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Archivo de Indias

Archivo de Indias (21)

The building where the Archivo de Indias [Indies Archives] is located was built between 1584 and 1598, based on an idea by Juan de Herrera, who was also one of the architects of El Escorial. The result was this monumental palace that was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.

With a two-level square floor plan and a wide central courtyard, the builders were Juan de Minjares and Alonso de Vandelviva.

Originally, the building was designed to be a market, but in 1660, the first Sevillian Fine Arts Academy was founded here. In 1785, by order of King Charles III, the Archivo General de Indias was installed in the building. The monarch’s goal was to centralise all documentation related to the New World under a single roof, which up to that point had been located in numerous different archives, including those in Simancas and Cádiz. The people running the project were José de Gálvez y Gallardo, secretary of the Indies, and Don Juan Bautista Muñoz, historian and senior cosmographer.

A great deal of remodelling projects had to take place. Among them, the most noteworthy were the redecoration of the main staircase using marble slabs, done by Lucas Cintara in 1787, and the construction of a series of shelving units built with high-quality wood from Cuba, according to sculptor Blas Molner’s plan.

Keep in mind that the Archivo de Indias is currently considered the most important in the world after the Vatican’s Archives. The documents housed occupy more than 5 miles of bookshelves, nearly 43 000 records and over 80 million pages. 

You can find information here on anything related to the political, social or religious history of the territories that were once the Spanish colonies. Among other things, you’ll find drawings and maps from the time, including letters written by Christopher Columbus, Hernán Cortés, Cervantes and even the first president of the United States, George Washington. 

Work is presently underway to convert all of the existing material into digital formats, especially because it will undoubtedly facilitate the work of the thousands of researchers who visit each year.

Once inside, you’ll find more than three centuries worth of history waiting for you.

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