Notaries in Jaén

A look at the history of Jaén through a selection of notarial deeds

By Andalusian Archives

Archivo Histórico Provincial de Jaén

Edge of a protocol (1583) by author anonymous.Andalusian Archives

Notarial documents provide an endless supply of knowledge about our history and are the foundational core of the Provincial Historical Archives in Spain.

Notarial documents were created from the need to give legal value to property and rights, developing into public deeds, contracts, and private law conventions.

The Provincial Historical Archive of Jaén has conserved documents dating from the 15th century to the beginning of the 20th century, and there is a selection of these documents throughout this exhibition.

Folder of copying deed 1920 (1920) by author anonymous.Andalusian Archives

Public notaries

The immediate predecessor to the modern-day notary was the numerary notary (escribano del número). Until the middle of the 19th century, these notaries were qualified to prepare public administration, legal, registry, and notarial documents, and their powers were limited to the notary office to which they were assigned. There would be royally appointed notaries who could serve throughout the realm, notaries that held office in a certain town or municipality, high court notaries, notaries for criminal cases, and so on. The numerary notaries received this name because their number was set by the kings, limiting it to prevent their uncontrolled growth. King Alfonso XI assigned 12 notaries to Jaén, although this number increased over the centuries.

Agreement (1584-03-03) by Bartolomé Díaz de Biedma.Andalusian Archives

Conflicts between notaries

There were frequent conflicts between the different types of notaries that held office in Jaén, due to some of them infringing on other notaries’ areas of authority.

In the Accord of 1584, the numerary notaries and notaries from the Town Council of Jaén signed a public deed to resolve a conflict that had escalated to the Royal Chancellery of Granada.

Bottom Edge of a protocol (1592) by author anonymous.Andalusian Archives

Notarial "protocolos"

The book containing the deeds produced by a notary in a single year was called a "protocolo."

After the 1503, "Pragmática" (a royal decree concerning notaries), notaries had to bind their deeds, sewing together the different records.

The "protocolo" often used to begin and end with an official notice, which would generally indicate the year and the name of the notary.

The "protocolo" shown here dates back to 1592.

Top Edge of a protocol (1654) by author anonymous.Andalusian Archives

Book binding

The booklets were sewn together and protected by a cover made of hide or parchment. From the 19th century onwards, covers made of cardboard and leather were also used.

The covers were closed in different ways; for example, they could be tied with one or more laces, or closed using a flap with a buttonhole and cord, or a wide flap fastened with ribbons.

The "protocolos" that had been bound and tied were stored horizontally with the edges visible, on which the years that the volumes corresponded to would be written.

Label (1583) by author anonymous.Andalusian Archives

Locating the right documents

The spines of these bound books would mainly display at least the year, and, less frequently, the name of the notary.

The index is also an important tool for locating deeds and is generally found at the back of each bound volume.

Poem (1558) by author anonymous.Andalusian Archives


The cover of the "protocolo" would show the year, and occasionally the notary assistants gave free rein to their creativity, adding drawings, comments on different aspects, or, in this case, writing a poem.

Amara yo a una señora (I will love a lady)
y amela por más valer (and love her by being worth more)
quiso mi desventura (she wanted my misfortune)
que la hubiese de perder. (that I would have to lose)
Irme quiero a las montañas (I want to go to the mountains)
do nunca más parecer (and no longer just appear to)
y en la más alta de aquellas (and in the highest of these mountains)
mi vida quiero facer. (My life I want to make)

Francisco Díaz, Mi Señora (My Lady)

Detail of title page (1899) by author anonymous.Andalusian Archives

Originals and copies

During the Middle Ages the documents remained in the possession of the testator, and the notary only kept a draft or "minuta," from which the resulting deed was produced. It was King Alfonso X who ordered that notaries keep these drafts and compile them in a book, or "registro."

The change occurred in 1503 with the "Pragmática" of the Catholic Monarchs, which decreed that the original deed should remain under the custody of the authorizing notary, with a copy delivered to the testator.

Folder of copying deed 1918 (1918) by author anonymous.Andalusian Archives


When the parties requested that a copy of the deed be issued, this was reflected in the notes made by the issuing notary in the margin of the original deed.

Folder of copying deed 1920 (1920) by author anonymous.Andalusian Archives


From the second half of the 19th century, the notaries, whose Spanish name changed from "escribanos" to "notarios" after the 1862 Notaries' Law, would increasingly use very eye-catching portfolios commissioned from the printing press to protect the notarial copies that were delivered to the parties.

They would reproduce typographies and artistic styles that were popular at the time on these portfolios.

Testimony of health (1683) by author anonymous.Andalusian Archives

Day-to-day life

Blacksmiths, carpenters, painters, friars, city councilmen, merchants, booksellers… all manner of people would go before a notary to have documents prepared on a wide range of subjects. The notarial "protocolos" provide information about people's daily lives and the behavior and attitudes of those periods. These public deeds and private acts relate to every aspect of business and family life, such as purchases, leasing, inventories of goods, wills, contracts, and dowries. There are also entries in the "protocolos" that were regarded as secondary information when they were written, but over time have become more significant due to their uniqueness.

Testimony of health

Standard testimony of health issued by the numerary notaries of Jaén.

Minutes (1810) by author anonymous.Andalusian Archives

Testimony of historical events

Official report recording the damage caused by the French when they invaded Cazorla in 1810, found in the "protocolo" of public notary Francisco Monteagudo.

A fragment from a register of public deeds from the year 1568. The rest of the register is missing due to the destruction caused by French troops in the city.

Sale by Andrés Calderón to Ferrán Paez de Castillejo of some houses in the parish of Santa María in Córdoba which had been confiscated from Juan Rodríguez de Santa Cruz (1487-03-14)Andalusian Archives

Sale of a house

Alfonso González de la Zarza, a resident of Úbeda, sells some houses and a plot of land in Torre de Garcí Fernández, also in Úbeda, to Juan González de Bedmar.

Convent of La Guardia (1542-12-11) by Diego Palomino, notary of the number.Andalusian Archives


The notarial "protocolos" reveal some invaluable information about the history of art and the knowledge of artistic creation.

The contract, entrusted to the notary by the person or institution that commissioned the work and the artist (who might be a sculptor, gilder, painter, or master builder, for example) allows a piece of work to be pinpointed in its time and location, even if the work itself has not survived.

These contracts can tell us the owner of these works, their patrons, the conditions for carrying out the work, the time frames, price, materials, symbolism, and much more.

This is shown in a contract between Fray Bartolomé de Santo Domingo and Andrés de Vandelvira for the construction of the main chapel of the Monastery of la Guardia.

Conditions of the Capuchinos Convent (1659-12-17) by Martín Zurillo.Andalusian Archives

Conditions for the Convento de Capuchinos (Capuchin Convent)

Conditions that had to be followed for the work on the Convento de Capuchinos.

"Firstly, [the builders] have to install the crests and plaster the entire exterior of the church. They have to set up and take down the scaffolding for the vaults of the church and (paint) it in distemper. Everything emerging from the foundation for the new walls shall not be higher than five varas (around three feet) and half of it no more than four. Everything visible has to support a horizontally coursed wall, buttresses, and concrete."

Spire of San Ildefonso Church (1624-08-30) by Sebastián de Solís.Andalusian Archives

Graphic designs

The graphic documents inserted in the notarial "protocolos" generally depict a plan for construction or work to be done, and so there may be changes between the plan and how it was later carried out.

Here is an image, both in perspective and as a floor plan, of the octagonal spire on the Church of San Ildefonso in Jaén at the beginning of the 17th century.

Partition of a house in Obispo Arquellada street 1 (1728-07-21) by José Gallego y Oviedo del Portal – José Martínez y Perea.Andalusian Archives

Dividing up a house

Image of a floor plan and cross-section of the buildings located in Calle Manzaneda, now called Calle Obispo Arquellada, at the corner of Calle Maestra Alta, to be divided between Doña María Teresa and Francisca de Requena.

The function of each room is labeled, with the rooms in each of the properties marked with Arabic and Roman numerals.

Elevation plan projected for the facade of the Municipal Council building in Jaén01 (1758-08-26) by Alonso de Lamas y Palma. Facing Diego Palomino.Andalusian Archives

Jaén town council

Cross-section design of the facade of the town council buildings (Casas Consistoriales), made in 1758 by the master builder Alonso de Lamas y Palma.

The cross-section plan was redeveloped and replaced by another, more complex drawing that included a continuous balcony.

Miguel de Cervantes (1592-03-14) by Pedro Núñez de Ayala.Andalusian Archives

They were in Jaén

By reading the documents contained in the "protocolos," instances of famous figures passing through Jaén who, although they did not live there, played a prominent role in the province, can be traced.

San Juan de la Cruz (1586-10-15) by Diego de Aranda.Andalusian Archives

Saint John of the Cross

Saint John of the Cross (San Juan de la Cruz) was a priest and a mystic poet during the Spanish Renaissance. He was a reformer of the Order of the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel, and co-founded the Order of the Discalced Carmelites with Saint Teresa of Jesus.

In 1562, Saint Teresa of Jesus reformed the religious order and founded the first Discalced Carmelite Convent (Convento de San José) in the city of Ávila. Later, she and Saint John of the Cross founded the branch of the Discalced Carmelites. The new rule aimed to return to a life centered on God while living in complete simplicity and poverty, like the first hermits of Mount Carmel, who followed the example of the prophet Elijah.

The document shown here dates from 1588. As Prior of the Convent of the Order of the Discalced Carmelites in Granada, Saint John of the Cross granted power to the Prior of the Jaén Order so that he could act in John’s name.

Miguel de Cervantes (1592-03-14) by Pedro Núñez de Ayala.Andalusian Archives

Miguel de Cervantes

From 1587 Miguel de Cervantes worked as a royal commissary of supplies, traveling around Andalusia and purchasing wheat and sugar as supplies for the royal galleys.

This document from 1592 corresponds to this period, in which he commissions Diego López, from Cabra, to pick up wheat and barley stored in various locations throughout the Kingdom of Jaén and deliver them to Málaga on his behalf.

Vandelvira (1553-03-10) by Melchor de SernaAndalusian Archives

Andrés de Vandelvira

Andrés de Vandelvira, a Renaissance architect and the master builder of Jaén Cathedral, signed a contract with the town council in order to build the main cathedral building.

In 1540, his son Pedro de Vandelvira continued the work started by his father and completed the structures that his father had designed, especially the southern facade, the chapter house, the crypt, the sacristy, and the chapels along the epistle side.

Aranda´s Cathedral (1634-03-10) by Salvador de Medina.Andalusian Archives

Juan de Aranda

Juan de Aranda Salazar was a 17th-century Spanish architect who built many structures in the province of Jaén.

In 1634, he was appointed by the bishop of the city, Baltasar Moscoso y Sandoval, who entrusted him to continue the work on the cathedral that Andrés de Vandelvira had begun.

This image shows the contract signed in 1634, between the Cathedral Chapter of Jaén and the architect Juan Aranda Salazar, to continue with the work on the cathedral.

Credits: Story

Notaries in Jaén

Organized by:
Ministry of Culture of the Regional Government of Andalusia

Curator: Juan del Arco Moya. Historical Archive of the Province of Jaén
Texts: Juan del Arco Moya and Luis Quesada Roldán. Historical Archive of the Province of Jaén
Photography: Historical Archive of the Province of Jaén
Digital Exhibition: Charo Andreu Abrio.
Directorate General of Cultural Innovation and Museums.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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