Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The royal galley of Juan de Austria

To mark the fourth centenary of the battle of Lepanto, a replica was built at the Museu Marítim de Barcelona of the royal galley of Juan de Austria. The vessel was the flagship of the fleet of the Holy League (comprising Spain, the Republic of Venice, the Papal States and Malta), which fought the Turkish navy at Lepanto on 7 October 1571. 

A very large vessel, the royal galley had a length of 60 metres and a breadth of 6.2 metres. Propelled by 59 oars operated by 236 oarsmen, the vessel was also rigged with 2 masts, specifically a mainmast and a foremast with respective heights of 22 metres and 15 metres, and lateen sails with a surface area of 691 square metres. 

One of the galley’s characteristic features was its decoration, the work of Seville’s most highly renowned artists of the age. Juan de Mallara, a humanist and a counsel of the Spanish court, was responsible for the design of the decoration, the selection of themes and the iconography used. He actually left a detailed written description thereof, on the basis of which it was possible to reproduce those elements on the replica. The features on the stern are a highlight of the overall decorative work. The sculptures and paintings which appeared on that part of the original vessel were produced by Juan Bautista Vázquez and Benvenuto Tortello, portraying mythological figures and scenes along with symbols of the Catholic doctrine, such as faith, hope and charity, represented by the awning’s lamps.

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