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Max Abroad : The Best of Spain

Quite simply writing about the best things Spain has to offer and anything that might crop up along the way. Spain is a lot more than just sun, sand and sea...

Seville's Medieval Shipyard
18 March 2021 @ 20:22

In 1248, Ferdinand III  took Seville from the Moors, who had held the city since 712. It marked the fall, alongside Córdoba, of the two great Moorish strongholds in the Iberian Peninsula. Knowing that he still had to secure his position, Ferdinand III decided to launch a military campaign into northern Africa. In order to do so, he required a fleet of ships.

Ferdinand passed away in 1252 before realising his plan, but his son, Alfonso X “El Sabio,” proceeded with his father’s strategy. To build the fleet he needed large shipyards, so he initiated work on the Reales Atarazanas de Sevilla, or the Royal Shipyards of Seville.

Built outside the city walls and close to the Guadalquivir River, the shipyard covered about 15,000 square meters and consisted of 17 vaulted naves constructed entirely of brick, in a style now known as Mudejar-Gothic, with vaulted ceilings and wide arches connecting the naves. Construction was similar to those found in a church or cathedral. 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.

 

 

Before the end of 1253 ten galleys had been built in the shipyard, and it continued to produce fleets for subsequent Castilian kings. Galleys built in the Royal Shipyards of Seville were used throughout much of the remainder of the Reconquista, as well as during the Hundred Years’ War against England. During this time the naves were also used to hold prisoners and booty taken during the various conflicts.


By the mid-15th century and the final stages of the Reconquista, orders for new ships began to decline and the naves began to be repurposed for other tasks. 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 more to house the city’s customs warehouse.

 

 

Time and technology had overtaken the Royal Shipyards of Seville. The naves were too small for building larger, more modern ships, and soon shipbuilding ceased altogether. 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 the Delegación de Hacienda (Tax Office) building. Fortunately, no further destruction took place before the shipyard gained National Monument status in 1969, protecting it from further damage.

The shipyard, however, has been an ongoing problem for the local government. 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 more frustration.

But in December 2018, it was confirmed that restoration would begin in 2019, with the aim of opening the Royal Shipyards of Seville to the public in 2022. Many Game of Thrones filming locations have become major tourist draws thanks to the popularity of the HBO series. So when the Royal Shipyards of Seville were used in season 7 of the show, interest in the location was naturally increased and the motivation to restore them revived.

So when the Royal Shipyards of Seville do finally open, expect the visitors to be a delighted mix of medieval shipbuilding aficionados and a crowd of Game of Thrones fans.



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