• A. Jorge Aguilera López

Bearded hipsters and scarred tough guys: the guards of the Barcelonian shipyard

The Royal Shipyards of Barcelona was a first-rate military infrastructure for the Spanish Monarchy, especially in its war against the Ottoman Empire and Barbary pirates. The main function of the shipyards was to build the king's galleys, warships of ancient origin, but in constant evolution due to the arms race and the permanent state of war experienced by the Mediterranean in the sixteenth century. The shipyard also served as arsenal, warehouse and defense of the city. It was located between Montjuic mountain and La Rambla and just in front of the beach. Nowadays the building has become the Maritime Museum of Barcelona, so its link between the sea and the city still remains active.

The Royal Shipyard of Barcelona (1563) [Detail of the view of Barcelona made by Anton van den Wyngaerde].

An infrastructure of such magnitude had to be guarded and protected, both from external and internal (thefts) aggression and sabotage (fires) as well. That is why, throughout the sixteenth century, the initially incipient guard that protected the building, will increase considerably (in the same way as the conflict against the Ottomans scaled). As part of my research, I also study the soldiers who were guarding the shipyard and thanks to the accounting books, historians can obtain additional useful and curious information. Originally I posted this on twitter, but seeing that people liked it, I decided to adapt it a bit and also post it here.

Thanks to the huge book on the payments made to the soldiers of the shipyard between the years 1584-1591, we can get an idea of what they looked like, because to identify each individual and to avoid fraud (double payments, identity theft), the accountants added not only a few personal details but also a brief physical description with the most characteristic features or imperfections. Here are a few excerpts from the book:

Lorenzo Roger, from Barcelona, son of Lorenzo Roger. Mulatto color, his head begins to turn gray. He has served as a soldier since 17 April 1575 with 30 reales per month and has served as a soldier until 29 March 1583, because from that day he serves as the gatekeeper of the shipyard.
Esteban Garriga, son of Guillem Garriga, 21-year-old native of Barcelona, of medium height, good face and with a large knife-slash from the head to the right side of the right eyebrow. He settled as a soldier of the shipyard on 24 April 1583 with 30 reals per month.
Francisco del Val, son of Martín del Val, a 35-year-old neighbor of Santacruz in Aragon. Black bearded, small body, toothless from the top. He has served as a soldier since 15 December 1576.
Francisco Travieso, the son of Pascual Travieso, from and neighbor of the town of Candelera in Catalonia, aged 35, in good shape, with a knife-slash to the middle of the forehead that almost reached his nose. He settled as a soldier of the shipyard on 7 July 1583.
Baltasar Lozano, son of Clemente Lozano, native from Aranda del Duero. Small complexion, large eyes and black eyebrows, beginning to grow a beard, with a knife-slash on the thumb of the right hand and another on the head, aged 24 or so.
Joan Bosque from Llissá, near Barcelona, son of Pere Bosque. Red-bearded, gray-haired, 38 years-old, with a good body and large mustaches. He has been a soldier since 17April 1575, with 30 reales per month.
Bernat Soler, son of Antonio Soler, a native of Barillas [?], Kingdom of France, aged 21, of medium complexion, dark-haired, poorly bearded. He settled as piper of the shipyard on 1 May 1584. He earns 20 reales a month.
Sebastián de Morales, son of the same [name], a native of Zaragoza, of medium complexion, beginning to grow a beard, aged 25, with a shot of arquebus in the left hand that has amputated the thumb. He settled as a soldier of the shipyard on 1 January 1585.

And so many more. The provenance is varied, Barcelona and Catalonia in general and then the nearest territories (Valencia, Mallorca, Aragon) predominate. But there is people from Asturias, Andalusia, Navarre and even from Genoa or France. As you can see, I did not lie with the title, because almost all of them were bearded and tough guys full of scars.

Tags: #Barcelona #Catalonia #Spain #RoyalShipyard #soldiers #galleys #shipbuilding #16th

  • Aguilera López, A. J. (2020) "Bearded hipsters and scarred tough guys: the guards of the Barcelonian shipyard" in Rowing through History [online].

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