The Naval Museum of Madrid is a national museum in Madrid, Spain. It shows the history of the Spanish Navy since the Catholic Monarchs, in the 15th century, up to the present. The displays set naval history in a wide context with information about Spanish rulers and the country’s former colonies. The collections include navigation instruments, weapons, maps and paintings.
The Naval Museum is a state-owned cultural entity, located on the first floor of the Navy Headquarters on Paseo del Prado (Madrid), and managed by the Ministry of Defense through the Directorate General of Institutional Relations of Defense: General Sub-Directorate of Historic-Artistic Heritage; and organic dependence of the Admiral Chief of the General Staff of the Navy, governed by a Royal Board of Trustees to which the provisions of Royal Decree 620/1987, of April 10, which approves the Regulation of State-Owned Museums, is applicable.
The mission of the Museum consists of acquiring, conserving, investigating, communicating and exhibiting, for purposes of study, education and contemplation, pieces, sets and collections of historical, artistic, scientific and technical value related to naval activity, in order to spread the history maritime of Spain,contribute to illustrate, relieve and safeguard their traditions and promote national maritime awareness.
In accordance with the provisions of Royal Decree 1305/2009, of July 31, which creates the Network of Museums of Spain, the Naval Museum is one of the National Museums owned and managed by the State, attached to the Ministry of Defense.
The origin of the Naval Museum dates back to the 28 of September of 1792, thanks to an initiative of Don Antonio Valdés and Fernandez Bazan, Secretary of the Navy of King Carlos IV.
To that end, ship captain Josef de Mendoza y Ríos was commissioned to France and Britain to buy books, maps and other materials for the library, and ship lieutenants Martín Fernández de Navarrete, José de Vargas Ponce and Juan Sanz and Barutell, sent to different Spanish archives to copy all the manuscripts referring to Marine affairs, while the collection of materials to form the collections of the projected Museum began.
The replacement of Valdés at the head of the Ministry, that of José de Mazarredo in the General Directorate of the Navy and the political and military events that Spain went through in the first third of the 19th century, made it impossible to carry out the project. The material for the library became part of the Hydrographic Deposit and the scientific instruments, which were already in Cádiz, passed to the Royal Institute and Observatory of the Navy.
Many years later, in 1842, the infantry lieutenant Ramón Trujillo Celari, assigned as an auxiliary officer in the Admiralty Board, drafted a memorial to update the decree of Valdés.
This memorial was favorably informed by Fernández de Navarrete, at the time Director of the Hydrographic Deposit, abandoning, however, the encyclopedist idea of the previous century to include a Marine library, as this aspect already covered that of the Hydrographic Deposit.
The Naval Museum was provisionally inaugurated on November 19, 1843 by Queen Elizabeth II, in the House or Palace of the Councils, in the main street of Madrid, currently the headquarters of the Central Military Region.
Before the increase of the funds, at the beginning of 1845 the collections were transferred to a new place, the Casa del Platero, located in Bailén street, between the Royal Palace and the disappeared Church of Santa María de la Almudena. Because of the imminent risk of the building collapsing, in 1853 the Museum was transferred to the Palace of Ministers, Godoy’s old house until 1807, next to the current Senate Palace, in the Plaza de la Marina Española, reopening to the public on 27 November of the aforementioned year of 1853, with the assistance of Queen Elizabeth and the members of the Government.
In precarious conditions, the Museum was reopened again in October 1932 at its current headquarters of the former Ministry of Navy, now the Navy Headquarters, occupying the same place where it is today. Rear Admiral Julio Guillén Tato, director from 1933 to 1972, true creator and soul of the new center, gave him the form and organization embodied in the 1934 catalog-guide that, with slight variations, has remained until 1993.
Its origins date back to 1792, but it was not until 1843 when the Museum was inaugurated in Madrid. The then Spanish Naval Ministry was provided with a new headquarters in the 1920s, and the museum moved there in 1932. (Until 1977 there were three ministerial portfolios, one for each of the different branches of the Armed Forces: the army, navy, and air force. During the Transición, Adolfo Suárez combined them into one). The architects were José Espelius and Francisco Javier de Luque.
Visitors enter the museum through a modernist facade on the Paseo del Prado, and pass to the first floor where former courtyards (now exhibition halls of the Naval Museum) are covered by spectacular stained-glass roofs with naval and decorative motifs made by Maumejean (a family glass-making business which had a branch in Spain). At weekends a doorway onto the grand staircase of Navy Headquarters is opened to allow visitors to appreciate the architecture.
The museum has twenty-four permanent exhibition halls and one for temporary exhibitions. The tour begins in the main hall, dedicated to the Royal House and its link to the museum since its inauguration in 1843 by Queen Elizabeth II, and continues, chronologically, through room 2 with the Catholic Monarchs, where the figure is highlighted Christopher Columbus and the discovery of America, by room 3 with the House of Austria (1517-1700) and the expansion of the empire, by 4 with the War of Succession and by rooms 5 and 6 with the House of Bourbon until 1805
The hall of honor or room 7 is intended for the reception of personalities under the portraits of Fernando VI, Carlos III and Carlos IV. The pieces from San Diego nao, sunk in 1600 in Manila Bay, occupy room 8.
Other thematic rooms are the 9, dedicated to the arsenals and shipbuilding of the eighteenth century, the 10 to the nautical sciences (XV-XVIII centuries), the 11 and the 12, which recreate the commander’s chamber and the chamber of officers of 19th and 13th century ships, which collects geographical discoveries (XV-XVIII centuries).
From the 14th to the 20th room, the events of the 19th century are followed, such as the Battle of Trafalgar, the War of Independence, the reigns of Isabel II and Amadeo I, the First Republic, Alfonso XII and the Regency of María Cristina, as well as highlighting the scientific navy, weapons and ethnography from the Spanish colonies. Finally, the Spain of the twentieth century and the current one are present from room 21, ending at 24 with the historical navigation of the Spanish Navy.
Throughout 24 rooms, the funds are presented in chronological order:
Room 1. Main
Room 2. Catholic Monarchs (1474-1517)
Room 3. Kings of the House of Austria (1517-1700)
Room 4. Reign of Philip V (1st part) (1700-1724)
Room 5. Reigns of Felipe V (2nd part) and Fernando VI (1724-1759)
Room 6. Reigns of Carlos III and Carlos IV until Trafalgar (1759-1805)
Room 7. Hall of Honor
Room 8. Room of the San Diego
Room 9. Arsenals and Spanish shipbuilding in the 18th century
Room 10. Nautical Sciences (XVI to XVIII century)
Room 11. Commander’s cabin
Room 12. Royal Board of Trustees
Room 13. Geographical discoveries (XV to XVIII century)
Room 14. Trafalgar (1805-1808), War of Independence (1808-1814) and reign of Ferdinand VII (1814-1833)
Room 15. Scientific Navy (19th century)
Room 16. Weapons and Ethnography (19th century)
Room 17. Campaigns of Cuba, Santo Domingo and Africa (19th century)
Room 18. Philippines (19th century)
Room 19. Reign of Isabel II (1843-1868)
Room 20. Reign of Amadeo I, First Republic, reign of Alfonso XII and regency of María Cristina de Austria (1870-1902)
Room 21. Spanish shipbuilding in the 19th and 20th centuries (1833-1931)
Room 22. Reign of Alfonso XIII (1902-1931)
Room 23. Second Republic and Civil War (1931-1939)
Room 24. Francisco Franco Headquarters (1939-1975) and reign of Juan Carlos I (1975-)
The origin of the Museum’s collections is very diverse. A large part comes from the valuable contributions of the Royal House, the former Secretary of the Navy, the extinct Marine Guard Companies, the Naval Departments of the Peninsula and the apostaderos of the Philippines and Cuba, as well as the Hydrographic Deposit, the Royal Institute and San Fernando Observatory and the Hydrographic Institute of Cádiz. Many objects also come from countless private donations.
The rooms of the Museum are arranged chronologically, and contain collections of historical objects of very diverse nature, from maps, paintings and engravings, to navigation instruments, weapons, uniforms and flags ranging from the fifteenth century to the present. It also has a wide collection of scale reproductions of different types of boats.
Among the most interesting historical pieces of the museum, the map of Juan de la Cosa stands out, the representation of the oldest American continent that exists, of the year 1500.
Numerous portraits are also exhibited, mostly from the 19th and 20th centuries, among which are works by Vicente López Portaña, Joaquín Sorolla and Fernando Álvarez de Sotomayor.
Extremely interesting is the large set of rescued pieces of the San Diego galleon, which was shipwrecked in the waters of the Philippines in 1600. In the 1990s his remains were found in Manila Bay and a fraction of the recovered pieces were acquired for this museum.
Also saved here are several engravings on ships of the 16th century, made by Frans Huys according to drawings by Pieter Brueghel the Elder. Due to conservation reasons, they remain stored, although they have been temporarily presented to the public in April 2018.
Plastic and decorative arts
Within this section numerous prints and matrices made in various techniques are preserved: chalcography (etching, buril, aquatint, etc.) lithography and woodcut. All related in one way or another with Naval History from the 16th to the 19th century and executed by authors from different schools: Spanish, German and Flemish.
The funds that make up the weapons section of the Naval Museum in Madrid, give an overview of both land and naval artillery, as well as portable white and firearms, civil and military. Through these funds, they can be seen from bombardies, falconetes and emery, used as artillery in the fourteenth century, to torpedoes used in the twentieth century.
Decorations and numismatics
The Naval Museum, has an interesting collection of decorations belonging to the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries, consisting mostly of copies that represent awards for outstanding military actions, awarded to sailors and donated by their families. And a collection of Numismatics comprises a series of coins that correspond to the time of Republican and Imperial Rome as well as a set of pieces used throughout the 16th and 17th centuries.
Naval building. Navy
Projected to show the history of the Spanish Navy and therefore the evolution of navigation and shipbuilding. They are part of her models of arsenals, models of machines and engines, tools used in shipbuilding, marine equipment and especially the collection of models of ships that have served in the Navy since the sixteenth century to the present, since since 1853 establishes by Royal Order the obligation to submit to the Naval Museum a model of any ship that was built for the Navy.
Composed mostly of weapons and tools related to navigation, coming from the Pacific islands and the Philippines and to a lesser extent of Spanish sub-Saharan possessions, dated mostly in the second half of the 19th century.
Nautical and scientific instruments
Contains one of the most notable collections that exist in Spain on the History of Science in the field of astronomy and navigation. Through the analysis of its pieces you can study the technological evolution that from the 16th to the 20th century, the instruments used to know the situation and course of the ship have suffered, and that allowed both the discovery and colonization of the New World, and the maintenance of Spain among the pioneer countries in astronomical navigation.
Merchant, fishing and sports marine
The most important part of this collection is formed by the native models of our former colonies, which are mostly small cabotage or river fishing vessels and passenger transport. It also highlights the collection of fishing models used on the coast of the Iberian Peninsula, most of them already missing.
This collection forms objects related to a character or historical fact, which due to its uniqueness has not been integrated into the other sections of the Museum. One of the most relevant pieces of this collection is the portfolio that belonged to the lieutenant general of the Admiralty Cenón de Somodevilla and Bengoechea, Marqués de la Ensenada.
Uniforms and reeds
This section contains the uniforms and badges worn by characters that have had special significance throughout history. Also included are several collections of lead soldiers through which we can learn about the various modifications of military clothing. Within the section of teachings there is the collection of flags of ships of the Navy and thirds of Marine Corps, which covers from the 17th century until the present time.
The map of Juan de la Cosa, the earliest preserved map of the Americas, is on permanent display in this museum.
Since 2007 the museum has hosted a specimen of moon rock. One of two such samples given to Spain, it was collected on the 1972 Apollo 17 mission. The rock, which weighs one gram, was put on display in 2009, to mark the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing.