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The Twelve Apostles: Design, Construction, and Function of Late 16th-Century Spanish Galleons
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The development of the Spanish galleon as a specialized warship took place in Spain during the 16th century. A series of prototypes built in Spain in that century incorporated concepts and technological solutions from both the Mediterranean and the Atlantic maritime traditions, and became the basis for this new type of vessel. The Spanish galleon was designed in response to changes in Atlantic trade routes at the beginning of the 16th century when, as a result of Spanish transoceanic expansion, new and more specialized vessels were needed for both the coastal defense of Spain and its overseas territories, as well as to escort the oceanic fleets. In November 1588, King Philip II of Spain ordered the construction of 12 new galleons of 500, 600, and 800 toneladas, four ships of each tonnage, specifically designed as warships. These galleons were to replace the losses that occurred after the failure of the Spanish Armada against England, since the chronic Spanish shortage of warships was aggravated by the loss of some of the best naval units. This decision marked the beginning of the largest shipbuilding program attempted in Spain until that moment. These galleons would became known as the Twelve Apostles. The present study focuses on the analysis of the design and construction of the Twelve Apostles based on original documents currently held at the Archive of Simancas in Spain, shipbuilding treatises and manuscripts, and archaeological evidence. The documents provide a realistic portrayal of the organizational requirements and challenges of a construction project of such magnitude in the context of a pre-industrial society. Moreover, the comparative analysis of 16th - and 17th -century Spanish designs and survey reports, shipbuilding treatises, manuscripts, ordinances, and shipbuilding contracts reveals the evolution of the ship design in Spain. Finally, the study confirms that the design of the midship sections of the vessels of this period, including those of the Twelve Apostles, was based on the use of a single arc. Therefore, a series of alternative interpretations for the reconstruction of the midship section of Iberian-built vessels is provided based on this method.
Casaban Banaclocha, Jose L (2017). The Twelve Apostles: Design, Construction, and Function of Late 16th-Century Spanish Galleons. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from