Last updated on November 12th, 2023
🗺️ The Archive of the Indies
The Archivo General de Indias (General Archive of the Indies) of Seville is one of the emblematic buildings of the city, a reminder of its glorious past as the gateway to trade with the Indies and today an absolute reference in the documentary study of the Spanish presence in America.
🔴 Guided tour
The outside of the Archive is a stop on the Sevilla Free tour 🛒
🧭 History of the Archivo de Indias
In the sixteenth century, the Merchants of America used the steps of the Cathedral of Seville or even the Patio de los Naranjos for their transactions. To avoid the excessive use by the merchants, who sometimes even used the inside of the temple to carry out their business, the Cathedral Chapter installed chains and surveillance around the Cathedral.
In 1584, King Philip II decided to construct a building to house the Market, which was to be built on the same avenue, next to the Cathedral. However, this use for a commodity exchange did not come to fruition due to the decline of trade in Seville.
It was used as a tenement house, a Consulate and the headquarters of an Academy of Arts founded by Murillo.
The Archive of the Indies in Seville was created in 1785 by King Charles III, with the aim of centralising in a single place the documentation relating to the administration of the Spanish colonies, which until then had been scattered across various archives: Simancas, Madrid, Cadiz and Seville.
José de Gálvez, Minister of the Indies, and the cosmographer Juan Bautista Muñoz led this initiative, which also had the aim of clarifying history and combating the dark legend about Spanish history fed by various European authors.
The Archive keeps a large number of pieces of incalculable historical value: autographed texts by Christopher Columbus, Ferdinand Magellan, Vasco Núñez de Balboa, Hernán Cortés and Francisco Pizarro.They are not on display, except in occasional temporary exhibitions.
The Archive of the Indies was founded in 1785 by King Charles III of Spain, who wanted to create a central repository for all of the documents related to the Spanish Empire
Since then and in different consignments, the collections of the main institutions related to the Indies have been incorporated until the archive has become the main documentary repository for the study of the Spanish administration in the New World and the Philippines.
It is the largest existing archive on Spanish activity in America and the Philippines, containing information on the history and geography of those territories.
It has some 43,000 files, with some 80 million pages and 8,000 maps and drawings, covering more than nine linear kilometres.
The Archive of the Indies is a valuable resource for historians, anthropologists, and other scholars who study the Spanish Empire and the Americas.
Original document from Magellan’s expedition
The Archive of the Indies is a unique and important resource for understanding the history of the Spanish Empire and the Americas. It is a must-see for any visitor to Seville.
The oldest surviving documents are Columbian. Especially the Capitulations of Santa Fe, which were signed by Columbus and the Catholic Monarchs. This document is classified as a World Heritage Item by Unesco. Spain has eleven documents with this classification, four of which are in the Archivo General de Indias (those of the Japanese embassy that visited Philip III and some 18th-century vocabularies of indigenous languages).
There are documents of great historical value: the Treaty of Tordesillas, autographed texts by Christopher Columbus, Ferdinand Magellan, Vasco Núñez de Balboa, Hernán Cortés or Francisco Pizarro.
They are not on display to the public except in temporary exhibitions and are kept in specialised repositories like large safes in physical and environmental conditions that do not alter the preservation of the documents.
International researchers visit the archive every year to analyse and consult these documents.
It is completed by a Library specialising in the History of America with more than 33500 works.
The Archive is currently one of the general archives (together with the archives of the Crown of Aragon and Simancas) that belong to the Spanish State. In 1987 it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO along with the Cathedral, the Giralda and the Alcazar of Seville.
The Archive is governed by the Board of Trustees of the General Archive of the Indies, in which the Ministry of Culture, the Junta de Andalucía, the City Council of Seville, the Higher Council for Scientific Research and the Universities of Seville participate. Various figures from the world of culture are also ex officio members.
🏛️ The building
It is a building of Renaissance Herreriano style seated on a square podium, with two storeys and a large central courtyard in a square shape, combining red bricks and stone elements. The style of Juan de Herrera (El Escorial) is more noticeable on the ground floor. This architect created “the strokes” of the building but later authors made modifications to the initial project to shape the magnificent building we see today.
On the side façade opposite the cathedral is the Cross of the Oaths, where traders signed trade agreements with a handshake.
On the rear façade, the Triumph Monument is formed by a temple where the Virgin of Patronage is located in gratitude for the little damage suffered by Seville during the earthquake of 1 November 1755 in Lisbon.
The entrance from the Avenida de la Constitución is preceded by the little Market garden with a square, the centre of which is adorned with a fountain decorated with dolphins and guarded by statues of lions.
You enter the interior from the lobby where we can see paintings including those of Hernán Cortés and Colón. At the entrance and once past the security control, we find a beautiful square courtyard and two banks of windows that allow light to enter the lower and upper galleries that surround it. In the lower gallery, we find beautiful metal shelves donated on the occasion of the celebration in Seville of the Ibero-American Exhibition of 1929.
The main staircase of the building, dating from 1786, is spectacular and is decorated with red, grey and black jaspers from Málaga. On the landing is the coat of arms of Spain with the columns of the Plus Ultra and above it the name Archivo General de Indias, and above it the lantern dome. After climbing the stairs we find a large lobby.
In the upper vestibule, we see a typical sixteenth-century chest and several paintings representing Queen Isabel II, Kings Alfonso XII, Fernando VII, Carlos IV, the explorers Christopher Columbus, Pedro Alvarado, Hernán Cortés with his bust, Magellan and Juan Sebastián Elcano. We also see Antonio de Ulloa, scientist; Antonio de Solís, writer; and Bartolomé de las Casas, Dominican bishop of Chiapas.
The lobby leads us through several rooms to the upper gallery that was once a researchers’ room. Used as an Exhibition Hall, it is decorated with shelves separated by pilasters and covered by vaults of great beauty, in these rooms we can find audiovisual information on the history of the building, see a cannon of the galleon of Nª Srª de Atocha, a model of the Archivo de Indias, numerous old maps and other memories of the discovery of America.
On its walls, there is a collection of 38 portraits of the Captains General of Cuba of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
It is completed with auxiliary rooms. At the entrance, there are showcases to display the Duke of Montpensier’s collection of American Indian art and ceramics from Japan.
Archive Indias Montpensier Collection
In the adjoining room, we find a showcase with mementoes of the nineteenth-century emperors of Mexico, Agustín de Iturbide and Maximiliano. On the walls, there are several paintings, the most important of which depicts the conquest of Mexico by Hernán Cortes.
i️ Visit the Archivo de Indias
Avda. de la Constitución s/n Telephone: 954 50 05 28
Opening hours: Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., or 2.30 pm in the summer.
Exhibitions: Monday to Saturday from 9.30 am to 5 pm and Sundays from 10 am to 2 pm.
If you want to make a special, thematic, private or group visit, contact email@example.com The Archivo de Indias is a regular stop on free tours of Seville. Also on the route of America of Seville. It is also an ideal area for a horse-drawn carriage ride in Seville. And if you want to experience river sailing, you can book a sightseeing cruise around Seville.