harvesting, the average was 3.48 days work per hectare, while in the fallow months, from January to June, prior to the harvest, the average was 1.19 day per hectare, and slightly less at 0.90 days per hectare, in the months after the harvest, from August to December. For the olive harvest, the costs were 1,736 days on average per year, representing 80% of the total average annual cost of the olive grove. The highest wages were paid in the harvest period, 2 reales and 23 maravedí on average per day. During the rest of the year wages were 1 real and 10 maravedí before harvest, and 1 real and 19 maravedí after the harvest. The wages paid in the operation of the vineyard were 2 reales and 17 maravedí per day, whereas in the olive grove the average wage was 1 real and 18 maravedí per day.
The taking of Seville by the Christian troops of King Ferdinand III of Castile (1199-1252), in November 1248, caused a radical change in the metropolis of Seville. And for the mosque there was no exception, as it was adapted to be used in the Catholic liturgy. As such it remained until the second half of the 13th century, when the projects to demolish it began. The great Portuguese earthquake of 1356 considerably damaged the structure of the old Almohad mosque, but even so, no plans were presented to replace it. The custom of using the mosques of conquered cities as precincts for Christian worship still continued, but the tradition ceased to be used at the end of the 13th century. Finally, in 1401 the structure of the new Cathedral was designed. Sevillian tradition has it that the canons, when deciding the erection of the new cathedral, affirmed: "Let us make a church so beautiful and so grand that those who see it carved consider us crazy", and it was said that it had to be "one such and so good that there is no other like it".
The following year the works began. Alonso Martínez was, in all probability, the author of the original plans, dating from around 1386. Charles Gauter de Ruan (1378-1448) directed the works between 1439 and 1448. In the last stage after construction, towards the end of the 15th century, the post of master builder was taken by Alonso Rodríguez (d. 1513). The Gothic church turned out to be much larger and more majestic than had been originally planned, despite the fact that the builders made no significant changes to the original design. In principle, it was thought of demolishing the Giralda, a symbol of the Arab mosque, as indicated by the oldest known plan of the Cathedral, dated 1480. The idea was scrapped and, instead, it was decided to adapt the Giralda as a bell tower.
In 1391 there was an anti-Jewish revolt which started in Sevilla, and more than 4,000 Jews were massacred in the city. The foundations of the Spanish Inquisition had been laid. The Jewish community in Sevilla, one of the largest in Spain, disappeared almost overnight. The Spanish Inquisition started in Sevilla with six people being burned alive on 6 February 1481. All the remaining Jews were expelled from the city in 1483, but more than 2,000 Jewish converts to Christianity remained. In Granada on 30 March 1492, less than three months after the surrender of the Moors, the Catholic Kings put their signatures to an edict ordering the expulsion of all professed Jews from their kingdoms within the space of four months.
But this did not stop Sevilla growing in importance. Through 1400-1500 the city doubled in size, and became the largest city in Castile and Aragon. The city’s soap-producing industry, shipyards and Crown mint contributed between 15-20% of the all Castilian tributes. This was a time when a vigorous commercial community established itself in Seville, including within its ranks influential members of the Andalusian aristocracy who were attracted by the new prospects of mercantile wealth. By the 15th century the city had become an intensely active commercial centre with its thriving dockyards. It was a place where merchants from Spain and the Mediterranean lands would congregate to discuss new projects, form new associations and organise new ventures. It was Europe's observation post from which to survey North Africa and the broad expanses of the Atlantic Ocean.
Once Ferdinand III had captured both Seville and Córdoba, he knew he had to secure his position. So he decided to launch a military campaign into northern Africa. In order to do so, he required a fleet of ships. It was Alfonso X who decided to build the fleet in the Reales Atarazanas de Sevilla (Seville Shipyards).
Built outside the city walls and close to the Guadalquivir, the shipyard covered about 15,000 square meters and consisted of 17 vaulted naves constructed entirely of brick, in a style now known as Mudéjar-Gothic, with vaulted ceilings and wide arches connecting the naves. Construction was similar to those found in a church or cathedral, e.g. the original mosque had 17 vaulted naves. Each nave needed to be large enough for the construction of a galley, with each section of the shipyard connected to the next via a series of arches. Experts have suggested that at the end of the 13th century it was the largest installation of its kind in Europe, although later l'Arsenale di Venezia would become substantially larger. The shipyards actually consisted of three main parts. Firstly the 17 naves perpendicular to the river designed to protect more than 35 combat galleys each about 40 meters long. Then there was the Atarazanas de los Caballeros, used as a store for weapons and supplies, and even as a prison. Thirdly, there was the so-called Resolana del Río, a portion of the river beach where most of the construction work was carried out in the open air (as was customary in riverbank shipyards). In total, the whole area covered about 62,000 square meters.
Before the end of 1253 ten galleys had been built in the shipyard, and it continued to produce fleets for subsequent Castilian kings. Between the mid-13th century and the mid-14th century, the galleys built in Seville fought to keep open the Strait of Gibraltar, for example in the Battle of the Strait (1274-1335). Galleys built in the shipyards were used throughout much of the remainder of the Reconquista, as well as during the Hundred Years' War against England. By the mid-15th century and the final stages of the Reconquista, orders for new ships began to decline and the ships began to be repurposed for other tasks. The reality was that galleys were not able to make transoceanic voyages, which constituted the new area of expansion for Castile.
In 1493, a fish market was moved into the first nave. During the 16th century, other naves were reassigned as oil and wool warehouses, and three naves became the city’s customs warehouse. Finally the shipyard was too small for building larger, more modern ships, and soon it closed. In 1641, five naves were transformed into the Hospital de la Caridad. In 1719, five more naves were assigned for the storage of artillery material. The rest were largely used as commercial warehouses.
The next big change to the structure of the shipyard came in 1945 when five naves were destroyed to make way for the construction of a tax office building. Fortunately, no further destruction took place before the shipyard gained National Monument status in 1969, protecting it from further damage. However, for more than 20 years it has been off-limits to the public, despite various plans and proposals for its renovation, all of which have so far failed, generating much frustration. But the shipyards were used in season 7 of Game of Thrones, and it is now hoped that they will be open to the public in 2022.
To send a fleet of galleys to fight against the enemy, whether Muslim or Christian, needed three things to happen. Firstly, the shipyard needed to build, repair and keep the galleys safe. Secondly, they needed men, weapons and supplies. And, finally, they needed an Admiral to lead them into combat. In Spain, all three were under royal authority. Seville was a royal city, and within it, the great arsenal of the Guadalquivir galleys was made up of a set of buildings owned by the Crown and therefore under the supervision of a delegated authority of the monarch, and chosen directly by him. Through the 13th and 14th centuries virtually nothing is known about those who ran the shipyard. But we are sure of one thing. Until 1340, Muslim armies threatened Seville several times, and Sevillians protected themselves behind the city walls. However the shipyards were outside the city walls, and its defence was the responsibly of the shipyard warden. The warden also had exclusive jurisdiction over the shipyard prison, which it would appear was often used as gentlemen's quarters. Although it is said that the bones of a Florentine merchant, Jerónimo Rufalde, were found there in 1489, and he stilled owed 60,000 maravedís to the king. Whilst we don't know the name of the earlier wardens, we do know that they were considered "tyrants" by those who were obliged to supple coal and wood to the shipyard.
Ramón de Bonifaz (1196-1256), was probably the first Admiral of Castile, and there are suggestions that admirals had to controlled the work of the shipyards from the point of view of combat needs, i.e. to ensure that the galleys were ready at the beginning of each campaign. Generally admirals were of noble families, men of great prestige, who were also accorded many privileges and awarded lands and vassels. Whereas the warden of the shipyard was what has been called "service nobility", knights or members of the lower urban nobility, i.e. belonging to noble lineages that did not have power based upon strong family support and great resources in lands or vassals, but on personal services rendered to the monarch. Juan Mathe de Luna (1230-1299) and Fernán Pérez Maimón were both admirals in the late-13th century, and as admirals they had to raise funds for the fleets, pay the Castilian and Genoese crews contracted to fight in the Straits, plan the number of galleys they needed and, finally, act as commanders and take them to combat. At that time, not even a single name of the arsenal wardens has survived, whereas later we do know that powerful ministers also took responsibility for the shipyards. Later still, and throughout the 15th century, the institution of the admiralty ended up becoming a patrimonial right of the Enríquez family. Some of them had never seen a boat, and who, as courtiers with royal blood in their veins would never have been interested in staining their boots in the mud of a shipyard.
Admirals were at the top of the food chain, for example, in 1374 Fernán Sánchez de Tovar (d. 1384) had under his orders captains, committees, pilots ("naucheles" were said then), shipmasters, and in general all the men who navigated the seas and rivers, including fishermen, boatmen and, of course, sailors, whether they were in royal navies, commercial fleets or on vessels owned by private individuals. However, there were disputes of responsibility between admirals and shipyard wardens, namely concerning the right to monitor and repress the traffic of merchandise whose exportation was prohibited, or, as it was said at the time, to be "the guardian of the removal of forbidden things". It was, basically, to prevent products considered of high strategic value from leaving the kingdom, endangering its economy or its defence. It was a delicate matter with frequent and serious international implications, since more than once the peace or war between Castile and Granada depended on the Christians allowing the export of bread and cattle to the Nasrid kingdom. Furthermore, its control gave access to lucrative benefits through confiscations, some legal and others outside the law, but which the smugglers would not be in a position to report. The admirals, due to having under their supervision the docking, loading and unloading activities of the port traffic were used to be in charge of monitoring these illegal exports by sea, but in this work they had powerful competitors. Other authorities did not miss the opportunity to get hold of a part of that rich cake, either taking advantage of times of political turbulence or simply exploiting the weakness of a particular admiral who neglected his privileges. For example, a shipyard warden might be asked to prohibit the departure of wheat, cattle, horses and precious metals from the kingdom, yet also be asked to procure the needed naval construction materials. So plenty of opportunities to turn a quick profit on the side.
At the end of the 15th century and throughout the 16th century, Seville's shipyards began to cease being the great military shipyard of the kingdom and became a series of warehouses, very useful, but certainly not so decisive for the fate of the Crown. At the same time admirals gradually lost powers to, for example, new institutions such as the Casa de Contratación, and by the middle of the 16th century the admiralty was left to simply collect taxes.
The third person, in addition to the admiral and shipyard warden, was the so-called "shipowner" of the royal fleet ("el armador"). It is said that a certain Juan Martínez, was the first to take on this role in June 1384. He received money to assemble three galleys, i.e. prepare the galleys and take care of their weapons and ammunition and the provision of sailors for them. Previously this function was also performed by the shipyard warden, who still had to construct, repair and ensure the safety of the boats. It has been suggested that the "shipowner" was subordinate to the admiral, which appears sensible since selecting galley slaves and crossbowmen was a task of special importance for an admiral if they wanted to win battles. It seems logical to think that a good admiral would pay attention to the armaments of the galleys and would monitor the levies, weapons and food shipped, on whose quantity and quality the success or failure of the expedition could depend. Again logically, the "shipowner" appeared to be a collaborator of the admiral, taking charge of the administrative tasks. Later in the 15th century, there were no more references to this post of shipowner of the royal fleets, so it appears to have become a subordinate office in the admiralty (probably occupied by another member of the urban nobility).
It may surprise the reader that the last large-scale battle fought between rowed warships was the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, in which Spain participated on the side of the victorious Holy League. As one writer put it, this was not a "land battle at sea" and the victory of the Holy Alliance was not the simple result of brainless determination and religious fanaticism, but rather the product of intelligent tactics. It was a well fought tactical victory over a well trained and well prepared adversary. Just over half of the galleys in the combined Christian fleet which fought at Lepanto were Venetian, some 108 out of 206 or roughly 52%. Spain and her Viceroyalties of Naples and Sicily contributed 49 galleys, about 24%. Genoa, Savoy, and the Papal contingent contributed the rest. The Ottoman opponents had 222 galleys and 56 galliots.
Above we have a description of the Spanish war galley Lanterna, a flagship from ca. 1571. This was an over-sized galley, some 55 m long, with 200+ oarsmen, and transporting 200 soldiers. The key features of such a war galley was its speed and armament, and the reason why galleys had a very long shelf life was because they could move independent of the wind. War galleys were still successfully used by the Russians in the Battle of Gangue in 1714. Indeed, the last battle fought where galleys were brought out was at the Siege of Copenhagen (1807) during the Napoleonic Wars.
With its complement of long-bore, forward-facing guns known as sakers, the lantern-type galley was often the most powerful ship on the water. A fleet of lantern galleys was fearsome, but only nations with a strong degree of centralised power could afford to employ professional rower corps (and impress when rowers became costly). Lantern galleys had powerful guns and could outstrip war cogs, but they had one enemy. That enemy was the fire ship, and so a fleet of war galleys had to have barque-type vessels on the flanks to protect them. Carracks, while outranged by a lantern galley's firepower, had the benefit of enhanced armour as well as more accurate multiple guns, thus making the odds between carracks and lantern galleys somewhat more evenly matched. For more information check out Renaissance War Galleys (1470-1590).
The reality was that it would have been difficult for the modern, untrained eye to distinguish at a distance between an ordinary galley of Spain, Malta, Venice, or their Muslim opponents without reference to flags, pennants, or other heraldic devices. All had hulls about 40 m long by about 5 m wide, topped by an outrigger assembly, the rowing frame, which spanned some 8 m. All carried a main centre-line bow gun on a forward firing mount which ran back between the foremost oarsmen's benches on recoil. There was typically a full battery of cannon, weighing from 1.7 to 3.2 tons exclusive of the mount, and firing a 20 kg cast-iron cannonball. This cannon was invariably flanked by a pair of smaller guns (they had to be considerably smaller since there was much less room for them to recoil). These generally weighed from 0.7 to 1.4 tons and fired projectiles weighing about 5-6 kg. They were flanked, in turn, by a second pair of cannons which were smaller still, typically firing a ball of about 3 kg, and weighing from as little as 300 kg to as much as 700 kg. The Ottoman Turks had cannon of about the same overall weight, designed to fire a cannonball of cut stone weighing about twice as much as its cast-iron equivalent. Standardisation was almost non existent, so Spanish cannon, on the whole, were longer and heavier than the norm, and Venetian guns were shorter. The cannon constituted the war galley's main battery, and all were fixed to fire forward and could be trained only by turning the ship. They were supplemented by a number of small swivel guns, mostly mounted in the bow, though some were also mounted at the stern and along the sides of the ship.
In the Battle of Lepanto, Venice wanted a short war and a quick peace, but the reality was that Mediterranean commerce meant little to Spain. Spain's vital trade with America was well out of the line of fire and Spanish commanders in the Mediterranean saw themselves as soldiers in an unending holy war with the Turks, a view shared by the Pope. The pressures on Spain were therefore more narrowly fiscal and military than those on Venice. As long as they kept the Turks at bay in the Eastern Mediterranean, far from their North African and Spanish Morisco allies, it justified the expense. However, as wages spiralled Spain were forced progressively to abandon free, salaried oarsmen in favour of cheaper slaves and convicts. The attendant loss in combat effectiveness and propulsive efficiency was in part counteracted by embarking increasing numbers of Spanish regular infantry.
Spain's normal posture in the Mediterranean was basically defensive. Her Muslim enemies attacked her port cities and raided her coasts, and Spain reacted. The great expense of keeping a well-armed galley constantly in readiness during the campaigning season from late March through mid-October to combat the elusive and unpredictable Muslim raiders acted to keep the Spanish standing fleet small. The lack of numbers was balanced by a galley for galley superiority in raw combat power. The galleys of Spain carried more and better specialised fighting men than any others. The weight of men made Spanish galleys harder to row, a problem exacerbated by the fact that Spanish cannon were generally longer and heavier than the equivalent of the Venetians or Ottomans. In addition the galleys of Spain and Italy had acquired, by 1571, a permanent raised structure above the bow, the "rumbada". This served as a platform from which fire could be directed to cover the assault of infantry onto the low-lying deck of an enemy galley. It was highly effective tactically. But it also added weight, and adding weight was the antithesis of speed under oars, speed which had to be developed at all costs in the crunch of battle. The Spanish accepted these deficiencies and played to their strong suit. By packing the rowing benches with slaves and convicts, Spanish galleys at Lepanto could use 200 oarsmen on 24 banks of oars. Acceleration and dash speed were maintained, but the cost was in sustained rowing speed. At the end of the day the Venetian galley was a combat assault craft, whereas the Spanish galley was more like a transporter for Spanish infantry. For more information on the war galleys used at Lepanto check out this article.
In addition to the war galleys, the Iberian Peninsula saw the evolution of at least four different types of ship, dependent upon the coastal regions (e.g. different in the Bay of Biscay and on the Algarve and Andalusian coast) and equally dependent upon visitors and invaders who had established colonies and factories along the Iberian coastlines (e.g. Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Goths, and Arabs each left their mark). In 1915 a Portuguese admiral listed 167 different types of ships and boats mentioned in historical documents for Portugal alone (ranging from plank canoes to medieval cogs). It's generally accepted that northern Europe and the Mediterranean were two different worlds in terms of ship design. Late-medieval maritime trade in the Mediterranean was carried in both galleys and so-called round ships, which were frame-based, lateen-rigged, carrying one, two, or three masts. In contrast, the workhorses of the Baltic and North Atlantic trade were square-rigged, clinker-built vessels, sometimes referred to as keels, probably descending directly from the 11th-century short-sea traders.
From the 11th century onwards, as cities grew and the trade between them intensified, clinker-built boats grew in size and became the hulks depicted on town seals and in historical sources. Hulks were partially replaced, in the early-15th century, by another type of trading craft, the cog. Cogs emerged sometime during the early-12th century and differed from hulks in that they were constructed from sawn planks, with a flat, flush-laid bottom and central rudder. Only the upper sides of the cog were lapstrake (i.e. clinker built). Also rigged with square sails, cogs may have influenced the development of a new type of vessel in the Mediterranean, commonly referred to as coccas. This design may be the direct ancestor of the Italian carracks (the Spanish nao). These had many characteristics of Mediterranean design, including integrated fore- or aft-castles and flush-laid planks nailed to a pre-existing frame structure, but unlike other Mediterranean designs, they mounted a square sail like their northern relatives.
Around this time, at the beginning of the 14th century, the most common Mediterranean design was a two-masted round ship. This type was used continually from at least the 11th to the 20th centuries. During the 14th century, these ships appeared with a square sail on the foremast, and evolved into a full-rigged ship with the addition of a third mast before the foremast (starting in 1409). Three-masted vessels were adopted very quickly both in the Mediterranean and along the north-European coasts. Most European nations, including Portugal and Spain, adopted the three-masted ship, built on a framed-first design, during the 15th century.
Regarding the design of larger oceangoing ships, they were conceived, designed, and built during the period after firearms helped consolidate state power and the geopolitical boundaries of the modern state. The monarchs that ordered these ships may have entertained a loose sense of their country’s geographical boundaries, but they quickly developed strict control of the monopolies of taxation and justice within a still-medieval world. Sudden access to distant resources generated by the changing geopolitical context triggered a number of shifts in public policy, technological advancement, and economics, including shipbuilding. Fifteenth-century ships were a product of the state’s will, not the private sector. At this time, states had the political capacity to enforce rules and the economic capacity to plan and launch war on a scale unmatched during the previous Middle Ages. During the late-16th century, the Iberian Peninsula was a cosmopolitan region harbouring the bureaucracies that ruled over two extensive empires, and it attracted foreign scholars, merchants, and intellectuals to its major cities. Based on naval power, both the Spanish and the Portuguese empires required a steady stream of larger and better ships, and historical information for this period, both documents and iconography, reveals that all Iberian oceangoing ships were conceived in a similar way, regardless of region, city, or shipyard. Following the Mediterranean shipbuilding tradition, ships were built empirically, based on proportion and scale, and did not require plans or drawings. Built in a carvel style with flush-laid planks fastened to the frames, Iberian oceangoing ships followed a construction tradition thought to date back to the time of oared vessels in the Mediterranean. Even the earliest of the hulls used a number of frames with predesigned curvatures. These frames were mounted over the keel prior to planning and thus defining the shape of the hull. But the reality was that despite certain regional differences in units of measurement (and other details), the overall style and basic design was the same everywhere. Most small or medium-sized oceangoing ships will have looked similar to the nonprofessional eye. In Spain there were three main types of sailing ships, the nao (carrack), galleon, and caravel.
The Spanish nao was a ship with two, three or four decks and fully integrated fore- and aft-castles, bearing three masts and a bowsprit, all rigged with square sails, except the mizzenmast (the aftmast). The mizzenmast, intended for steering, was rigged with a lateen sail. The three-mast, full-rigged ship first appeared in a Catalan drawing dating to 1409. The length-to-breadth ratio of the vessel in the Catalan drawing appears to have been around 3:1, a common ratio for Mediterranean round ships. The nao Victoria (see replica above) was the first ship to circumnavigate the world (1519-1522). It was the only ship of five to complete the voyage, and Magellan was killed in the Philippines. It was only around 18-21 m long, weighed 85 tons and carried 55 crew (only 18 returned alive).
Galleons are mentioned in the first decade of the 16th century and primarily functioned as warships with two or three decks, fully integrated fore- and aft-castles, three or four masts, and a bowsprit. The fore and main masts were rigged with square sails, and the mizzen (aftmast) and bonaventure (forth mast) were rigged with lateen sails. The length-to-beam ratio appears to have been around 3.5:1. Galleons were much sturdier vessels with thicker masts, and the square stern allowed more deck space during military operations, specifically for the movement of stern guns. For example, the galleon San Martín was built as a Portuguese galleon, but became the flag-ship of the commander-in-chief of the Spanish Armada. She was finished 1580 and was 55 m long, 12 m in the beam, and carried 48 heavy guns.
Caravels were originally lateen-rigged ships with one or two masts. Generally thought to have developed in the Mediterranean during the 12th century, in the 13th century caravels were mainly employed for fishing in Portugal. They reappeared in the beginning of the 15th century as the preferred “Ships of Discovery”, sometimes bearing painted eyes on both sides of the bow, a trait paralleled in the Mediterranean since ancient times. No doubt, this preference reflected the vessel’s swiftness and manoeuvrability. Towards the end of the 15th century, there are references to three-mast caravels, and the 16th century witnessed the development of the caravela de armada (see above) with four masts and rigged on all masts with lateen sails, except the foremast, which bore square sails. Caravels were still in use in the 17th century, and they continue to be mentioned in the 18th century.
All vessels of the time were armed and travelled in fleets for added protection. A number of smaller vessels, such as patachos and zabras sailed regularly with the fleets, as supporting craft, and may have been conceived and built in the same way as the larger ships.
The late 14th and the 15th centuries were also a time of bitter conflict between Catalonia and Genoa for the control of the spice, cloth, and corn trades. This was a conflict in which the mastery of the entire trading system of southern Europe was at stake. While the war in the Mediterranean was waged indecisively throughout the 15th century, the Genoese won an early and lasting victory in another vital region. This was central and southern Spain, where the expansion of the Castilian market offered the successful contender an exceptionally rich prize. The growth of Castile's wool trade had created new commercial opportunities, which the Catalans, embattled on so many fronts, were in no position to seize. It was, instead, the Genoese who settled in Córdoba, Cádiz, and Seville, built up a solid alliance with Castile, and secured control of the wool exports from Spain's southern ports. Once they had obtained this foothold, the Genoese were well placed to entrench themselves at one strategic point after another in the Castilian economy, and so prepare the way for their future participation in the lucrative trade between Seville and Castile's colonial empire. This Genoese predominance decisively influenced the course of 16th-century Spanish development.
In a different document it noted that Andalusian shipping was protected by the Andalusian fleets which challenged the Portuguese along the coast of Africa. And Castile had taken over well farmed land with a developed industrial base. However, expulsion of the Moors meant the loss of both skills and their intensive cultivation techniques. In addition colonisation from the north was slow, and the local nobility preferred to look for the simplest way to exploit their vast estates, meaning they quickly lost the intensive cultivation skills and techniques of the Moors. However, the production of raw materials remained immensely valuable. Merchants from all over Europe were attracted by the production of corn, fruit, wine, wax, wool, leather and hides, mercury, oil and grain, and by the produce of the Canaries and West Africa which increasingly came through the Andalusian ports. Conditions were favourable for profitable trade, and that the fact that the local population played a relatively small part in it was due largely to the early establishment of the Genoese. The Castilian king had relied on them given the small local Andalusian population, and in any case the carracks and galleys of the Genoese usually called at Seville, Cádiz and Lisbon. Once the Genoese were established and active in the export of oil, mercury and wine it was difficult for the local population to oust them, and perhaps few wished to do so. The Italians were quite happy to transport the goods from Andalusians, and local merchants appeared content with a subordinate position which still allowed them to prosper. They were accustomed to see the world come to them and felt little need to go out to meet the world. But the report also mentioned that when newer, exciting, quasi-military opportunities arose for trade and piracy on the Atlantic and African routes, Andalusian seamen were amongst the foremost to take them, encouraged by the Andalusian nobility.
So what made the Genoese so effective? One writer simply attributed their success to the fertility of the Genoese woman and their ability to always give birth to men. Others, attributed their success to their mercantile and maritime history, and agnostic attitude to government. Genoa exists as a confluence of private interests that, strengthened through an accumulation of capital, allowed the creation of a dense network of exchanges at sea with extensions along the longest land routes. It was like a large Mediterranean consortium, a commonwealth of an exclusively economic nature, in which any presence in a foreign country was there to support their commercial operations. Genoa's maritime trade was initially limited to the western Mediterranean, proof of which are the treaties signed with the Muslim kings of Seville, Valencia and Granada between the 12th and 13th centuries, which allowed the Ligurians to have privileges for trade, but which did not prevent them from collaborating in the Christian conquest of the Iberian territories. When Genoa lost their positions in Anatolia and the Aegean, they turned their attention to North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula. For them it was an essential stop on the journey into the Atlantic, which differentiates them from the Venetians, who remained attached to the Mediterranean Levant.
Genoese, Pisans and Sicilians had been present along the Spanish coasts from the 12th century. However, it was the Genoese who supported the Christian conquest, obtaining numerous privileges from the monarchy. The conquests of Valencia and Murcia further encouraged these contacts, both because of the need to supply the soldiers in the field and in the early repopulation. As for the spoils of war, there was an important flow of Muslim slaves to Genoa. But this tacit alliance began to break down when the Catalan merchants became competitors to the Ligurians across the western Mediterranean. Despite a succession of wars and truces, based much upon swings in monarchical policy, there were two activities that defined the future. The first was spices, in the eastern basin, a speculative and expensive product, where Barcelona presence was almost total. The other was wool, where trade in this and other textiles (and raw food products) was held predominantly by the Tuscans and Genoese. Barcelona focused on linking with Valencia and Mallorca, with Barcelona the financial and insurance node. Meanwhile, Valencia and Mallorca functioned as operational places for the main trade traffic with the Maghreb, Tuscany, Naples, Sicily, Seville-Cádiz and Flanders.
The Genoese looked to the coastal circuit between Genoa and Seville for alternative products from the Levantines (sugar, silk, raisins, rice, and saffron). Thus, Italian ships began to frequent Peñíscola, Valencia, Dénia, Jávea and Alicante, stimulating internal consumption and demand and in return absorbing local goods. In addition, Valencia was the natural entry point because it was closest to the great fairs of Medina del Campo and the centres of Segovia, Burgos and Valladolid. Valencia would become one of the main economic arteries of the peninsula, both for the Genoese and and the Tuscans. Very soon Valencia became a "banking and financial centre, headquarters of commercial and insurance companies, ... feeding important and fixed branches in Alicante, Murcia and even Cartagena". This Valencian "expansion" ran parallel to the so-called Catalan "decadence", with Barcelona's attractiveness to Genoese merchants decreasing, whilst that of Valencia increased. Between 1380-1462 the Ligurians almost disappeared from the Catalan capital, and between 1421-1454 they represented 40% of Valencian traffic and only 16% of traffic through Barcelona. Between Valencia and Liguria there was a kind of "division of labour", each controlling routes, markets and products. The Italians were more involved in high-volume international traffic, while Valencia focussed on the closest regional areas of North Africa, Sicily and Sardinia. As time progressed, the Italians retreated towards finance, leaving open greater commercial opportunities for Valencian. It is not that they completely abandoned their positions, but rather that Genoa privileged the financing of artisans, merchants, citizens or nobles and ways to mobilise and transfer their capital abroad. There was a contrast between the two mercantile philosophies. The Tuscan or Ligurian family companies differed from the "minimalist" view of Valencian merchants. The Italians made available both capital and merchandise, but allowed the local companies to retain the initiative and management independence.
Some experts saw the Genoese as a colonial presence. What is true is that the Italian peninsula almost completely colonised the Mediterranean, "… indeed, the great Italian ships and their merchants brought prosperity to the shores that they frequented, transit and storage, promotion of customers in the local market, capital investment, learning new techniques. An Italian colony in a foreign city constituted an economic ferment whose activities had repercussions far afield”.
The opening of the Gibraltar route also facilitated the fortune of the southern Iberian ports and of Portugal, whose rise catalysed one of the great events of the time (the discovery of the Americas). The potential was there. Seville, for example, had a rich agricultural heritage, the Andalusian aristocracy were consumers, and were involved in the export of raw materials and food. The city had a great urban demand, and was creating its own industries. Seville's position as commercial and banking capital would later awakening the entire adjacent coastline, from Huelva to Malaga, an area open to trade with Africa and the Atlantic islands. From 1260 foreign merchants followed the Christian conquests, establishing their networks of short and long-distance trade. This did not come from Genoa or Florence, but from the smaller establishments in Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and Valencia, and through small family businesses that gradually entered the interior from the coast. The kingdom of Granada stands out as a "Ligurian colony" in the full sense of the word, due to the economic control exercised by the Genoese thanks to a series of monopolistic elements. The first political treaties between Granada and Genoa, which allowed them to have consuls and agents, date from 1278 and 1295, and coincide with the constitution of a direct Italy-Flanders route. Until 1380 they assumed the task of supplying the kingdom with food, especially grain. But, from this moment on, the first references to ships sailing towards Flanders with loads of pepper and "alumbre" began to appear, according to routes that passed through Almuñécar, Vélez-Málaga and Málaga. "Alumbre" (Alum) is double sulphate of aluminium and potassium, raw material of extraordinary importance in medieval commerce, because it was essential in the textile industry as a mordant for setting dyes on fabrics. Malaga became the main nucleus for Barbary products, but initially imports far exceeded their own needs and those of their area of influence, except for cereals, originating from Atlantic Morocco. Initially the trade was not very profitable, but traffic increased with the new privileges granted by the Catholic Monarchs. Cádiz monopolised transactions with the West African coast and was also a transit port for trade with Flanders and England. The Genoese "nation" enjoyed important privileges and even came to control a large part of municipal revenues. Jérez and Puerto de Santa María also hosted Genoese settlements that dominated the economic life, although not as important as those of Córdoba, developed between 1485 and 1487 due to the presence of the court. Contacts with Valencia remained very active to the end of the 15th century.
However, it is in Seville where the most important Genoese neighbourhood in Andalucía was located. Already in the 12th century, the first representatives of Italian companies appeared in the city, looking for bilateral agreements between the Muslim kingdoms and the Ligurian republic. This favourable treatment continued after the Christian conquest. In 1251 Ferdinand III allowed the Genoese to establish their own neighbourhood and institutionalise their stay. They settled down, and because part of the social fabric. The military and financial aid to the Castilian monarchy meant that the Genoese merchants obtain a dominant position in the new Seville. On expert wrote "the establishment of Italians in Andalucía presents a more complex image than that of the simple 'mercantile' establishments, scattered here and there on all the shores of the known world; an image different from that of those factories very well limited to narrowly circumscribed ambitions, with no other hopes than the routine of commerce". On the contrary, the Genoese of Seville were authentic immigrants, they form a "second Genoa", reproduced the clans and "alberghi" from their city of origin, bought land, and got married. They shared Italian blood with the Sevillian nobility, since for the most part, they were great aristocratic merchants belonging to powerful Ligurian noble families and owners of manors and castles in Genoa. But there were in fact two groups of Italian merchants in the colony. A few Genoese nobles in charge of large banks and international trade. The others, the most numerous, were of humble social origin and of recent wealth, and were focussed on the businesses of Castile and its Atlantic expansion. These came mainly from Liguria, as was the case with Christopher Columbus (they had simply used Genoa as an emigration route). The Genoese nobles refrained from participating in the excitement of discovery until it was secure. The Ligurians, more Hispanicised and integrated into local society, supported Columbus without reservation, in solidarity.
One lesser known aspect of the Genoese, was the "alberghi", where several families were tied together by blood or common interests, and who derived economic, political or military support from each other. The general rule was that the youngest members of these great "alberghi" of merchants and financiers migrated to the places where they had established businesses. These individuals would work for a few years outside of Genoa to familiarise themselves with the business and thus gain experience. After a few years of apprenticeship, they returned home. It was a temporary emigration, and did not involve long-term integration into Sevillian society. Regarding the family situation, we do not know if the Genoese or Ligurians emigrated with their immediate families, and we also don't know if they were married or had children. It is probable that most were young men and that they probably emigrated without their loved ones. The image is one of enterprising and adventurous individuals, sailors, mercenaries, shipyard workers, etc. without immediate family ties. The lack of reference, both to wives and children, denotes the absence of the nuclear family among these early emigrants.
It seems that the same phenomenon occurs among the families of merchants and financiers. The young businessmen were highly mobile, moved from one place to another frequently and did not see Seville as a place to settle permanently. Logically, the final objective of these individuals would be to return to Genoa, once trained in the family business, where they would settle permanently to start a family. In a document from 1251, when privileges are granted to the Genoese of Seville, it was written that if a merchant from Genoa died in Seville the Genoese consuls could keep their possessions.
Why did the Genoese go to Seville? Before the conquest of Seville in 1249, the Genoese were already negotiating with Seville in Almohad times, mainly for exporting olive oil. Andalucía fell within the North African commercial sphere of the Almohads with whom the Genoese maintained good relations since they signed a peace treaty in 1161. In the mid-13th century, at the time that Seville passed into the hands of the Christians, it offered both a gateway to the Atlantic and an important source of highly valued domestic products (e.g. olive oil, cereals (especially wheat), wines, chickpeas and tuna preserved in oil). The production of wool and leather was also relevant to the Genoese trade, as was soap, dried fruit, ceramics, hemp, cochineal and scarlet. Later, precious metals, especially gold, became part of this commercial traffic. On the other hand, Seville was also a growing market open to imports and the Genoese brought with them wool and luxury goods. The enormous economic possibilities of Seville were not the only attraction that motivated Genoese immigration. Sevillian society was new, in full expansion, and the Castilian kings were inclined to generously reward those who were willing to serve them. Thus, the fact that the Castilian kings favoured the Ligurians with numerous privileges throughout the late Middle Ages, was a key factor in justifying the trip from Genoa. The Castilian royalty favoured the Genoese merchants because they needed their commercial and financial activities in order, through the imposition of fees or the request for loans, to meet their expenses. As early as 1251, when Frederick III granted them privileges, it was clearly stated: "… that we all receive our rights to all things that will be sold or bought by those of genua in the çibdad of Seville". The Castilian monarchs did not hide that the Genoese were essential to Sevillian life, hence their good disposition. It was about pleasing the Ligurians to settle in the city. For example, in 1326, at the request of the Seville council, King Alfonso XI granted them a safe and secure stay for the following two years. The following year the same monarch openly declared the vital value of the taxes paid by the Genoese. The importance of the Genoese to the royal coffers was not sporadic and seems to have held firm throughout the late Middle Ages. In 1451, Juan II granted them another safe-conduct because they wanted to leave “and if they left, the said income would be lost and would not be worth anything”. The benefits that the Genoese got in return varied widely, but were generally related to economic activity. They were granted a street in Seville for them to live in, as well as an "alhóndiga" to store their products, an oven to bake their bread, public toilets and they were allowed to have their own judges to understand their lawsuits. Continuing with the royal favours, in 1316 Alfonso XI granted them exemption from paying tax on the sales (alcabalas) of beasts of burden. There is a long list of exemptions that took in the Genoese. Among others advantages were not having to provide accommodation for the king and his officers, the authorisation to remove unsold merchandise without paying taxes, and the permission to use their own carracas to carry out trade, despite the monopoly previously granted by Henry III to the "mareantes" of the kingdom. The best I can come up with is that "mareantes" were navigators, as opposed to fishermen, merchants or sailors (pescadores, mercaderes y marineros). The idea was to please the Genoese with privileges so that the city of Seville would continue to be an attractive place for business. Even in the late Middle Ages Andalucía still needed the Genoese. In addition to economic factors and royal privileges, there is a third element that was undoubtedly important for immigrants. Although the individual who emigrated did so on his own initiative, from the beginning the Genoese institutions protect him. In both the Castilian and Genoese documents, the Genoa Commune appears as the mediator between the emigrants residing in Seville and the Castilian monarchy. The Genoese annals of the year 1249 and 1251 relate how representatives from Genoa negotiated directly with King Femando III about the conditions in Seville, about the payment of taxes, and about the privileges they may be granted. It would appear that the Genoese in Seville never negotiated directly with the monarchy, preferring to settle things through Genoa and their ambassadors. For example, in 1346 King Alfonso XI received “the common people of Genova” to negotiate on the exemption from paying the "alcabala" in Seville. The impression given is that, at least in the 13th and 14th centuries, the Genoese were not that well integrated into the Sevillian society, and that they still saw themselves as subjects of the Commune of Genoa.
Ferdinand and Isabella had worked hard to ensure the primacy of the Crown in Castile. They had curbing the aristocracy by planting their own officers in the towns, and by overhauling the judicial system. But control of secular institutions was not enough. They could never be absolute masters in their own land until they had brought under royal control the immensely powerful Spanish Church. The power of the Church in Spain was reinforced by its vast wealth and by the extent of its privileges. There were seven archbishoprics and forty bishoprics. The joint annual income of Castile's bishoprics and its four archbishoprics (Toledo, Granada, Santiago, and Seville) in the reign of Charles V was nearly 400,000 ducats, while the Archbishop of Toledo, Primate of Spain, who ranked second only to the King in power and wealth, enjoyed a personal income of 80,000 ducats a year. The Church as a whole had an annual income of over 6 million ducats, of which 2 million belonged to the regular clergy, and 4 million to the secular. These were enormous figures, especially in view of the fact that tithes (which were traditionally paid in kind) had been widely impropriated by laymen in return for fixed payments in a depreciated currency.
The privileges of the clergy were formidable. The regular and secular clergy shared with hidalgos (nobility) the privilege of exemption from the taxes levied by the Crown, and they were more successful than the hidalgos in evading the payment of municipal dues. They accumulated large quantities of property in mortmain, and made strenuous attempts to extend their privileges to their servants and dependents. Moreover, bishops, abbots, and cathedral chapters owned large demesnes, over which they exercised full temporal jurisdiction. The bishops of 15th-century Castile were not slow to exploit these advantages. Members of aristocratic families, and sometimes themselves the sons of bishops, they were a warrior race who found themselves perfectly at home in the struggles that surged round the throne. They had their own fortresses and private armies, and they were not unduly reluctant to lead their own troops into battle. The formidable primate of Spain, Don Alfonso Carrillo (1410–1482), who helped Ferdinand forge the papal dispensation which made possible his marriage, changed sides and took the field with the Portuguese against Isabella at the Battle of Toro in 1476, while the great Pedro González de Mendoza (1428-1495), Archbishop of Seville, faced him in the opposing camp.
The activities of these bellicose prelates perhaps not unnaturally suggested to Ferdinand and Isabella the desirability of a counter-offensive by the Crown. The Church was far too powerful to give them any hope of being able to strip the bishops of their temporal powers, but they compelled Carrillo and his colleagues to place their fortresses in the hands of royal officials, and insisted (although never with complete success) that the Crown's right to superior jurisdiction throughout the realm extended even to the lands of the Church. But the key to any lasting success was clearly to be found in the vexed question of appointments to bishoprics, and it was to this in particular that they addressed their attention.
Initially Ferdinand and Isabella looked to challenge the Papacy concerning their right to elect bishops of their choice. They wanted to secure control over all benefices in Castile. In their opinion the Spanish Crown deserved a reward for its untiring efforts to expel the Infidel, and what more fitting reward could be imagined than a royal Patronato (patronage) over all the churches to be established in the reconquered kingdom of Granada? This became the prime object of the Crown's ecclesiastical policy, and was triumphantly achieved in 1486. By a papal bull of 13 December 1486, Innocent VIII (1432-1492), gave the Spanish Crown the right of patronage to all the major ecclesiastical benefices in the newly conquered kingdom.
The securing by the Crown of the Granada Patronato was a momentous achievement, because it provided not only an ideal solution which Ferdinand and Isabella hoped to extend by degrees to all their dominions, but also a practical model for the Church in the New World. In the twenty years after the discovery of America, Ferdinand manoeuvred with extraordinary skill to obtain from the Papacy absolute royal control over all ecclesiastical foundations in the overseas territories. Exploiting to the full the alleged or real similarities between the recovering of South Spain for Christendom and the conquest of the Indies, he first proceeded to obtain from Alexander VI (1431-1503), in the bull Inter caetera of 1493, exclusive rights for the Spanish Crown in the evangelisation of the newly discovered lands. This was followed in 1501 by a further bull granting the Crown in perpetuity all tithes levied in the Indies. The climax came in the famous bull of 28 July 1508 by which Julius II (1443-1513) gave the Spanish Crown the coveted universal Patronato over the Church in the New World, which included the right of royal presentation to all ecclesiastical benefices. The Patronato, rounded out by further concessions in the following years, conferred on the Spanish monarchy a unique power over the Church in its American possessions. Outside the kingdom of Granada, nothing comparable existed in Europe. In the New World, the Crown was absolute master, and exercised a virtually papal authority of its own. No cleric could go to the Indies without royal permission. There was no papal legate in the New World, and no direct contact between Rome and the clergy in Mexico or Peru. The Spanish Crown exercised a right of veto over the promulgation of papal bulls, and constantly intervened, through its viceroys and officials, in all the minutiae of ecclesiastical life.
It may not be the most usual topic of discussion in polite circles, but Seville's bawdyhouses (mancebía) were celebrated by contemporary writers and romantics, both referring to Seville as the Babylon of the century. So what conditions allowed the emergence and permanence of the Sevillian mancebía? The establishment of public brothels in the Castilian cities of the late Middle Ages was part of a set of political decisions aimed at ending urban violence and strengthening the control mechanisms of monarchical and municipal power. In 1444, Valencia decided to wall the area of sinful women. Segovia adopted a similar measure by Royal Order in 1478, as did Malaga in 1489. The same policy followed in Cuenca (1494), Córdoba (1498), Salamanca (1497) and Zaragoza (1472). The principle objective of the Monarchy was to ally itself to the municipal authority, in order to preserve the social peace and order in medieval cities, and the integrity of marital alliances.
It all started in Seville in 1337 with an order of Alfonso XI ordering the closure of certain houses of "bad women" for serving as a meeting point, not only for prostitutes and clients, but also for infidelities committed by married women and the adventures of single ladies. He wanted to separate prostitutes from honest and honourable women. Prostitutes were relegated to official brothels and were obliged to wear certain distinctive clothing signs (saffron headdresses) and to deprive themselves of all kinds of luxuries (e.g. cosmetics), so that their condition was fully visible. As of 1361, after the complaints expressed years before by the monarch in relation to the marital quarrels of certain public women, the municipality decided to prohibit the presence of married women among the girls.
The desire to circumscribe prostitution in a delimited sector of the city also responds to the need to domesticate urban violence. With this objective, the municipality prohibited, in 1361, the presence of inns in the mancebía. Innkeepers acted as guarantors of the prostitutes and this gave rise to frequent altercations. However, the most devastating violence had to do with the struggles between groups of nobles. Already in the 14th century, and especially throughout the 16th century, the most powerful families of Seville continually fought for control of municipal institutions. Each side constituted a gang that allowed it to control the streets. The gangs were young men, mostly street fighters, and many of them associated with clandestine prostitution. The first Ordinances, granted by Juan II (1405.1554) in 1411, looked to persecute these gangs, to reiterate the prohibition of clandestine brothels, and to oblige prostitutes to spend the night in the mancebía. It also attacked the protection given to ruffians by bailiffs, i.e. law enforcement officers who generally belonged to one side or the other. The City Council reinforced the isolation measures of the mancebía, thus trying to separate it from the ruffians and leaving them without their livelihood. In 1416 they ordered the entire mancebía to be surrounded by a walled enclosure with a single door to the outside that would be closed at night.
A peculiarity of Seville had to do with the location of the mancebía. In other cities, as for example in Valencia, the public house was located on the periphery, frequently outside the walls, kept at a distance from the centre of the town. In Seville, however, despite the will of the authorities the brothel was installed next to the port, the true heart of the city, more precisely in El Arenal neighbourhood, next to the river.
In addition to the measures adopted by the civil authorities in the face of prostitution, it is interesting to know the attitude of ecclesiastical institutions to Sevillian prostitution. All signs point to acceptance, if not to the collaboration and tacit support of the Church regarding the measures of the Monarchy and the municipal council. However the doctrine of moral theology included prostitution as one of the least serious offences on the scale of sins against the sixth commandment. In fact it was presented as the "bilge of the republics", where its existence was necessary to prevent the spread of greater evils. Almost all doctrinal and pastoral texts published in the Iberian Peninsula, until approximately 1570, defended the legitimacy of public brothels. The institutions of the Church not only were tolerant to the public organisation of the mancebías, but they frequently occupied a remarkable place as owners of these establishments. Since the end of the 13th century, after the reconquest of Seville the cathedral had, in what would soon be the mancebía, the grounds of an old mosque. In 1411, there is mention a group of houses in the same place that belonged to the cathedral chapter. By the 16th century there are very detailed descriptions of some of the houses that the cathedral owned in another sector of the neighbourhood. In 1542 it had at least one house with two floors and three with one floor. The houses were quartered and divided into small one-person rooms ("boticas") where prostitutes practiced their trade. The vast majority were properties of chaplains, hospitals and religious communities that rented them out, and the landlords negotiated directly with the prostitutes. For the first half of the 16th century we know that other ecclesiastical congregations owned houses in the region. Regarding the perception of income that came from "carnal commerce", the doctrine gave legality to the money received from the lease of the premises, even knowing its use as a brothel.
What was the attitude of the Inquisition? From what we know from the numerous monographs on the courts of the Holy Office throughout Spain, they were not at all concerned with the sins associated with fornication with prostitutes until about 1560, when Philip II began to suppress public brothels. From this time on, a new crime was configured in the inquisitorial catalog, simple fornication, which, it would appear was not a crime of act, but of belief. The accusation was not fornicating with another single woman, but for affirming that such conduct was not a mortal sin. Defendants frequently declare that fornication was not a sin if it was done in exchange for money, or that it was lawful because the royal authority permitted and even organised public brothels. As can be seen, in this crime of belief the shameful acts themselves were not mentioned.
In an interesting expression Seville went from being at one end of the known world to being the true centre of it. The royal decision to arbitrate the commercial monopoly from the banks of the Guadalquivir would immediately trigger a mechanism of attraction, both real and symbolic, of the people. Seville became the new land of abundance, seat of wealth and source of opportunities, gateway to America and depository of its wealth. Throughout the 16th century the population of Seville soared, mainly as a result of massive immigration. Between 1530 and 1590, the population doubled, exceeding 100,000 inhabitants, the majority were men who settled in the city attracted by the wealth and job opportunities. The increase in properties in the city, as a result of the increase in commercial traffic, also promoted the crystallisation and spread of organised crime. This criminality had an important source of income in prostitution. Sources speak in awe of a general growth of crime in Seville, including acts of sexual violence. This surplus of single men, potential clientele of the mancebía, belonged in general to the "common state", i.e. domestics who were employed in the service of the noble families or of the numerous foreign merchants in the city, or artisans, such as the carpenters working on the docks, or sailors and soldiers who came in the foreign ships stationed in the city. An increase in demand could only lead to an increase in the supply of prostitutes. The business boom caused a real inflation in rents. A property of the Hospital de San Clemente, which in 1476 was divided into two houses, appears, in 1550, divided into six smaller house-rooms, with a combined income of 3,000 maravedí per year. Only four years later, the same house had already been transformed into no less than twelve house-rooms, and the rent wast 7,500 maravedí. The authorities tried to act, but appeared powerlessness to manage a reality that successfully resisted any attempt to control it.
From the end of the 15th century, a new disease appeared much more serious than many known to date, the syphilis. In Seville, the first news about this evil was announced in 1497 as a contagion among the women of the mancebía. In the same year, the City Council allocated a hospital space for its treatment, the Hospital de las Bubas. In 1504, the municipal authority of Seville saw that the disease had already spread among the population. However, the public gradually became acquainted with the new evil, losing their initial fear when a treatment of some efficacy based on guaiacum or palo santo was given. Syphilis lost its apocalyptic aura and was soon the subject of festive literature that made jokes of its presence.
In contrast to the spread of syphilis throughout the 16th century, the ordinances of 1571, the first to be considered valid for the entire kingdom of Castile, barely dealt with medical matters. They only reminding women of the obligation to go to the hospital when they felt ill, and for parents to make sure that the infected looked to be cured.
At the beginning of the 17th century, the debate began on the legality of the mancebías, which lead to their closure in Seville around 1621 and in entire kingdom of Castile in 1623. It started when re-Christianisation became a general practice in Counter-Reformation Spain, starting in 1560. The ordinances of 1570 prohibited carnal commerce during religious festivals and on Sundays. On Sundays and religious holidays in Granada protestors entered the mancebía, expelling the clients from it, especially attacking the younger ones, closing the doors, reproving the visitors who approached, and proceeded to censor and preach to the prostitutes.
Finally it was decided that protestors could preach throughout the day on certain festivals, prostitution being prohibited at that time, but they would then refrain from appearing in the vicinity of the public houses for the rest of the year. Ten years later the protests started again, but with the clear intention to definitive close public brothels. The intervention against the mancebía thus began its final attack. The outcome of this process, between 1618 and 1621, was preceded by debates and riots. The owners of some mancebía, among them some religious orders, protested against the violent irruption of the missionaries, who came to drive away the prostitutes (who later settled as clandestines in other sectors of the city). The municipal authority decided that on Sundays until 12 noon the public house would be closed. The reality was that most clients for the brothels flocked to the city on Sunday afternoons. Not surprisingly the new ordinances were practically without effect.
In Seville, the visit of the king was planned for 1624 and it was decided that prostitutes would be interned in a new genre of female enclosures - galley houses. As you might guess this is not the end of the story, even if it is the end of this side entry of the history of Seville.
The New World
After 1492 Seville became the preferred port of departure for the New World. It was the only inland port (so easier to prevent smuggling), that was located on the shortest route to the Indies, that is, on the southwestern coast of Andalucía. Sevilla became a cosmopolitan and universal city, with the presence of the Genoese, Florentines and Germans (in addition to the “traditional” trading partners of the Castilians, England and Flanders).
In 1502 the Islamic minority (the Mudéjar) were forced to convert to Christianity (becoming the Moriscos), giving Spain not just national unity, but also religious unity. As Sevilla grew so did its foreign population, who were not entirely welcomed by the native population. They were seen as exploiting rather than supporting wealth creation in the city. Negative public emotion was directed at the converted Moors and Jews, and against all heretics. Even after centuries the “conversos” were held in social isolation and distain. To be admitted to guilds, brotherhoods, schools, and political groups, you had to be “pure of blood”. Religious processions were reserved for “Old Christians”.
By royal decree Sevilla had a monopoly as the port for ships leaving for, and returning from, the Spanish colonises in the Americas (in fact the port of Sevilla was called El Puerto de Indias). The Casa de Contratación was created in 1503, and together with the Universidad de Mercaderes in Burgos, regulated mercantile, scientific and judicial cooperation with the New World.
The “Casa de Contratación” was essentially a commercial establishment, it collected all colonial taxes and duties, approved all voyages of exploration and trade, maintained secret information on trade routes and new discoveries, licensed captains, and administered civil, criminal and mercantile law. A 20% tax (the Quinto Real) was levied by the Casa on all goods entering Spain, but other taxes could run as high as 40% in order to provide naval protection for the trading ships or as low as 10% during financial turmoil to encourage investment and economic growth in the colonies. The Casa de Contratación also produced and managed the Padrón Real, the official and secret Spanish map used as template for the maps present in all Spanish ships during the 16th century.
With the discovery of the New World, the first instinctive reaction was to reserve it as an exclusive Castilian preserve, and 1501 the passage of foreigners to the Indies was formally prohibited. The Casa de Contratación was probably inspired by the Consulado de Burgos that controlled the trade with Portugal, and was designed and intended to exercise absolute control over trade with the New World, but a few years later the principle of a Sevillian, and even of a Spanish, monopoly of American trade came to be openly questioned. Spain simply did not have the capital for expensive colonising ventures. In 1524 Charles V (1500-1558), under pressure from German banking houses, allowed foreign merchants to trade with the Indies, although not to settle in them. In 1525 and 1526 subjects from any of the Emperor's dominions were given the right of entry into America, and in 1529 the Crown went so far as to allow ten Castilian ports to trade directly with the New World, although their ships had to put into Seville for the registration of their cargoes on the return journey. But this decree, revoked in 1573, seems to have remained virtually a dead letter, possibly because the winds and currents were unfavourable to direct navigation between north Spain and the Indies. The earlier decrees also ran into trouble, as a result of growing indignation among Spanish merchants at the extent of foreign competition, and in 1538 the entry of all foreigners into America was again prohibited, although many would still continue to obtain passages, either by securing special licenses or by acquiring naturalisation as Castilian citizens. In spite of various loopholes in the legislation, it is clear that, from the end of the 1530's, the principle of monopoly had triumphed. It was a monopoly favourable to the Crown of Castile, and most of all to the port of Seville. From now until 1680, when it yielded its primacy to Cádiz, Seville was the mistress of the Spanish Atlantic.
In Seville goods were congregated for shipment to the Indies, and back to Seville would come the galleons bearing the products of the New World. The most highly prized of the imports from America, which included dyestuffs, pearls, and sugar, were, of course, gold and silver. The quest for precious metals, of which Europe had run desperately short by the end of the 15th century, had been the principal driving force behind the colonial ventures, and in America the faith of the conquistadors was to be amply rewarded. In the very first years of the discoveries, small quantities of gold had been found in the Antilles, sufficient to whet the appetite for more. The conquests of Mexico (Aztec) and Peru (Inca) brought in their train the discovery of gold and silver mines, culminating in 1545 in the finding of the fabulous silver mines of Potosí (Cerro Rico), to the south-east of Lake Titicaca. The exploitation of the enormous resources of Potosí on a really large scale only began, however, in the years around 1560, when a new method was invented for the refining of silver by an amalgam of mercury (Patio Process), of which the principal source of supply at this time was the Almadén mercury mines in Spain. From this moment, the production of silver far outran that of gold, and over the 160 years between 1503 and 1660 some 16,000,000 kilograms of silver arrived at Seville. This was enough to triple the existing silver resources of Europe, as against 185,000 kilograms of gold, which increased Europe's gold supplies by one-fifth.
A separate report noted that silver exports began modestly in the 1520's, rising to nearly 18,000 kilograms per year in the 1540's, before the great boom. Thereafter they surged to 94,000 kilograms in the 1560's, 112,000 in the 1570's, and 271,000 in the 1590's. The report also highlighted the fact that pearls, emeralds, and other precious stones also formed part of the mineral wealth of the Spanish Indies. It was suggested that according to todays standards, the gems might have equalled or surpassed the value of the precious metals shipped to Spain.
Galleons, were developed in the middle of the 16th century and would rapidly become the workhorses of the Carrera de las Indias lifeline between Spain and her colonies. Essentially similar to a transport carrack (nao), though more heavily armed, they constituted a new hull type designed for transatlantic speed, seaworthiness, cargo capacity, and defence. Representative of Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese shipbuilding traditions, they combined the cargo capacity of the round-hull carrack, the swift waterline of an oared galley, and the advantageous rigging configuration of the manoeuvrable caravel. They were the most advanced sailing vessels of the 16th and early 17th centuries.
One of their most characteristic features was a strongly reinforced hull which allowed hard and continuous service on the open ocean, as well as for fighting as a ship of war. This was especially true for those participating in the Carrera de las Indias, which were built with thicker hull members to withstand numerous transatlantic crossings and the more frequent careening required in tropical waters. Galleons featured characteristic beaks below their bowsprits, a throwback to the ram of medieval war galleys. In addition, their forecastles were shortened and situated aft of the stem, and were thus much lower than their stern superstructure, giving them a distinctive, low-slung profile. The aftermost portion of the galleon hull, like those of caravels, ended in a square transom or flat stern, designed for speed. Galleons also had increased length for speed, though compromises were made to allow for cargo capacity by retaining a somewhat wider hull. Thus the typical galleon might have a 3.5:1 length-to-breadth ratio, as compared a classic Mediterranean galley with a length-to-beam ratio as high as 8:1. The average galleon of the second half of the 16th century was around 350 tons, although a few in the 1570's were as large as 700 tons, but relatively few galleons over the size of 500 tons made the Atlantic crossing. We tend not to think too much about the masts, but on a 500 ton galleon the main mast would have been about 17 m tall and the others just slightly shorter, and the diameter would have been 60 cm (they were not single trunks but a set of trucks bound tightly together). The main yard would have been around 14 m long, with a diameter of around 35 cm. Those masts and yards would have been just a few of the 6,000 mature trees that would have been need to build the galleon. And just for information, a 1300 ton merchant ship in 1830 would have had a main mast of nearly 55 m tall. That 500 ton galleon would have carried about 1,000 square metres of canvas sails. A largest sails could weigh each in excess of 350 kg dry, and the double if wet. So a fully rigged four mast galleon could be carrying perhaps 20 tons of sails.
The classic armed galleon had two decks loaded with cannon, along with a half-deck, quarterdeck, and poop deck which might also carry artillery. It was this heavy armament, rather than size, that truly distinguished the galleon from similarly evolving merchant carracks (unarmed galleons were usually referred to by that name). True merchant carracks were similar to galleons in most respects, although they lacked heavy internal bracing, which might be added in order to re-classify one as a galleon.
The same galleon might serve as a warship, merchant ship, or even whale ship during her career, and she might be described as both a galleon and a carrack even in the same document. Spain did not use her transatlantic or Carrera de las Indias galleons as dedicated warships. Their design allowed for versatility in function, so that as guardians of the merchant fleets they were also themselves cargo carriers. Without exception, outgoing and incoming galleons carried both legal and illegal mercantile charges, and invariably the best-armed, the King’s galleons carried his share of the incoming treasure from the New World.
Many ask how long it took to get to or from America? It is necessary to distinguish very clearly between the sailing time, the time at sea, and the days that a sailor spent before returning to Spain. The distance between Cádiz and Veracruz was covered in between 75 and 85 days, with maximum of 155 days. The best time set was around 59 days of navigation. The return trip from Veracruz to Cádiz took on average close to 128 days. A heavily load ship might take as many as 298 days and a quasi-empty ship 70 days. Given that all the returning ship gathered at Havana, the remaining time to Cádiz was between 25 days and 112 days. There was a wide variety of ships ranging in tonnage between 75 tons and 500 tons, and crews were between 50-odd and around 110-120 for the 500 ton ships. One problems with crews was that many had no intention of making the return trip. One report showed that for Andalucía 64% of the officers on board did not make the return trip, and possible as many as 60% of the crew from Cádiz also did not make the return trip. One mistake often made is that crews simply consisted of officers and hands-on-deck. But one crew list showed that you would have found, the captain, a pilot, clerk, the bailiff, surgeon, barber, carpenter, butler, caulker, barrel builder, eight sailors, three gunners, ten cabin boys, three pages, two servants, eight extras (possibly passengers), two pages for the captain, three servants for the captain, a chaplain, a servant of the bailiff, a gunsmith, and an interpreter.
In a 500 ton warship, length close to 30 m and a beam less than 9 m, a score of officers gathered, along with four officers for the artillery, 90 sailors, 100 soldiers and an average of around 30 to 40 passengers. In merchant ships most of the space was reserved for cargo and storerooms to house food or relief supplies, leaving the mezzanine for passengers, merchandise not accepted in the holds and cannons. Officers and rank passengers had the aft chamber as a shelter, the popular fire pits were located next to the forecastle. The crew and passengers "enjoyed", not infrequently, the normal company of live animals (useful protein), with the consequent odours and proliferation of insects.
Wages onboard varied substantially. For a warship, monthly wages would go from between 1000 reales to 2000 reales for admirals and generals, about 400 reales for the infantry captains, about 90 for an officer, 70 for the artillerymen, 45 for sailors, and 30 for cabin boys (with an advance of two to four months). Crews on merchant ships were usually hired for fixed amounts, payable upon return, included the outward journey (but with a small advance). They received about 100 reales, plus about 40 pesos for wine rights, which the captain sold upon arrival at port and which was equivalent to the daily ration of each crew member. Accommodation on board, even at port, was considered part of the total wage. Officers might get up to 300 reales. Perhaps this is why contraband was so important. In fact it would appear that both crew and officers were allowed, in direct proportion to their degree of responsibility on ships, to load permitted goods, into two spaces which they could rent from the shipowners. One report noted that the space allowed a general or admiral on a warship was enough to carry several passengers (fed from his allowance), but charged to his profit. Merchant ships often carried passengers such as public officers on leave, including family members and servants. There were those charged to sell the merchandise at destination, and the usual stowaways, etc. Those discovered were either landed in Africa if possible (6 years prison) or made to work without pay. Hiding a stowaway could cost a sailor 10 year in jail in Africa. On one fleet from Cádiz there were 715 legally embarked crew and 300 stowaways, enough that supplies had to be rationed. Based on a ship with 100 men and an 85 day trip, they needed around 18 tons of food and 2,500 litres of wine and 25,000 litres of water. The plans were usually for meat on four days, fish for two days and cheese for the last day (Saturday), plus the usual beans and cake. Each person was normally assigned ¾ kg/day food, plus 3 litres water per day. In fact the wine was not consumed onboard but sold by the captain on behalf the crew upon docking. As one officer wrote, "It is the privilege of a galley that no one at mealtime asks for water that is clear, thin, cold, healthy and tasty, but that they be content, and even if they don't want to, with cloudy, thick, muddy, hot, tasteless drink. It is true that the very gifted ones are given a license by the captain so that, while drinking, they cover their noses with one hand and bring the glass to their mouth with the other". There were many comments concerning the food, water, and rats onboard, but all the others were not printable in the company of a female readership.
Haemorrhages, diarrhoea, dysentery, the commonly called "deliriums", seizures, typhus, also called ship fever, usually due to the contamination of stored water, were daily currency, accompanied by scurvy or vitamin deficiency, due to the absence of fresh fruits or vegetables. Those suffering from these illnesses, and by flu, measles, or syphilis were put in quarantine. The Doctor had a pharmacopoeia of pills, ointments and balsams, syrups, salts, plasters, tinctures, etc., and tools for "cutting to the bone, which was imposed not infrequently". According to studies performed at the time, between 22% and 28% of the crew died on the trip.
I leave this section with a quote which will remain Spanish, which captures the true comfort of a voyage to the Americas, "Hombres, mujeres, mozos, viejos, sucios y limpios, todos van hechos una mololoa y mazamorra, pegados unos a otro, y así juntos a unos, uno regüelda, otro vomita, otro suelta los vientos, otro descarga las tripas, vos almorzáis, y no se puede decir a nin guno que usa de mala crianza".
Maritime matters had received special attention since the creation of the Casa de Contratación in 1503, as the only authority over the fleets departing and arriving from the Indies through Sanlúcar, and with a capacity to legislate on maritime commerce, ships and navigation. After the creation of the title of Piloto Mayor (Principle Pilot) in 1508, an association was established in Seville where shipowners, pilots and masters of the traffic with the Indies gathered to discuss maritime matters. This was followed by the Consulado de Mercaderes (Consulate of Merchants) in 1543, the Cátedra de Arte de Navegar y Cosmografía (Chair of Art of Navigation and Cosmography) in 1552, and the Universidad de Mareantes (University of Navigators) created in 1569.
Initially the Casa de Contratación saw a mix of merchants, ship-owners and moneylenders, but they quickly gave way to wholesalers endowed with a large financial capacity that allowed them to create large consignments and book entire ships. They were the perfect trader-speculator who paid little attention to the real needs of the market but focussed only high-profile businesses. There were also large growers who sent large quantities of agricultural products on their own account or using a risk loan. They shipped their produce and took silver in return (plus cocoa and cochineal). Next came merchants working on commission, i.e. exporting for others. Many were "straw men" fronting for foreign traders. Lastly there were the captains, sailors, etc. and the small merchants who often borrowed heavily and even accompanied their merchandise on the trip overseas. Funds were often provided by merchant-bankers and commercial associations (i.e. merchants sharing the risk) and later joint-stock companies often linked to those insuring the ships and cargoes. Risks were high, from shipwrecks to price changes in the markets, and bankruptcies could easily drag down merchants and insurance companies. One interesting comment concerning the transfer of the Casa de Contratación from Seville to Cádiz was that the new home provided more scope for fraud, smuggling and the illegal shipment of foreign and colonial merchandise.
The Consulado de Mercaderes controlled maritime insurance, appointed ship notaries, dealt with salvage of merchandise from wrecked ships, etc. It also, to the detriment of the Casa de Contratación, was a court for commercial lawsuits involving the sale of merchandise, risk, insurance, bankruptcies, etc. From 1591 it collected and administered the tax on the traffic of merchandise which was used for the defense of the Fleet. It became an influential financial institution, and also managed the donations and loans to the State, in times of crisis. Seville had a monopoly justified by royal edicts, and managed by public institutions and private interests. The Crown wanted to receive its precious tax revenues and the merchants, by restricting competition and controlling prices, wanted to maximise their profits. It's not surprising that there was fraud and smuggling. It was a tacit pact between "a Consulate that was willing to collaborate and a Crown that allowed everything".
The State carried out a "voracious fiscal policy". Taxes represented between 20% and 30% of the capital invested in a business. For a merchant, the price difference between Spain and America had to be at least 200% to make a trip profitable. On top of that, the Crown carried out arbitrary seizures of precious metals, consigned to individuals, upon arrival in Spain. Certain authors suggest that taxation and smuggling were nothing more than cause-effect. Things were not that simple. To all intents and purposes the Crown accepted that smuggling existed. It actually charged a fee on those transporting illegal merchandise in the returning fleets, and then they overvalued merchandise to increase taxes, so compensating for losses from fraud and smuggling.
Here is a view of Seville taken from the east of the city, published in 1598. There is mention that the "land of the suburbs is fertile and there are farms, gardens of great abundance, and orchards planted with olive trees so lush and thick that not even the sun, with its most ardent heat, could penetrate them". The view includes a legend identifying the main sights that visually stood out. Among them are the following of a religious nature:-
A - el Quemadero de la Santa Inquisición en el Prado de San Sebastián (Quemadero was the place of execution)
B - the hermitage or chapel of Nuestra Señora de la Abundancia
C - the hermitage and associated suburb of San Telmo (probably mislabeled since it is more likely to be B)
N - el monasterio de San Agustín
Q - el monasterio y ermita de la Santísima Trinidad.
Then we have:
E - the Guadalquivir
cc - el arroyo (stream) Tagarete
D - la Fuente (fountain) de Calderón
O - el acueducto de los Caños de Carmona.
The aqueduct los Caños de Carmona was the main water source of the city, said to be one of its most beautiful ornaments. Originally a 17 km Roman aqueduct, it was later rebuilt by the Almohads. It is called Los Caños de Carmona because the source was supposed to have been near the city of Carmona.
The central element of the composition is the skyline of the city presided over by the Giralda. We can see:-
01 - could correspond to something near to the Alcázar
02 - Puerta de la Carne
03 - Puerta de Carmona
04 - Puerta Osario.
Further away are towns located near Seville, F for San Juan de Aznalfarache, and LL for Castilleja de la Cuesta. We can also see the Torre del Oro (G), however it is not clear what the so-called “Quartos” (kk) would be, probably associated with orchards.
Here we have a view of the entire environment outside the city walls, but the geometric position of some elements is far from reality. This environment was structured by a network of roads and sidewalks, with their corresponding bridges and culverts, by a complex hydrographic network, along with orchards, meadows and pastures, plus suburbs. It also included various architectural landmarks, i.e. religious, agricultural, military, hospital, manufacturing, and others (markets, mills, laundries ...). All of them were related to each other and deeply linked to the city.
Regarding hydrography, in this view the Guadalquivir (Q) and its tributary, the Tagarete stream (R), which runs next to the wall, with two culverts or small bridges in its final section stand out. One is next to the gate of Jerez and the other next to the Torre del Oro, and there is a section of the Tamarguillo stream (S).
Likewise, the whole of the wall and all its gates appear, identified in the legend: the puerta del Arenal quite credible and very defined (31), of Triana (32), of Goles or Real, very detailed (33), of San Juan, also called the Ingenio for the crane that existed next to it (34), the Almenilla or the Barqueta from the seventeenth century (35), the Macarena (36), Córdoba (37), del Sol (38), del Osario (39), Carmona (40), de la Carne (41), Jerez (42) and the postigo del Carbón, or de los Azacanes, also known as del Oro in that century (43).
All the suburbs that existed were represented, but only some were identified in the legend: Macarena (2), San Bernardo (51) and San Roque towards the door of Carmona (1). The rest are assigned letters, i.e. Triana (H), Carretería y Baratillo (O), Cestería (N), los Humeros (M) and a group of houses towards the Caños de Carmona (B). Singular elements were also detailed, such as the boat bridge (50), the Torre del Oro (57), the Torre de la Plata (59) and the castle of San Jorge (19).
Numerous religious buildings were distributed in the surroundings outside the walls, such as the hermitages of Santa Brígida (54), that of Santa Justa and Rufina, in whose surroundings the Capuchin convent (16) was later founded, the monasteries from San Isidoro del Campo en Santiponce (25), from Santa María de las Cuevas (26), from San Agustín (28) and from La Trinidad (30). Here a letter is assigned to others that do not appear in the legend, such as the monastery of San Jerónimo de Buenavista (E), the convents of Nuestra Señora de los Remedios (K), Nuestra Señora de la Victoria (L), possibly the de San Benito (C), the hermitage of La Soledad (A), the Royal Church of Santa Ana (I), and what could be the capilla de los Mártires or Chapel of the Martyrs (J). There is also the hospital of the Hospital de las Cinco Llagas (Five Wounds) or the Duque de Alcalá (15) and perhaps that of San Lázaro (D).
In addition, other varied landmarks were included, namely the Quemadero de la Inquisición (11), the humilladero de la Cruz del Campo (18), Palacio de San Telmo (52), the port dock crane (58), the Reales Atarazanas (23), possibly the soap factory (G), the slaughterhouse (10), the Caños de Carmona (9), the public gallows, symbolised by a wooden portico and a staircase (T), a windmill whose existence is not known (U), la huerta (gardens) del Rey (13) and the house of Hernando Colón, although he had died in 1539 (4) along with his gardens (14).
Following the failed an attempt to invade England in 1588 and the disastrous 1601 Ireland campaign of Philip III (1598-1621), he realised that the Spanish needed to control the seas. After arranging peace treaties with his main enemies (France in 1598, England in 1604, and the Northern Netherlands in 1609), he focused on the regulation of Spanish shipbuilding as a means to regain Spanish supremacy at sea. The result was a series of three royal decrees known as the ordinances for the construction of war and merchant ships. These ordinances, of 1607, 1613, and 1618 (and modified in 1666 and 1679), encompassed an effort to standardise all shipbuilding in the Iberian Peninsula. Several reasons explain why Spain was the first nation in Europe to produce such detail set of regulations, first and foremost was the fact that merchant ships crossing the Atlantic were proving to be less and less reliable. They needed to be more solidly built and able to be converted into armed vessels when required. In addition they needed a larger cargo capacity, yet a limited draft so they could cross the bar of Sanlúcar and other shallow waters.
The Ordenanzas of 1607 tried to define a merchant ship that could be armed, and to gain stability it would have lower decks and broader floors. A higher length-to-beam ratio would compensate for the loss of depth and also gain speed. The Ordenanzas gave the dimensions needed for the hull, a detailed description of hull structure elements and joints, and even how to assemble the hull. Before sailing all ships were inspected and two iron rings were nailed to the hull to mark the maximum draft allowed. Contravention of this rule was punished with the loss of half the value of the vessel, one-third for the judge and two-thirds for he that denounced the builder. More impressive were the articles detailing the obligations and salary of the workers at the shipyards. Each worker had to carry his own tools and keep them in good condition. Admitting to a shipyard a worker without his tools was fined 200 ducats or 5 years as a rower on a galley. Taking any materials out of the shipyard, including nails, chips, etc., was also punished with 100 ducats or 5 years as a rower.
The Ordenanzas of 1613 separated ships designed for cargo and those for military purposes. The new design had a much more pronounced bulging hull. The new rules included 35 different dimensions to be respected (the 1607 rules had only 7 to be respected). This time the importance of water aboard dictated that each galleon should carry as many casks as possible, each of four barrels capacity, hooped with ten iron rings four fingers wide, filled with fresh water, that once emptied be used to protect the sails from rats when wintering, and refilled with salt water for ballast during battle. The deck of merchant vessels and armada ships would have different heights, with armada ships having better stability for the same depth of hull. More important was the change in the conception of the hull to respond to pitching and avoid dismasting. The keel was increased for each beam, i.e. narrower holds for the same keel, but it improved seaworthiness and speed, in line with the old navigators saying “dame quillas y te daré millas” (give me keels and I’ll give you miles).
The Ordenanzas of 1618 remained in force for over one hundred years which is not bad for a king who never sailed. Again there was no distinction between ships for commerce and for military use. Compared to the ships of 1613, the new Ordenanzas requested deeper holds, but the length of the hull was shortened to improving the behaviour of the ships at sea. Dimensions and hull shapes different from the Ordenanzas were permitted on many occasions, e.g. warships built under contract often involved an experimental construction encouraged by the Crown.
As a note, we tend not to realise that in the early 1600's Spain and Portugal, had a combined merchant fleet of almost 330,000 tons, compared to 232,000 tons of the Dutch and only 42,000 tons for England. In part the problem was that the Spanish fleet was stretched all over the world, whilst the Dutch and English were garnering trade in the Mediterranean (using Seville as a port of call), and English pirates attacked Spanish vessels of its south coast whilst Dutch Sea Beggars plundered the Spanish along their north coast.
The bullion consignments arriving at Seville belonged partly to the Crown and partly to private individuals. In accordance with laws of Alfonso X and Alfonso XI of Castile (1311-1250), any mines discovered in lands belonging to the king were considered to form a part of the royal patrimony. But the risks and difficulties inherent in the exploitation of the American mines induced the Spanish Crown to renounce its rights and to rent or dispose of the mines, in return for a proportion of the yield, finally fixed at 20%. The Crown's share of the bullion arriving at Seville, which seems to have averaged about 40% of the total consignment, therefore consisted partly of this proportion, known as the Quinto Real, and partly of the sums sent back in payment of the taxes introduced by the Crown into the Indies. Of the private share of the consignment, part belonged to individuals who had made their fortune in the Indies and were bringing it back to Spain, but most of it was probably being remitted to Sevillan merchants by their American colleagues in order to pay for cargoes shipped to the New World.
In the period 1503-1660 it has been estimated that the total imports of treasure was nearly 540 million ducats, of which around 140 million went to the Crown, and rest to private individuals. But trade with the Indies was at all times a two-way trade. The first Spanish settlers in America needed almost everything from home, including arms, clothes, horses, corn, wine, etc. Even after the colonists had become established in their new surroundings, they continued to remain heavily dependent on Spain for many of their essential supplies. Although European crops were rapidly introduced, agriculture in the Indies was slow to develop, and demand was outpaced by the growth of the white or partially coloured population. It's estimated that there may have been some 118,000 colonists in the New World by 1570. These colonists clung nostalgically to the Spanish ways of life, wanting the luxuries of the Old World, e.g. textiles, books, foodstuffs, etc.. Some of these would in time be produced in the New World itself, but meanwhile the ships would leave Seville laden with Castilian or Catalan cloth, and with wine, oil and corn from Andalucía, and would bring back silver and other desirable colonial produce in return.
The number of ships making the transatlantic crossing each year varied considerably, according to the economic and political circumstances of the moment, and ranged from sixty to over a hundred. The majority of these ships were organised into convoys or fleets, on the Venetian and Portuguese model. There were various reasons for this. The transatlantic crossing, which took some two months, was dangerous, and skilled pilots were scarce. With the increasing quantities of bullion shipped back from the Indies, it was essential to provide protection. Cargoes also had to be registered, which was necessary for checking the bullion and for levying the almojarifazgo, a 7.5% duty payable on goods imported into America from Europe. It was simply easilier to managed a regular convoy system, starting from Seville and Cádiz and making for one of the three chosen ports in the New World, either Veracruz (Mexico), Cartagena (Columbia), or Nombre de Dios (Panama). In spite of these early attempts at control, which placed the organisation of the Carrera de las Indias firmly in the hands of the Casa de Contratación and of the Indies merchants of Seville, the fleet system only achieved its definitive form in the 1560's. From then on, in theory if not always in practice, two convoys would sail from Andalucía each year, one to New Spain and the other to Tierra Firme (often called the Spanish Main). The first of these, which later came to be known specifically as the Fleet (Flota), would set sail in April or May for the Gulf of Mexico. The other, which acquired from its escort of six or eight warships the collective name of the Galleons, would leave in August for the Isthmus of Panama, collecting ships from the northern coast of South America on the journey. Both fleets would winter in America, and would join forces at Havana in the following March for the return voyage to Europe. The convoy system was very expensive, but in terms of security it fully proved its worth. The only occasions on which the treasure galleons fell into enemy hands were 1628, when the Dutch Piet Heyn captured all but three of the vessels, and 1656 and 1657 when the fleet was destroyed by Blake. Although between 1531 and 1810 more than 30 maritime disasters meant the silver that was expected never arrived in Spain (although I think most, if not all, have since been excavated and salvaged).
Of these three economic regions it was naturally the Andalusians that reacted first to the conquest and colonisation of the New World. Around 1500 the city of Seville had some 60,000 or 70,000 inhabitants. During the next two or three decades this figure was reduced by epidemics and by the emigration of able-bodied men to the Indies, but from the 1530's the figures not only recovered, but began to increase dramatically, until it may have risen to as high as 150,000 by 1588. This spectacular increase made Seville one of the boom cities of the 16th century. It became the largest Spanish city, and was surpassed in size only by Paris and Naples. It was crowded with foreign merchants, Italians, Flemings, Portuguese, and it acted as an irresistible magnet to the inhabitants of northern and central Spain, who thought of it as an El Dorado in its own right and as the gateway to the untold riches of America.
During the course of the 16th century the inhabitants of northern Spain moved southwards in their thousands, travelling overland or by sea from Cantabria. This great movement of internal colonisation, which gradually tilted the demographic balance of Castile away from the north towards the south and the west, was in a sense the final phase of the Reconquista, a long southward trek of the Castilians into Andalucía in pursuit of wealth. The migrants were coming to a land that had been touched by the brush of prosperity. The valley of the Guadalquivir as far as the Sierra Morena was being planted by Sevillian merchants with cereals, vines and olives for sale in Seville, and for export to northern Europe and to the Indies. Many Andalusian peasants were growing rich on the sales of their crops, and were becoming owners of extensive holdings of land. There were signs, too, of industrial as well as of agrarian vitality in the development of textile production in towns like Úbeda and Baeza, and in the increasing output of Granada silk, for which there was a growing demand in Flanders, France, and Italy.
The Crown of Aragon shared only marginally in this new-found prosperity. The Catalans unsuccessfully sought permission on several occasions during the reign of Charles V to establish consuls in Seville and Cádiz, and to obtain special privileges in connexion with the American trade. But they benefited indirectly from it in the increased sale of their cloths in the fairs of Castile, with three-quarters of all cloths being bought for shipment to the New World. On the other hand, the connexion between Seville and the north, as distinct from the east of Spain, were very close. Ships from northern dockyards played an important part in the Carrera de las Indias, and there was constant traffic and interchange between the three great commercial centres of Burgos, Medina del Campo, and Seville. If the towns of northern and central Castile were so intimately associated with the life of Andalucía, this was primarily because of their own economic vitality, which made their co-operation essential to the merchants of Seville. Seville needed the shipbuilding skills and the navigational experience of the Basques, and it needed the machinery of international credit that had been so elaborately constructed in the fairs of Castile, just as the fairs in turn needed the silver that only Seville could supply. Medina del Campo later became the slave rather than the partner of Seville, and an excessive dependence on the prompt arrival of the treasure fleet brought it to economic disaster.
"Mujeres en la Ventana" was painted by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo in ca. 1657. Murillo was renowned for his religious paintings, but some of of his paintings also capture the charms of everyday life, and "Women at the Window" is one of the most famous examples. We see an older woman covering her smile while a younger girl leans against the windowsill. The difference in ages could indicate that it is a chaperone and the young woman under her command, something common among the Spanish high society of the time.
We should not underestimate the strategic importance of Sevilla. The city was known for its soap and pottery factories, and it exported silk products all over Europe. It was during this period that Sevilla acquired its most famous monuments, the Cathedral (1506), the Giralda (1568), the Casa Consistorial de Sevilla (1564), the Hospital de las Cinco Llagas (1601), etc. In fact this was the Spanish Golden Age, with El Greco, Velázquez, Zurbarán, Murillo, Cervantes, and not forgetting Vespucii who died in Sevilla in 1512. And to top it all Carlos I married Isabel de Portugal in Sevilla in 1526.
The key was that Seville was an “interior” port for goods, silver and gold, which could be safely unloaded. Spain had a long, difficult and dangerous coastline, rugged terrain and poor roads, so Sevilla were a perfect port of call. And we should not forget that Andalucía was both agriculturally and industrially strong, and could supply the needs of the outgoing fleets. The regular passage of between 60-100 ships per year, brought precious metals, jewels, pearls, fabrics, crystal, dyestuffs, soap, spices, slaves and immigrants through the port of Sevilla. Great wealth and power was accumulated by the landed noble class, the Grandees, and below them there were the powerful military-religious orders (knights) of Alcantara, Calatrava, Santiago, and Montesa.
In fact during the 15th century, Seville, like all Andalucía, witnessed the consolidation of an urban patriciate that was to exercise absolute control over all aspects of civic life. Its economic power was based on the possession of magnificent agricultural properties spread throughout the vast area of Seville, but especially in the rich lands of Aljarafe. It was reinforced throughout the 15th century by the progressive acquisition, and in some cases usurpation of jurisdictional rights, and with the exercise of proto-capitalist techniques, both in the exploitation of the farms and in the commercialisation of their produce. The economic boom of Castilla in general, and of the Seville-Cádiz axis in particular, during the 15th century, benefitted this aristocracy. A class open to innovation, but still deeply rooted in the chivalric tradition. Indeed, military activity, especially on the border, continued to be both one of the main avenues for social advancement and an occupation in itself. It was a must for those who aspired to stay in the highest ranks of society. The aristocracy continued to have its main justification in its military capacity, which was also at the origin of its political role.
Seville was the most important city in the crown of Castile during the 15th century, but its geographical eccentricity, its remoteness from the politically dominant nuclei of the kingdom, kept it marginalised for much of the century. For example Juan II never visited Seville in the forty-eight years of his long and itinerant reign. Since 1445 the control of the high nobility over the city has been consummated thanks to the ties with the knight orders, true monopolisers of municipal power since the reign of Alfonso XI. In this sense, the creation of gangs and the rivalry between different noble fractions, so often resolved with the shedding of blood, was just a peculiar form of participation of the urban aristocracy in public affairs (even if they used local thugs to do the hard work). The side struggles, never resolved with the extermination of one of the factions, always ended up reinforcing the dominance of the oligarchy.
During the 15th century, the prominence of the urban aristocracy in the life of the city increased continuously and unstoppably. To become integrated into the noble ranks was the aspiration of all those who had had a successful economic, administrative, intellectual and/or military life in 14th century Seville. The Sevillian aristocracy reaches the Modern Age (from ca. 1500) full of resources, and ready to benefit from Seville's new position in the world, but they were still strongly marked by medieval religious and chivalric ideals. The thirst for fame and wealth and the desire to serve an ideal were the most important characteristics of the hidalgo, the Spanish knight.
Sevillian nobility were generally branches of the upper and middle nobility connected with houses of the Castilian nobility of the highest level. Many remained as secondary nobility in an urban aristocracy. Some ended with diminished social positions and precarious economies. But others became the older relatives of their respective lineages, or even "darken with their splendour the first-born branches of their houses". Most were from the group of two hundred knights who were sent to Seville after it became part of the Crown of Castile. Seville also maintained strong foreign colonies, particularly Italian, dedicated to trade with their respective metropolises. Some of these merchants settled definitively in the city, integrating themselves into its aristocracy and rapidly becoming Castilian. Other nobles derived from local lineages and some even from Judeo-conversa origin. Concerning this last category one author noted that this group consisted of those whose conversion took place as a result of the events of 1391, to which were added those who moved to Seville in XV century (all were large landowners and traders). In fact there was a growing presence of converts in decisive positions in the Seville municipal and state administration, as well as in the most intimate circles of the Andalusian high nobility. A presence that frequently provoked the envy and resentment of other urban aristocracy less favoured by the evolution of the times.
The conclusion appears to be that nobles of differing backgrounds all integrated in to Sevillian society, provided they were accompanied by a healthy economy. The way in which this was achieved did not affect the result, although it must be stated that the common characteristic of the wealthy Sevillian aristocracy was land. Social origins, clothes, servants, all played a role, but the key was total acceptance of the chivalric ideal with all its military and religious implications. In addition alliances through marriage, the jurisdictional possession of a lordship (even if it were of irrelevant size), the enjoyment of an important council office were all characteristics of membership in the elite of the city. As of course ties to the crown, and/or an important role in a military order, had a multiplying effect on those already possessing the prestige and authority of the lineage or the clout of profitable business interests. Behind the scenes, what truly counted was the foundation of a "mayorazgo", a right of succession that would ensure the future of the lineage, and thus the definitive consolidation of the family within Seville's titled nobility.
Virgen de las Cuevas was painted in about 1650 by Francisco de Zurbarán (1598-1664), who was known for his religious paintings depicting monks, nuns, and martyrs.
The prosperity of Sevilla was at its zenith. Spain saw the emergence of a 'modern' state, and the cultural transition from the Renaissance to Baroque. The Spanish crown consolidated power, and even gained special taxation rights from the Pope. It controlled the Spanish Inquisition, and had control over ecclesiastical appointments and reforms.
The Church in Seville had its origins in the old rites of the Mozarabic people, and with San Isidore and his brother San Leandro. Even with the reorganisation of the Church under Ferdinand III, Seville retained a pride in its antique liturgy. Its wealth and status increased, and clerical salaries also. Canonries in Seville, rose in value between the early 16th and the early 17th centuries from 300 to 2,000 ducats. A sixfold increase which showing that, at least in this diocese, the revenues of the cathedral chapter would continue to rise faster than prices. New churches and convents were built, religious orders and charities were founded, schools established, and churches acquired exquisite reliquaries and altar pieces. Seville’s Church served as the model and authority for the Church in the New World. So with so much wealth and power, why did Seville decline?
From 1556 to 1598, Philip II (1527-1598) had waged war against the Ottoman Empire, Dutch rebels, Portugal, France, England, and principalities in Italy and Germany. His navy engaged foes and privateers throughout the Mediterranean, Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. As a whole, these military enterprises were successful. For example, the Ottoman Empire ceased to be either a land or naval threat to Europe after the Battle of Lepanto (1571). In addition, Spain's colonial possessions were reinforced and generated increasing revenues, and the Spanish Empire was expanded with the addition of Portugal, its colonies, and the Philippines. The continuing rebellion by Dutch rebels in the Low Countries, engaged by Spain's Army of Flanders, and the loss of the Armada in 1588 were prominent exceptions to what was otherwise a period of relative success for Spain.
The revenues the Spanish Crown depended on meeting military expenditures that were both volatile and increasing. This created a need to constantly look for ways to increase revenues. In addition there was a need to transfer specie from Castile to the king's troops fighting outside of Spain. 'In specie' is a Latin term meaning "in the actual form", which is the transfer of the ownership of assets in their current form, that is without the need to convert the asset to cash. To do so the Crown contracted international credit through what was called an 'asiento', a high interest, short-term debt contract, lent by a Genoese-Ied cartel. In 16th century usage 'asiento' was a general term that described a variety of contracts, and the Crown often contracted specie transfers or foreign exchange transactions within the same contracts that governed lending. The Crown typically owed creditors three to four million ducats in 'asientos' (roughly one half of a typical year's total revenues), though the figure rose on various occasions above eight million, and once to fifteen million (over two years' total revenues).
There were three royal "bankruptcies" during the reign of Philip II, in 1557, 1575, and 1596. When settled relatively cooperatively, as in 1557 through 1560, and in 1596 through 1597, the Crown emerged from bankruptcy with its finances and military prospects improved. When settled slowly and acrimoniously, as happened in the long negotiations of 1575 through 1578, the king's armies floundered for lack of funds. Contrary to common perception, the Spanish Crown's bankruptcies were not wholesale repudiations of obligations to creditors nor signs of Crown insolvency. Rather, they were events where diverse creditors re-elaborated and swapped claims upon the Crown, apparently with the aim of solidifying their claims' collectability in the future. On the occasion of the bankruptcy of 1575, the Crown resisted the demands of the Genoese-Ied cartel. The stand-off that resulted led the Genoese to impose a three-year embargo on all currency transfers and letters of exchange between the Crown and its agents and troops in the Low Countries where it was engaged in a major campaign against Dutch rebels. A direct consequence of this measure was that in November, 1576, troops of the king's own Army of Flanders mutinied and sacked Antwerp because they had not been paid. This was a grave military set-back for Philip. Shortly afterward, the king began negotiating with the Genoese once again. In the end, the bankruptcy of 1575, like those of 1557 and 1596, was concluded with the Crown paying off its arrears in 'asientos' with a combination of specie and newly issued juros (public debts). In early 1578 the Genoese ended their embargo on transfers of payment to the Crown's troops and agents abroad. Despite the frequency, and on the one occasion acrimony, of the Crown's bankruptcies, the Crown repaid its creditors to the extent that each bankruptcy was settled to the satisfaction of the Genoese, and they resumed financial services immediately afterward and later made high positive returns on their loans to the Spanish Crown.
Interestingly the loss of the Armada in 1588 elicited no negative concessionary terms from the Genoese, nor did it provoke a royal bankruptcy or a rescheduling of payments from the king.
Seville had always suffered. During the period 1450-1650 Seville suffered ten severe droughts, fifteen famines, fourteen epidemics, and thirteen periods of dangerous flooding. The final blow was the Great Plague of Seville (1647-1652) which killed 150,000 people in and around the city (60,000 in the city itself).
The century that followed the cocoliztli epidemic of 1576–9 has been called ‘New Spain's century of depression’, a century of economic contraction, during the course of which the New World closed in on itself. During this century it had less silver to offer Europe, as it became increasingly expensive to work the mines. There were fewer opportunities for the emigrants, despite the 800 or more men and women who were still arriving in the 1590's in each fleet from Seville. At the same time, the New World also came to require less of Europe, or at least of Spain. European luxury products found themselves competing with the products of the Far East carried to America in the Manila galleon. But much more serious from the point of view of Spain was the establishment in its American possessions of an economy dangerously similar to its own. Mexico had developed a coarse cloth industry, and Peru was now producing grain, wine, and oil. These were exactly the products which had bulked so large in the cargoes from Seville during the preceding decades. In fact, the staple Spanish exports to America were ceasing to be indispensable to the settlers, and in 1597 Spanish merchants found it impossible to dispose of all their goods. The American market, the source of Andalucía's prosperity, was for the first time overstocked.
From the 1590s, therefore, the economies of Spain and of its American possessions began to move apart, while Dutch and English interlopers were squeezing themselves into a widening gap. It was true that Seville still retained its official monopoly of New World trade, and that Sevillan commerce with America reached an all-time record in 1608, to be followed by a further twelve years in which trade figures, while fluctuating, remained at a high level. But, as an index to national prosperity, the figures are deprived of much of their significance by the fact that the cargoes were increasingly of foreign provenance. The goods which Spain produced were not wanted by America, and the goods that America wanted were not produced by Spain.
In addition, although individual Spaniards showed both interest and proficiency in certain fields of scientific inquiry, foreign travellers found the country as a whole backward, and uninterested in matters of scientific and technological concern. For example, Seville had never built the bridge it so badly needed over the Guadalquivir, and it failed to tackle the increasingly serious problem of the silting up of the river, which was finally to destroy its commercial prosperity. The reasons were simple, a reluctance to invest money in public works, coupled with personal and municipal rivalries, and, ultimately, a deadening inertia, which crippled both the capacity and the desire to act. Already by the end of the 16th century many Spaniards seem to have been gripped by that sense of fatalism which would prompt the famous pronouncement of a Junta of theologians in the reign of Philip IV (1605-1665). Summoned to consider a project for the construction of a new canal, it flatly declared that if God had intended the rivers to be navigable, He would have made them so.
Saint Justa and Saint Rufina is a c.1666 oil on canvas painting by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, now in the Museo de Bellas Artes of Seville. Saint Justa and Saint Rufina is one of the paintings made to decorate the church of the Capuchin Convent in Seville. The Cathedral had suffered much damage during earthquakes over the centuries, and there was a popular belief at the time that intercession to the sister saints Justa and Rufina saved the Giralda, the cathedral's bell-tower which was formerly a mosque minaret, during the 1504 earthquake. The sisters are depicted holding a model of the Giralda in the painting, and are the patron saints of the cathedral. Attributes such as the martyr's palm and clay pots lay on the ground, as they were daughters of a potter.
With the Counter-Reformation (in the period ca. 1550-1650) all the important religious orders, Franciscans, Dominicans, Augustinians, and Jesuits, settled in the city. Seville became a city of priests and convents. By 1671 there were 45 monasteries and 28 convents in the city. The expulsion of the Jewish and Moorish populations deprived Seville (and Spain) of many of its bankers, scholars, doctors, and merchants. The Moorish population had been also skilled agriculturalists and industrial workers, so their expulsion affected negatively the native artisan class. The conversos who remained were distrusted and excluded from society. The foreigners who filled the vacuum left by these groups never fully integrated into Spanish life, and were never given effective political representation. With the plague, regular religious rites were cancelled, business and shops closed down, the city’s administration ceased to function, and ships could no longer be loaded and unloaded. Then the Spanish Crown quadrupled the value of its weak currency, and food prices soared. Finally the Crown also forbid the purchase and use of some luxury goods, depriving Seville of another valuable source of income.
During this period the Jews were accused of the ritual sacrifice of Christian children, and in particular at Easter and Christmas. Any child lost during that period, would provoke riots and assaults in the Jewish quarter.
On 9 April 1609 the Spanish decided to expel the Moriscos from Spain. There was a deliberate significance in the choice of the date on which the decree of expulsion was formally approved by the King, the day which also saw the signing of the Twelve Years' Truce. By the use of skilful timing, the humiliation of peace with the Dutch would be overshadowed by the glory of removing the last trace of Moorish dominance from Spain, and 1609 would be ever memorable as a year not of defeat but of victory.
The expulsion of the Moriscos, carefully prepared, and carefully executed between 1608 and 1614, was to some extent the act of a weak government anxious for easy popularity at a time of widespread national discontent (still sounds familiar today). But although the government acted in response to pressures from beneath, there was a complexity about the whole Morisco problem which conferred a certain plausibility on the assumption that expulsion was the only remaining solution. Fundamentally, the Morisco question was that of an unassimilated, and possibly unassimilable, racial minority which had given endless trouble ever since the conquest of Granada. The dispersion of the Moriscos through Castile after the suppression of the second rebellion of the Alpujarras in 1570 had only complicated the problem by extending it to areas which had previously been free of Morisco inhabitants. From 1570 the Morisco problem was Castilian, as well as Valencian and Aragonese, although it varied in character from one region to another.
It was in Valencia that the problem appeared most serious. There were some 135,000 Moriscos in Valencia in 1609, perhaps a third of the total population of the kingdom. In addition the proportion was increasing, since there had been a 70% increase in the Morisco population between 1563 and 1609, against only a 45% increase among the Old Christians. These Moriscos formed a closely knit community, significantly known as "the nation of the New Christians of the Moors of the kingdom of Valencia". The very extent of their organisation aroused widespread fears, and a Turkish-Protestant-Morisco conspiracy looked plausible enough to such a man as Archbishop Ribera of Valencia (1532-1611). And it was plausible enough for all those who were anxious to see the last of the Moriscos. These included Valencian lords whose vassals were Old Christians, and who envied the lords of Morisco vassals their greater prosperity. It also included the lower class of the Old Christian population, hungry for the land which the Moriscos occupied. But the Valencian Moriscos had powerful protectors in the majority of the nobles, who were dependent on Morisco labour for their income. Equally, the townsmen who had lent money to aristocrats on the security of their estates were opposed to any sudden change that might reduce the rate of interest.
The balance of forces in Valencia suggests that, if the kingdom had been left to itself the Moriscos would have remained. But the presence of Moriscos in Castile had set up a whole new series of pressures which did much to strengthen the hand of those in favour of their total expulsion from the peninsula. The Castilian Moriscos, unlike their Valencian brethren, were rootless and scattered, and where the Valencian Moriscos were largely agricultural labourers, those of Castile had drifted to the towns and taken up a wide variety of fairly menial occupations, as carriers, muleteers, and small craftsmen. Since they were so widely dispersed, they hardly represented a very serious danger, but they were disliked by many Old Christians for spending too little, working too hard, and breeding too fast. In such a climate it was not difficult to whip up popular feeling by rhetorical arguments to the effect that Spain's recent misfortunes could be attributed to the continuing presence of unbelievers in a country that called itself Catholic.
Once the populace was aroused, the supporters of the Moriscos no longer dared raise their voices in protest, and the case against expulsion went by default. The vast bureaucratic machine was duly set in motion, and the Moriscos were shepherded towards the frontiers and the ports. The majority eventually found their way to North Africa, where many died of hunger and exhaustion, or were massacred by their unfriendly brethren. The total number leaving Spain is now reckoned at some 275,000 out of a probable Morisco population of over 300,000. In the city of Seville there were some 7,000 Moriscos, occupied in humble but indispensable jobs as porters and carriers and dockyard hands, and the sudden removal of these men added to the many troubles of the port in the years around 1610.
Spain had prestige, power and wealth, and thus became the favourite target for the Turks, English, French, Berbers, Dutch, Portuguese and Catalans. Despite the wealth from the New World, new taxes were constantly levied to pay for wars. Some territories resisted paying, but Castile and Andalucía were weak, so taxes continued to rise. Exports from Seville to the New World kept prices high for both agricultural products and industrial goods. Despite the influx of precious metals, the Spanish never created an effective banking system, so there was high inflation and a constant series of monetary crises (inflation rose in Seville by 107% between 1503 and 1550). Government borrowing was high, and their manipulation of currency values played havoc with wages and the cost of living. In fact the Spanish Crown declared bankruptcy seven times between 1557 and 1653.
In 1588 Spain’s “Invincible Armada” lost to the English, and with that Spain lost its national pride.
As Sevilla grew in importance, so did Spain’s vast bureaucracy. A new class emerged, the “letrados” (literates). A mix of bourgeoisie and lower nobility, it offered a degree of social mobility, as did the military and the Church. Working for the Church ensured that you had food and shelter, so it was both secure and desirable. The Church employed priests, scribes, sacristans, singers, musicians, choirboys, bellringers, porters, rent collectors, and lawyers, in addition to all the monks. The working classes had their guilds and religious fraternities. But we should not ignore the fact that the rural peasants living on estates were increasingly exploited by the land-owning Church and noble classes. Preferential treatment was given to livestock grazers over farmers, taxation was increased, inflation was high, and a sequence of poor seasons, drove the peasantry further in to poverty. We must also remember that Sevilla was a slave port. In fact Seville and Lisbon had the largest slave populations in Western Europe, and its been estimates that between 7% and 10% of the population in Servile were slaves. So the wealthy could buy slaves to work the land, and thus were able to continue to oppress the peasant classes.
We have mentioned soap production as being a major activity in Seville. But is there a link between soap and bureaucracy? The Royal Soap Factory of Seville (Reales Almonas de Sevilla) enjoyed the royal privilege (1423-1811) as the sole producer and purveyor of soap for the city. The privilege was first given to the Archbishop Ruy López-Dávalos, then later transferred to Admiral Alonso Enríquez. It was a monopoly with the price set by the local government. Disputes about the price were based upon ad-hoc tests to calculate both the cost of manufacturing and the administration of the factory. The tests were strict and performed by soap experts from outside Seville.
Price setting conformed to the idea of a regulated market, it was the Crown who determined the “just price” for goods. The price should be just above the cost. Pricing was a public service, and not for private profit. It must be remembered that soap was not related to bathing. It was a luxury, but even then using soap was not a well known social practice. Nevertheless soap production in 1525 was about 3 kg person, per year. The process itself was developed by the Arabs, and used olive oil and ash. As an aside there was at that time an active commerce in soap smuggling. For example, the price of olive oil was set at the Olive Oil Gate (Postigo del Aceite), and based on all oil acquisitions made during the preceding week. Disagreements occurred concerning the “other costs” associated with soap production, e.g. purchase of rope, preparation of cauldrons, cost of weighing the soap, taxes, rent, etc. And everything hung on the quality of the olives, and how much soap would be produced by how many olives.
So the price was fixed by royal privilege, quality conditions were set concerning colour and the quality of olives used. Fourteen shops were allowed to sell soap, and they had to be open 24 hours per day. The location of the shops were fixed (as were the locations for shops selling bread, olive oil and coal). Weighing devices had to be cleaned, sealed, and tested every 4 months. The price of soap had to be permanently displayed.
Complaints and changes to the tests were dealt with by the King! And it included everything. The need to guarantee soap production required work on Sunday. Thus a Sunday mass service was needed for workers. Thus one of the costs was paying for a priest. The King saw the petition, decided on new tests, and what costs should be included and excluded.
This type of cost accounting in regulated markets was dominate in Southern Europe, and with excessive bureaucracy, and all that was implied, both have been offered as the reason for the decline of Seville and of Spain through the 17th and 18th centuries.
The many charitable institutions created in Seville, valuable in their own right, also attracted the poor, former prisoners, old galley slaves, etc. to the city. And as with every port, there was a booming business in prostitution, and syphilis became epidemic. Soldiers were forcibly quartered with local residents, which also contributed to the city’s high crime rate.
Seville’s municipal government was responsible for tax collection, public services, controlling crime, running prisons, organising public festivities, administrating properties and rents, and setting prices for basic goods. However some municipal offices were subject to royal appointment. The Crown would sell these offices and titles, swelling the bureaucracy and diluting the power of the local government. And to top it all, the Crown could block conciliar power through the presence of their corregidor. The corregidores were administrators of cities and districts with both administrative and judicial powers. The Catholic Monarchs used them wherever local potentates tended to override the electoral process, and corregidores served to strengthen royal authority.
During the 16th and 17th centuries, the Castilian kings frequently resorted to selling public offices in the governing bodies of the monarchy as the usual means of obtaining income with which to face the high expenses of the royal estate. This did not mean that the money went directly into the pockets of the monarchs, but more often into the coffers of the institutions. Through these operations, the jobs became private property (often in perpetuity), being able to be carried out directly by the buyers themselves, or by other people as lieutenants. Likewise, they could be leased in exchange for money, transmitted to their successors or disposed of in favour of third parties, creating a parallel market for trade in offices between individuals. In one particular case from the mid-18th century in Seville, a single post was divided in eight parts and owned by a married couple (2 parts), a nun (2 parts), and two different convents (2 parts each). Each received an income, but none were able to exercise the function required by the post.
The exercise of public office provided prestige, honour and great possibilities of enrichment, constituting one of the most important mechanisms of social advancement of the time, a fact that explains the wide endorsement they found in the market. This phenomenon affected most town councils of the towns and cities of Castile and, in particular, the Andalusian kingdoms due to their large populations and high level of urbanisation. Sales reached high proportions in large cities such as Seville, Córdoba or Granada, as well as in medium-sized cities such as Antequera, Carmona, Écija or Guadix. It also had an impact on important institutions such as the Real Chancillería de Granada, the Casa de Contratación and the Real Casa de la Moneda in Seville.
As one might guess the monarchy sold more offices in the moments of greatest economic need. At first, it affected the regiments, "juraderías", notaries of the councils, and "numeraries", and later was expanded to other trades and institutions. "Juraderías" is an old term, but it referred to many different types of employment, such as on a jury, in a delegation, member of a court, board, commission or committee, and also to the group of people who were in charge of judging those accused of crimes. "Numeraries" were celibate lay members of certain Roman Catholic religious institutions.
The first sale was carried out during the reign of the Charles V, specifically in 1542, at which time dozens of positions from each of the main Castilian cities were put up for auction, which had an excellent acceptance among the interested parties (some posts were invented for the sale). The rhythm of sales intensified upon the arrival to the throne of Philip II as a consequence of the increase in the expenses of the monarchy. In 1581 the sales were extended to the villas belonging to the jurisdiction of the cities. Philip III promised to put an end to the sales, but simply drove them underground. Philip IV, including the bailiffs (alguacilazgos) and some important military posts (alferazgos), as well as the notaries' offices. His sales reach exorbitant proportions, but the sales languishing from the reign of Charles II (1661-1700).
It was not a haphazard activity. The monarchs asked magistrates and mayors of the cities to estimate the number of people who might be interested, and what they might be willing to pay. The information was compiled, sent to the Treasury Council for appraisal and only them were the posts put up for auction. The demand became so strong that speculators bought whole packages of posts with the aim of reselling them for profit. Prices depending on the importance of the population and the expected demand. Towards 1557 "las veinticuatrías de Córdoba" were paid at 2,000 ducats, i.e. the equivalent of alderman or councillor. Those same posts in Seville could cost 7,000 ducats. Posts in sheriff's offices were sold at truly exorbitant prices, a bailiffs office in the Royal Chancellery of Granada was sold to the Genoese Bartolomé Veneroso for 80,000 ducats. Later Felipe IV would sell the roll of mayor of Seville to the powerful Duke of Medinaceli for 160,000 ducats, the highest amount ever paid for an office during that time. It is easier to know the cost of a post, but far more difficult to know the income from that post, at the time of purchase. In one example, a "notary's office of the commission of trades that are served without a Royal Title", was bought for 3,300 reales, and 100 years later had a salary of 4,400 reales. In addition large sums were paid for purely honorary posts, although many might have be useful in furthering the interests of the purchaser. If I understood correctly the figures the church in Seville owned about 20% of the posts, but received about 40% of their total income from them (although some posts might have been received as a donation or a dowry in the case of nuns). One example was the infirmary of one of the convents owned what I think was the right to weigh good entering and leaving the port, a post which cost 500,000 reales. Another example was a priest who owned and leased out a clerk's office. The vast majority of posts were bought and sold at reasonable prices, and for their long-term income (in some cases packages of posts were sold where the purchaser would have been totally incapable of the performing the stipulated tasks). Some posts could include titles and possessions, in one case it conferred on the owner a pre-eminent position in all public events and the right to enter the town hall with a sword. Another purchase included 6 different posts and the income from 62 villas in Seville. Another in Seville included the role of "tobacconist and permission to make soap". One of the most impressive of the posts was the role of notary for "forbidden things", which actually included 12 further notary post that depended on this office. The owner sat on the city council and on bench of the court. Interestingly the owner then declared that he had ceded this post to His Majesty in response to the Crown's "emergencies". In fact what he did was to sell the post, with its privileges, to the city of Seville for a not inconsiderable 173,000 ducats. The sale brought the owner a considerable profit, yet he appeared to have acted in support of the Crown. Naturally the city then went ahead a resold the posts with profit. One particularly nondescript post in Seville, responsible for the "surveillance of boundaries and landmarks", was sold for 2 million reales. We can suppose that it was possible, fraudulently, to increase plots and acquire land. But the title deed also mentioned that it included "all cities, towns and places, terms and jurisdictions of its 10 treasuries, except the city of Écija and the town of Cazalla regarding wine and Carmona regarding oil”, which might imply it was sold as part of a larger package.
The obvious next step was to improve the royal finances by multiplying the number of positions in various councils, a mechanism known as "acrecentamientos". But beyond the link to the economic needs of the crown, the sales boom also responded to a broad social demand from individuals excluded from the institutions, but who longed to access them for reasons of prestige, honour and power. It was thus that wealthy farmers, wealthy merchants, many of them of Judeo-converts, and other groups of modest social extraction, broke into the municipal councils altering their composition, until then reserved for members of the traditional nobility. Quite a change, which was received with great animosity on the part of the nobility, who did not take long to show their dissatisfaction. Shortly after the sales began, in 1544, the Castilian cities denounced the pernicious effects on municipal governments, and repeatedly insisted that the practice stop. The monarchs acceded to the demands, money was reimbursed, often with an addition tax on the council coffers, which increased the long-standing indebtedness of the municipalities. Behind these movements there were real internal struggles between the different sides that tried to dominate the municipal councils. Even the crown itself was an interested party, because they could satisfy the wishes of the plaintiffs, yet end up being able to sell the posts again, which happened more often than not.
Another way the traditional oligarchies stopped foreign groups from entering the councils, especially in large cities, was the establishment of the Estatutos de Limpieza de Sangre (Cleanliness of Blood Statutes). It was a series of mandatory provisions that required any person who wanted to become part of the local government to have to prove that they belonged to the nobility, and in addition, not descending from Jews, Muslims or penitents of the Inquisition. The cities that adopted this regulation included Seville (1566), Córdoba (1568), Malaga (1662), Jerez (1724), Jaén (1730), Cádiz (1732) and Granada (1739). All this did was push the "upstarts" to counterfeit documents or bribe officials. Buying offices made it possible for families of relatively modest social origins to gain access and perpetuate power for generations. They would remain in power by roaming freely from one council to another, making the most of municipal resources for their own benefit. The posts they acquired allowed them to move up the social ladder and assimilate themselves into the ruling classes of the monarchy.
The law was just as confusing. The Casa de Contratación had its own judicial authority over mercantile and shipping affairs. The Church had its ecclesiastical courts, and the Inquisition also had its own judiciary force.
By 1630 the Guadalquivir silted up, and large cargo ships were no longer able to dock there. Cádiz became Spain’s major shipping city, but by then most trade was in the hands of foreigners. In 1680 with the nomination of Cádiz as the official port for trade with the New World, Seville became just another regional capital, dependent upon local agriculture and commerce. The last nail in the coffin of Seville was the actual transfer of the Casa de Contratación to Cádiz in 1717. In the past Seville was America, and that link was finally broken with the transfer of the institutions to Cádiz. It is true that the Church remained wealthy and continued to build great ecclesiastical buildings, but Seville became “a city of nostalgia”.
Some experts have suggested that the transfer of silver shipments from Seville to Cádiz also favoured the contraband activities in which the authorities connived. Cádiz had offered many pecuniary services to the king, and there was a striking correlation between the concession of services and the obtaining of privileges.
It is true that the whole of Europe appeared to fall into a general crisis between the Renaissance and Reformation on the one side, and the Enlightenment and Revolution on the other. The 17th century was a period of change for many, many European countries. Many had expanded during the 15th and 16th centuries, and most stagnated in the 17th century. Those communities that were dependent upon agriculture suffered the most, with prices falling for bread grain, meat and dairy products (industrial products varied less). Seville was also dependent upon the easy profits associated with silver, initially there were rich pickings for the businessman, speculator and profiteer. Modern capitalism was born in this period. When the silver flow diminished (post-1610) and the monetary base contracted, prices fell, and easy profits evaporated. It is also certainly true that the heavy Spanish bureaucracy left a lot of space for more efficient competitors to emerge. The plague and the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) reduced the population of the Holy Roman Empire by more than 35%.
By 1621 Spain’s transatlantic trade with the New World was in full decline, and between 1620-1622 Spain needed more money to pay for the Palatinate campaign, and in 1622 for the constant naval conflicts with the Dutch Republic. The Spanish Crown defaulted 1627, destroying Genoa’s banks, and ruining the international payments system. In 1628 Spain devalued its copper coinage by 50%. And then learned that privateers of the Dutch West India Company had captured the entire Spanish silver fleet. Any one of these crisis would have caused Seville some considerable discomfort, taken together they clearly explain the reason for a prolonged decline.
The year 1631 saw the introduction of a tax on the first year's income from offices known as the media anata. In addition 1631-34 saw the Salt Tex Revolt concerning the ownership and price of salt. In 1632 the Conde-Duque de Olivares (1587-1645) obtained the Pope's consent to a special grant from the clergy, and appropriated a year's income from the Archbishopric of Toledo. He also ordered the collection of a voluntary donation to help save Flanders and Italy, nobles being expected to give 1,500 ducats and 150 caballeros (i.e. knights). In 1635 he confiscated half the yield of all juros (public debts) held by Spanish, and the entire yield of those belonging to foreigners. This was so successful, he continued to employ it for a number of years. In 1637 he imposed a new tax in the form of a stamp duty, which became mandatory for all legal and official documents. In the same year he have seized 487,000 ducats in American silver, and gave the owners ‘compensation’ in the form of unwanted juros. Two years later, ignoring the repercussions on Seville's trade, he appropriated a further 1 million ducats is the same way. He sold Crown rents, titles, and offices, and revived the old feudal obligations on the aristocracy, who found themselves expected to raise and equip infantry companies at their own expense. In consequence, although the nominal distinction between hidalgos (nobility) and pecheros remained as strong as ever, the practical distinction tended to disappear, as the aristocracy found itself mulcted (i.e. fined) of its money by a succession of fiscal charges and taxes from which it could find no way of escape.
Yet because of the constant conflicts Castile was both denuded of men and funds, and it was becoming quite impossible to keep the armies up to strength. Moreover, the economic position was by now exceptionally grave, for Spain's last real source of economic strength, the trading system between Seville and America, was failing. Olivares's repeated confiscations of silver remittances and his constant interference with the American trade had produced the inevitable result. Merchants had lost confidence, and Sevillian shipping was in decay. Silver supplies were still coming regularly to the Crown, at least until 1640 when no silver fleet arrived, but the whole system of credit and confidence by which Seville had for so long shored up the Spanish Monarchy was gradually crumbling. With Castile exhausted and America failing, the principal foundations of Spanish imperialism over the past hundred years were slowly giving way.
In 1649 Seville lost 60,000 inhabitants, half its population, in the terrible plague. Cádiz gradually arrogated to itself the position in the American trade previously enjoyed by Seville, but the trade itself was now largely controlled by foreign merchants, who had secured numerous concessions from the Spanish Crown. Castile was dying, both economically and politically, and as the hopeful foreign mourners gathered at the death-bed, their agents rifled the house.
Plague (Yersinia pestis) is a natural disease of rodents, with rats being the main reservoir of the disease. Rats are infected through a vector, which in this case is the rat flea (Xenopsylla cheopis). The flea sucks the blood of an infected animal and ingests Y. pestis cells, which multiply in the flea's intestine and will be transmitted to another rat at the next flea bite. The disease will spread so that mortality among rats becomes so high that the flea seeks new hosts, among which is man. The disease can be contracted by handling an infected animal and can also be transmitted between humans. One of the clinical descriptions is Bubonic plague. Adverse factors in the outbreak in Seville were the floods of April 3, 1649, where the rainfall and floods of the Guadalquivir River and its tributaries coinciding with the shortage of food supplies. Plus the temperature in the city was high and it was very humid. Madrid prohibited the entry of both people and goods from Seville on May 21, 1649.
Seville was home to between 120,000 and 140,000 people, and the probable number of deaths was around 60,000, half the population. The city had 1200 hospital beds and opened six large cemeteries. There were difficulties in hiring doctors, although they were paying them 100 reales a day. They isolated the sick, burned their clothes on the outskirts of the city, and euthanised dogs and cats. The city had poor paving, poor sewers, a lack of public lighting, etc., but they began by whitewashing houses, cleaning and disinfecting streets and houses, as well as disinfecting coins, gold and silver jewellery, using hot vinegar. Trade with and within the city stopped, and everyone who could, left the city. In one hospital 22,900 of 26,700 patients died, 5 of the 6 doctors died, 16 of the 19 surgeons died. The care team (e.g. nurses, etc.) did not require professional qualifications, and the mortality in this group was not recorded.
One writer noted that ignorance as to the most efficient and effective treatment meant that many people turned to divine intervention as the only possible solution. Another writer noted that with the plague, Seville no longer existed, and another city was born.
All was not negative. In the early 1700’s there was much building in Seville. Old buildings were cleared away from the city centre, leaving buildings such as the Cathedral to take on their true monumental appearance. Streets were straightened, and new buildings were expected to fit into an enlightened urbanism.
The first reference to the consumption of tobacco in Spain occurred in Seville, and the country’s first tobacco factory (Real Fábrica de Tabacos) was built in the city 1728. Seville was still important, and the treaty of 1729 between Spain, France and England was signed in the city.
The crisis in the 17th century was not limited to Seville, or to Spain. In Europe there were numerous dynastic, religious and state conflicts. European populations seem to have stagnated or declined after a major period of growth at the end of the previous century. The Ming dynasty in China collapsed in 1644. An unusually cold period affected agricultural production in many regions. With the increase in global shipping, there appeared to be an increased incidence of plagues. With increased trade with Asia and America, European consumption patterns and traditional markets changed. There was a decline of overland intra-European trade, which was replaced by sea transport, with a consequent shift of economic power to the North Atlantic ports.
Spanish military hegemony ended with the Battle of Rocroi in 1643, and in addition one of the last great Iberian armadas was defeated by the Dutch in the Battle of the Downs in 1639. In turn, the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659 ending Franco-Spanish conflict marked the rise of France under Louis XIV as a dominant European power. The result was that Spain lost an important part of its Northern European possessions. Data on Spanish exports to Europe show that traditional exports such as merino wool suffered either a stagnation or decline. There also seems to have been a relative slowing of population growth as well as regional migration with Madrid growing at the expense of smaller interior towns such as Toledo. Spain began to decline from a relatively strong economic position within Europe. In 1570 Spain was estimated to be second to Italy in output per capita, and even as late as the middle of the 17th century, which seems to have been Spain’s deepest part of the recession, its output still surpassed that of England. But while the Spanish economy recovered in 1700, its pace was much slower than the rest of Europe. Even militarily, while Spain lost some significant European territories in this century, all attempts to wrest control of the Spanish empire in America by the new naval powers of the Netherlands, France and England ended in failure, except for the special case of Jamaica. Thus, the Northern Europeans were all forced to settle unoccupied American lands.
The so-called "period of captivity" of Portugal from 1580 to 1640 was good for Spain if not for the Portuguese. Portuguese and Christians were expelled from Japan by the 1620s and the Dutch replaced them in many markets. In fact by the 1610's Northern Europeans had more volume of shipping in the Asian trade than did the once dominant Portuguese. Even after Portugal was able to recover Recife and part of its African holdings after 1640, Portugal itself experienced population stagnation, several serious harvest failures, a significant devaluation of its currency, and a slow economic decline until 1670's.
The decadence of the 18th century
In the collective imagination, the 18th century has been marked for Seville, some would say stigmatised, by the pessimism derived from the loss to Cádiz of its status as the capital of Spanish trade with the American colonies. This fact, consummated after the transfer of the Casa de la Contratación, was seen as the consummation of the decline of Seville, in particular after the demographic catastrophe caused by the plague epidemic of 1649. Foreign travellers who passed through the city in the 18th century helped to set the image of a decadent Seville, marked by the weight of its splendid past. Some wrote that the city was sunk in decadence, loneliness and poverty due to the decrease in maritime traffic, others wrote of the idle officials and the air of abandonment and resigned nostalgia.
The truth is that the decline of Seville in relation to the moments of its greatest splendour is not exclusively linked to the loss of the Casa de la Contratación in 1717. This fact, important as it may seem, represented only the culmination of a series of bankruptcies that had occurred since the beginning of the 17th century. The main factor in the Sevillian economy, the American colonial trade, still maintained its vitality in the initial decades of 17th century. The volume of merchandise continued to rise until 1620, however both precious metals and merchandise started to contract. If nothing else it showed that the Sevillian monopoly was no longer as effective.
The process of decline of Seville, its commerce and its river port, although irreversible, nevertheless experienced ups and downs. Some still referred to Seville as a "very commercial, rich and populated city", other described the empty banks of the Guadalquivir, because everything was going to Cádiz. There was the flattering vision of Seville as one of the great cities of Europe, and the reality of the city in which "its inhabitants had been reduced to a quarter, and the taxes increased in such a way that the ruin was total".
It would be mistake to simply retain a gloomy and negative picture of Seville. It could even be said that Seville experienced a modest splendour, due to various circumstances. The first of these was that, despite everything, Seville continued to be the largest and most populated city in Andalucía. Second, Seville maintained its high political and administrative rank, which implied that it was the seat of important and influential institutions. Seville was also the seat of municipal council that exercised a kind of collective control over a broad set of local municipalities. It was also the capital of a kingdom to which it gave its name, which roughly encompassed all the provinces of Seville, Cádiz and Huelva, plus some municipalities of Málaga and Badajoz. It was also the seat of one of the first ecclesiastical provinces in Spain, with an archbishopric and a powerful cathedral chapter. And finally the city was also home to one of the most important courts of justice in the country, which had a broad territorial jurisdiction, the Real Audiencia de Sevilla (Royal Court of Seville). In addition, for several year Felipe V establish his residence in Seville, the famous "royal lustrum" putting the city high on the "must visit" list of every Spanish noble and high state official.
Overall, even with the nostalgia for its splendorous past, which conditioned it and, to a certain extent, crushed it, Seville reinvented itself in the 18th century and redefined its urban function after the loss of the American monopoly. In general terms, in the 18th century Seville preserved the urban layout inherited from previous centuries. From the Muslim era came the maze of tangled alleys characteristic of the oldest part of the city. The Renaissance had contributed some novelties, the main one were the buildings that opened to the outside, with superb façades and numerous fences and balconies, thus modifying the disposition towards the inside typical of the old Muslim lifestyle. The new suburbs that had appeared outside the walls, continued to develop, albeit with a slower rate of growth. However, because owners invested little in the conservation of their properties, a good number houses in the city were ruined and reduced to uninhabited lots. This partial ruin of the Seville was reinforced by the strong earthquake of November 1, 1755, known as the “Lisbon earthquake”. In addition the Guadalquivir overflowed in 1708, 1736, 1739, 1740, 1751, 1758, 1777 and 1784. On this last occasion, the force of the river broke the boat bridge and the water rose in some places up to about three meters above normal, completely flooding the Cartuja monastery and flooding an important part of the buildings and streets of the city. On this occasion two robust embankments were built on the banks of the river from the so-called Almacén del Rey to the Torre del Oro.
Opposite Seville, Triana was the most populous suburb. Located on the right bank of the Guadalquivir, it stood between the river bank and the belt of orchards that extended along its western façade, the one facing the Aljarafe. Since the 12th century, it was connected to Seville by a bridge of boats, formed at the end of the 18th century by ten flat boats (previously there had been eleven) on which ran a floor of strong timbers. The bridge was secured to the river bed and its banks with anchors, ropes, and thick iron chains to resist the ebb and flow of the tides. They tried to prevent the boats from being dragged downstream by floodwaters, which happened on several occasions. The bridge extended from the vicinity of the Triana gate, on the left bank of the river, to those of the San Jorge Castle, which for a long time was the seat of the Inquisition court.
Seville had preserved the old Almohad walled enclosure, which surrounded its old town. The length of the wall was estimated by more than 7 km (other reports note more than 6 km), which meant that the surface of the city was very extensive, much more if one takes into account its development outside the walls. Now the wall served to defend the city from the floods of the Guadalquivir and was flanked by numerous towers. Along the wall, a total of fifteen gates and shutters facilitated access to the city. Inside the city, the urban fabric was dense and left few open public spaces.
The Cathedral was another of the main references of Sevillian life. In the 18th century, the great Seville church underwent various reforms. Among them, the placement of a marble flooring to replace the old brick floor, contributed notably to the beautification of the cathedral interior. However, from the urban point of view, the most important thing was the demolition of the buildings of the Corral de los Olmos, opening a spacious square between the cathedral and the archiepiscopal palace that decisively contributed to the configuration of the environment as we know it today. Next to the cathedral, the building complex made up of the Real Alcázar, the Lonja de Mercaderes, the Real Casa de la Moneda and the Aduana became the most distinguished urban nucleus of the city, a true witness of its ancient splendour. The Alcázar had housed the Casa de la Contratación within its walls. The imposing group of palaces, gardens and buildings was governed by a warden, an important post linked to the House of Olivares and later to the House of Alba. The superb Lonja building, erected in the second half of the 16th century, suffered from neglect from 1717 until it became the headquarters of the Archivo de Indias.
The 19th century
Despite the loss of the Casa de Contratación to Cádiz (which also built its own shipyard and became the home of the Spanish Guardias Marinas), Seville still entered the 19th century as Spain’s second largest city after Madrid. This was not to last, yellow fever appeared throughout Europe in the early 19th century. It arrived in Cádiz, but because of the intense costal traffic between Seville and Cádiz, within one month yellow fever had hit the sailors’ district of Seville. It is said to have killed around 30% of the population of Seville.
At the beginning of the 19th century, during the Spanish War of Independence (Guerra de la Independencia or Peninsular War 1807-1814), the French invaded Seville. The city had been active in building resistance to the French and in trying to mobilise British help, and was home to the Junta Suprema Central from 1808 to 1810. In 1810 the Junta moved to Cádiz and Seville was occupied without firing a single shot (despite the anti-Napoleonic feeling of the population).
The Third of May 1808 (El tres de mayo de 1808 en Madrid) is a painting completed in 1814 by the Francisco Goya. The artist sought to commemorate Spanish resistance to Napoleon's armies during the occupation of 1808 in the Peninsular War.
The French were forced to leave Seville in 1812 after the Batalla del Puente de Triana, fought by an Anglo-Spanish contingent. The French did not retire without having plundered the city of numerous works by order of the French Marshal Jean-de-Dieu Soult.
Up to the Middle Ages Seville was a port, with both shores of the Guadalquivir being used to load and unload cargo. As Seville became the gateway to the Americas the river became a forest of masts, and the right bank, Triana, dealt with careening, caulking and supplying provisions and equipment, whilst all the other services were located in el Arenal, on the side of the city (e.g. customs, contracting, etc.). So Triana’s development was linked to shipping, fishing and shrimping. Los Remedios was where the riverside carpenters made riverboats. It was here that, in 1816, the Real Compañía Navegación del Guadalquivir built and launched the first steamship in Spain, the “Real Fernando”.
The first Spanish project for steam navigation was developed by a private Sevillian company on the Guadalquivir for travelling between Seville and Sanlúcar de Barrameda. The company, Real Compañía de Navegación del Guadalquivir, was formed in 1815 and brought to Seville the first steam engine, used for draining new areas in the river. The company stands out for being the first to inaugurate steam ship. It was built in wood in the Remedios de Triana shipyard, with an engine that came from England. Its first trip between Seville and Sanlúcar de Barrameda was on July 8, 1817. The company did much good work in improved navigation on the river through cleaning and dredging, and they created warehouses to safeguard merchandise, and of course they promoted steam navigation in general. However the company died around 1850, stripped of its privileges and concessions for not having achieved its initial commitments and taking on too much debt.
Initially el Arenal was home to a few simple jetties. And through to the 19th century things did not get any better. There were no sheds and warehouses and all the goods were taking to the city across an old pontoon bridge. Finally 1852 saw the building of Spain’s first wrought iron structure, the Puente de Isabel II between Seville and Triana.
From April 1823 until June 11, 1823, Seville was the de facto capital of Spain with the Hundred Thousand Sons of Saint Louis, a French contingent that would help Ferdinand VII to restore absolutism. With the arrival of the absolutist troops in Seville the liberal capital had to move to Cadiz, before being finally defeated on the 30 September 1923.
In 1833 the administrative province of Seville was created, and in 1835 with the ecclesiastical confiscations of Mendizábal many convents were expropriated and their works of art brought together to constitute a Museum of Paintings, that today is the Museum of Fine Arts of Seville.
We have mentioned the Real Fábrica de Tabacos built in 1728, but tobacco revenues became increasingly important in the 19th century. Tobacco had been a monopoly from 1636, but had initially been operated by licenses. Tobacco became so popular that the Papal Bull of 1642 forbid clerics in Seville from using tobacco in holy places under the penalty of excommunication. With the building of the factory in Seville, tobacco became a Spanish State monopoly. Already by 1717 the Spanish treasury was the sole buyer of Cuban tobacco, and in 1760 it established a new monopoly on the raw material thus controlling directly the Cuban planters. Along with shipbuilding, mining, iron & steel, textiles, tobacco was one of the new capital intensive industries (thus “capitalist”) run as monopolies of the state (or through privileged entrepreneurs). The new industries were not subject to any existing guild rules, and labour relations were not subject to guild-type regulations.
The tobacco factory in Seville was one of the first companies set up and run by the Spanish State. The original reason was to control the supply of manufactured tobacco, and in fact tobacco production was banned in the Iberian Peninsula to protect the monopoly of the Spanish State. The originally factory in Seville quickly became too small, and by 1730 it housed 500 snuff workers, 170 mules to move the mills, and 100 workers in the cigar workshop. It was Ferdinand VI who finally decided to build a larger factory, a building now used by the city university.
We must remember that factory processes were unified under one roof not for technical reasons, but as a way to control the workforce. Such factories were huge buildings with very high overheads due to overmanning. Techniques were traditional, productivity was low, and quality was always difficult to define and achieve. For state monopolies full employment was more important than quality or developing an economic model of production. Tobacco (and sugar) were imported from Cuba by the Real Compañía de La Habana, in exchange for textiles, canvas, flour and slaves.
Official tobacco consumption increased until 1730, then after new price increases, and the war with England, consumption fell. It attained again the 1730 figure of 3.9 million pounds only in 1779. The reality was that demand continued to increase, but people switched to cheeper contraband tobacco. Most tobacco consumption was in the form of snuff, although cigar smoking was popular in Seville (cigarettes only became popular in the 1920’s). Powder was milled in Cuba, but most was milled in the Seville factories. Smoking tobacco was in the form of leaves from Brazil. The Spanish State owned both the wholesale and retail tobacco outlets. We have to keep in mind that for a long time Seville was the only tobacco factory in Spain, and all tobacco products were held in warehouses in Madrid and Barcelona.
Initially tobacco planting was done by slaves. In the 1870’s and 1880’s sharecropping and tenant farming emerged, and the work was performed by waged workers. Initially men worked in the tobacco factories, but by the late 18th century women were rolling cigars by hand. These women workers were responsible for the factory uprisings in Seville and Madrid during the 1880’s and 1890’s.
Tobacco was not silver, but it was a very profitable business for the Spanish State. In fact in 1730 tobacco contributed nearly 19% of the total revenues of the Spanish Royal Treasury, and in 1775 this had risen to 28%.
In 1841, Carlos Pickman founded a ceramic factory (which would become the most famous in the city) in one of the monasteries that had been confiscation by the Spanish State, La Cartuja. It was a productive industry until the 1980’s, when it was transferred to the municipality of Santiponce, when the conditioning works began for the celebration of the Expo 92.
Towards the second half of the 19th century the city began the construction of the railway, taking advantage of the demolition of part of its old walls. The process of ensanche (“widening” of the roads, etc.), was completed in the first decades of the 20th century with the building of the Ibero-American Exhibition of 1929 (including Plaza de España and Parque de María Luisa).
"Triumphal Exit from the Maestranza Bullring in Seville" was painted by the genre painter Joaquín Turina y Areal (1847-1903), who had a reputation for traditional scenes and historical themes, usually executed in a colourful style, and with a certain romantic realism that was appreciated at the time. Young women wrapped in their shawls were a characteristic feature of Turina’s paintings, and the bullring was one of the most popular theme of the day.
The Ibero-American Exhibition opened its doors in 1929. Its ultimate role was to showcase the relations between Spain and Latin America after the final acknowledgment of the latter’s independence. But given that most of the buildings had already been erected in 1908, it was more like a memorial to the historical bonds between Spain and Latin America, bonds based upon the Spanish language, Catholic religion and family-centred customs. But by 1929 there was a significant opportunity for the re-establishment of relations with Latin America and Spain seen now as sisters, and not daughters to a glorious mother.
The United Kingdom was the first country ever to organise an international exhibition in London in 1851. They were the first to invite other countries to participate in an exhibition where each nation would showcase its grandeur, namely their colonial empires and industrial advances, facilitating a plausible scenario for peaceful international trade. It would be later, in 1878, that the organisation of the International Exhibition in Paris requested that the pavilions should portray each nation’s identity. A difficult task to fulfil in architectural terms, since an exhibition of industrial advances demanded an architecture of iron and glass which did not yet suit the public taste. Spain participated in most of these events with either reconstructions of representative buildings. For London 1851 they chose the Alhambra to portray a more exotic image Spain. In Paris 1900 they chose the Monterrey Palace from Salamanca to project a more intellectual picture of Spain. Spain also held two international exhibitions, both in Barcelona (1888 and 1929), a French-Spanish Exhibition (Saragossa, 1908, commemorating their reconciliation after the wars of Independence, only a century before), and the Ibero-American Exhibition of Seville, finally inaugurated in 1929.
The Ibero-American Exhibition was designed to reinforce the relationships between Spain and its former colonies, hoping that it would encourage more business and transactions between the old and the new world. Looking back, some experts feel that instead of reforming the relationship with Latin America on an equal footing, the exhibition appeared to promoted a sort of new-imperialism in which Spain would be the spiritual leader of its former colonies. It wanted to highlighting how Spain had to balance two faces of the same coin, the fight during the conquest, and the generosity of its educational and Christian mission, which gave life and personality to the young Republics in Hispanic America. This is the context in which the exhibition was planned, designed, built and finally inaugurated, a process that took twenty one years, from the first proposal in 1908, and 1929, when it was inaugurated by Alfonso XIII (1886-1941). In this long period, several changes in conception and construction were introduced. The original urban plan of the pavilions was modified, with most of the Latin American countries deciding to build permanent buildings instead of temporary ones. And the title itself changed in 1922, from Hispano-American to Ibero-American, after the inclusion of Portugal, Brazil and the United States.
However, as time went on, there was the world financial crisis and the architecture of the exhibition rapidly became outdated. In addition, the permanent pavilions built by both Spain and the Latin American countries, which were meant to hold consulates and other institutions to reinforce the links between both sides of the Atlantic, were forgotten and neglected. Fortunately the University of Seville, from the 1970's onwards, acquired some of the buildings and gave them a new lease of life.
The Parque de María Luisa (María Luisa Park) was formerly the gardens of the Palacio de San Telmo. They were redesigned into their present shapes in 1911, and the exposition was held partly within the park (see the Fuente Ranas above). New buildings around the Plaza de España, a huge half-circle, were used as the offices of the fair (see below).
We are going to stop this quick review of the history of Seville as we enter the 20th century.
Seville (a basic guide to the city)
Prehistoria del la Provincia de Sevilla
Huellas de la Prehistoria y la Protohistoria
SPAL is the "Revista de prehistoria y arqueología de la Universidad de Sevilla", and all the articles since 1992 are available free online
Imperial Spain (1469-1716)
Sevilla en el Siglo de la Ilustración (XVIII)
Estadísticas Históricas de España (XIX-XX)
Atlas de Historia Económica de Andalucía (XIX-XX)
Guía del Paisaje Histórico Urbano de Sevilla
Leyendas de Sevilla has webpages on Las murallas de Sevilla - I, Las murallas de Sevilla - II, and La leyenda sobre el origen del NO∞DO
John F. Guilmartin Jr., "The Tactics of the Battle of Lepanto Clarified" (1979)
José Manuel Rodríguez Hidalgo and Simon Keay, "Recent Work at Italica" (1986)
Rafael Sánchez Saus, "Los origenes sociales de la aristocracia sevillana del siglo XV" (1986)
Alfredo Moreno Cebrián, "La Vida Cotidiana el los Viajes Ultramarinos" (1989)
Agustin Guider Ravina, "La Casa de la Contratacion y el Comercio Ultramarino" (1989)
Francisco García-Serrano, "Los genoveses en la Sevilla medieval (Siglos XIII-XV)" (1991)
Francisco García-Serrano, "Los genoveses en la Sevilla medieval (Siglos XIII-XV) Parte II" (1992)
David Igual Luis, "Valencia y Sevilla en el Sistema Económico Genovés de Finales del Siglo XV" (1992)
Elizabeth Alexandra Jordan, "Historical Writing in Visigothic Spain from ca. 468 to the Arab Invasion of 711" (1996)
Andrés Moreno Mengíbar and Francisco Vázquez García, "Poderes y prostitución en España (siglos XIV-XVII) - El caso de Sevilla" (1997)
Elena Bosch, et.al., "High-Resolution Analysis of Human Y-Chromosome Variation Shows a Sharp Discontinuity and Limited Gene Flow between Northwestern Africa and the Iberian Peninsula" (2001)
Chuck Meide, "Spanish Ships and Shipbuilding in the Atlantic Colonies, Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries" (2002)
Antonio Florencio Puntas and Antonio Luis López Martínez, "El mercado de trabajo en la Andalucía latifundista del Antiguo Régimen.' e:intervencionismo o contratación?" (2003)
Martíin Almagro-Gorbea and Alberto J. Lorrio, "War and Society in the Celtiberian World" (2006)
Ángel Morillo and Joaquím Aurrecoechea (ed.), "The Roman Army in Hispania" (2006)
Alfonso Jiménez Martín, "Notas sobre la mezquita mayor de la Sevilla almohade" (2007)
Blanca Margarita Rodríguez Mendoza, "Standarisation of Spanish Shipbuilding" (1607-1618) (2008)
Filipe Castro, "In Search of Unique Iberian Ship Design Concepts" (2008)
Manuel Eleazar Costa Caramé, et. al., "The Copper Age Settlement of Valencina de la Concepción (Seville, Spain): Demography, Metallurgy and Spatial Organization" (2010)
Fernando Quesada Sanz, "Military Developments in the Late Iberian Culture (237-195 BC)" (2011)
José Luis Escacena Carrasco and Fernando Amores Carredano, "Dressed and Godliness - The Treasure of El Carambolo as Trousseau of Consecration" (2011)
J. L. Escacena Carrasco and F. J. García Fernández, "La Sevilla Protohistórica" (2012)
José Robles Carrión, et.al., "Epidemia de peste en 1649" (2012)
Nicola Clarke, "Religious difference in Arabic accounts of three early medieval Berber revolts" (2013)
Francisco Gil Martínez, "El Estado de los Oficios Patrimonializados en Sevilla a Mediado del Siglo XVIII" (2013)
Victor Emanuel Aguirre, "Viking Expeditions to Spain during the 9th Century" (2013)
Pablo E. Pérez-Mallaína, "Los Responsables de las Atarazanas de Sevilla Durante la Baja Edad Media" (2014)
M.A. Rodríguez-Pascua, et.al., "Los efectos orientados del terremoto de Lisboa (1755) en el patrimonio de Sevilla" (2016)
Mercedes Murillo-Barroso, "El Ambar del Tholos de Montelirio" (2016)
Primitiva Bueno Ramírez, et.al., "El Arte y la Platica en el Tholos de Montelirio" (2017)
William Schmidt, "What Makes a Narrative? Understanding the Portrayals of Hermenegildo's Rebellion" (2018)
Francisco Javier Sánchez Huertas, "Las Reales Atarazanas de Sevilla" (2018)
Carlos P. Odriozola, et.al., "Amber imitation? Two unusual cases of Pinus resin-coated beads in Iberian Late Prehistory (3rd and 2nd millennia BC)" (2019)
Antonio Gámiz Gordo and Tomás Díaz Zamudio, "Sevilla extramuros en el siglo XVI: tres vistas del Civitates Orbis Terrarum" (2019)
Julio Morales Folguera, "Configuracion de la Imagen de Maria Magdalena en La Antigüedad y Edad Media" (2020)
Maria del Mar Castro Garcia, "Archaeological Survey Techniques as Applied to the Study of Roman Settlement on the Riverbanks of the Lacus Ligustinus" (2020)