A Step-by-Step Introduction to the Archives of Andalusia

Ana Melero Casado, Head of Archives at the Regional Government, introduces the project

By Google Arts & Culture

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

Tourists rarely visit the archives, and in most cases, even the residents of the cities where they are located are unaware of their existence. However, some of them are located in historical buildings with their own important heritage, and they all house priceless documents which, as primary historical sources, make it possible to document a wide variety of events.

The archives of Andalusia hold thousands of these documents; testimonies of rights which make it possible to document the present, but also learn about past events, history, culture, society, art, laws, etc. Ana Melero Casado, Head of Archives at the Department for Heritage of the Regional Government of Andalusia, takes us through the need-to-knows. 

Documentation Deposit - Provincial Historical Archive of CórdobaAndalusian Archives

How many archives are there in Andalusia?

According to the Census of Archives of Andalusia, there are more than 2000 public and private archives in Andalusia. However, that figure does not include other archives belonging to religious organizations, businesses, industries, and other institutions located in Andalusia.

This project only includes the eight Regional Historical Archives of Andalusia—located in each of the Andalusian capitals—, the Archive of the Royal Chancery of Granada, and the General Archive of Andalusia.

Writ recognizing Fernando Padilla Dávila as an hidalgo (1550) by Condes de Gómara y familia Arias de SaavedraAndalusian Archives

How many documents are in the archives of Andalusia?

Calculating the total number of documents housed in the archives of Andalusia is no easy task, as there are so many, and such a variety.

According to statistics released in 2018, the total number of documents housed in the Regional Historical Archives of Andalusia, the Royal Chancery of Granada, and the General Archive of Andalusia surpasses 377,000 linear feet of documents. This is almost the same distance as Seville to Cadiz!

Provincial Historical Archive of JaénAndalusian Archives

What documents are kept in the Regional Historical Archive?

The regional historical archives preserve and maintain documents produced by the State administration in each province, as well as those created by notaries and public registers. Since the introduction of autonomy, they also hold documents produced by the Regional Government of Andalusia.

Of all the documents, the most remarkable are those produced by the notaries, given their volume and age. They are known as Notarial Records and they are part of a group of public deeds that are more than 100 years old.

Facade of the Royal Courts and Chancery of Granada by Javier Algarra. Real Audiencia y Chancillería de Granada.Andalusian Archives

What was the Royal Audience and Chancery of Granada?

The Royal Audience and Chancery of Granada was the High Court of Justice established by the Catholic Monarchs. Its jurisdiction included all the territories of the Crown of Castile situated south of the River Tajo. It was located in the city of Granada in 1505, where it remained until 1834. 

The Chancery Palace had a secure chamber housing the "seal house," where the great seal of the Royal Chancery of Granada was kept. This seal was considered to represent the king himself, and thereby royal authority. When a new monarch took the throne, the seals of the previous incumbent would be destroyed, and the new seals would enter Granada in a solemn ceremony.

The documents produced by this High Court are housed in the Archive of the Royal Chancery of Granada.

Headquarters of the General Archive of Andalusia (1987-1992)Andalusian Archives

When did the General Archive open, and what docs are there?

The General Archive of Andalusia, as the general archive of the Regional Government of Andalusia, was created in 1987. One of its functions is to coordinate all the central archives of the Ministries of the Regional Government of Andalusia and their subsidiaries. 

It houses the permanent collection of documents of the Regional Government of Andalusia. Among the collection are documents which detail the historical process that led to autonomy for Andalusia, and the creation and ratification of its Statute of Autonomy. Another important collection of documents held here belonged to the management and school of the Royal Artillery Factory of Seville, including drawings and books containing accounts and manufacturing details. 

Power from the heirs of the Armenian Zacarias Arguli (1701-12-20) by Zacarias Arguli's heirs.Andalusian Archives

What unique archival items can be viewed in this project?

The archives of Andalusia hold many unique and irreplaceable pieces of documentary treasure, testimony to more than 600 years of history.

One example is the Power of Heirs by Zacarías Arguli, a priceless document in Armenian which contains partial seals, printed in ink, belonging to the 14 founding families of current-day Syria.

Dúrcal. Cadastre of the Marquis of La Ensenada,Particular responses of the ecclesiastical and secular neighborhood of Dúrcal (1753/1758)Andalusian Archives

Another is the extraordinary response from the ecclesiastical and secular communities of Dúrcal to the "Catastro" (census) ordered by the Marquis of Ensenada: a minute, highly detailed watercolor providing an authentic representation of reality, not dissimilar to a high-resolution photograph today. 

Concession Application for the Tharsis Iron Mine Front Cover of Document (1853-03-26)Andalusian Archives

It is also worth mentioning the License Application for the Tharsis iron mine, submitted by the engineer Ernesto Deligny. The license marked the arrival of foreign capital in the province of Huelva, and its subsequent mineral exploitation.

Provincial Historical Archive of SevilleAndalusian Archives

Are the archives accessible to anyone?

Of course! Access to the public archives and historical documents is free, although individuals will need to provide proof of identity.

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