Elcano's Return (El Regreso de Elcano)

Explore the details in this painting by Elías Salaverria.

By Naval Museum

Museo Naval

The painting by Elías Salaverría Inchaurrandieta depicts the moment Elcano, followed by his crew, disembarked the Victoria (Nao Victoria) in Seville on September 8, 1522. After 3 years and 20 days since setting sail from the very same port, they had completed the first voyage around the world.

They entered the port of Seville firing off salutes with their remaining gunpowder. As Antonio Pigafetta reported in his journal: "From the time we left that bay until the present day, we had sailed 14,460 leagues, and furthermore had completed the circumnavigation of the world from east to west. On Monday, September eighth, we cast anchor near the quay of Seviglia (Seville), and discharged all our artillery."

All the city's officials and members of the House of Commerce (Casa de la Contratación) gathered at the docks. Along with a huge crowd, they watched in stunned silence as the wan figures slowly disembarked the dilapidated ship.

Of the 247 men who had boarded the ship at the start of its voyage, only 18 expeditionaries returned, drained of all their strength. They were accompanied by at least 3 natives from the Maluku Islands (Moluccas), of the 13 who had boarded in Tidore 9 months earlier.

They were emaciated, distressed looking, and blankly staring into space. Barefoot and with ripped shirts. In the words of Elcano: "the skinniest men there ever were."

As they left the ship, they were offered lit candles, which they took. “Tuesday, we all went in shirts and barefoot, each holding a candle, to visit the shrine of Santa Maria de la Victoria and that of Santa Maria de l'Antigua," Pigafetta noted in his journal.

Supported by clapping and cheering, the ship's survivors went straight to visit the person who had accompanied them during their voyage and to whom they were deeply devoted: the Virgin of the Victoria.

Days earlier, upon disembarking in Sanlúcar, Elcano had proudly written to Charles V, King of Spain, to inform him of his return. The letter offered a brief description of the voyage, highlighting many of its achievements, including that which he considered the most important: the circumnavigation of the world.

Charles V welcomed the expeditionaries in Valladolid. He granted Juan Sebastián Elcano an annual salary of 500 gold ducats (trade coins) and a coat of arms, whose crest features a globe with the inscription Primus circumdedisti me (You were first to circumnavigate me). The value of the spices brought back on the Victoria far exceeded the cost of the expedition.

Juan Sebastián Elcano returning to Seville in 1522 (Ca. 1944-45) by Elías Salaverría InchaurrandietaOriginal Source: Museo Naval. Madrid. Todos los derechos reservados.

Credits: Story

Organized by the Naval Museum, Madrid

Online adaptation: Blanca Sazatornil, Alicia Suárez. Outreach Department, Naval Museum, Madrid.

This exhibition is part of the First Voyage Around the World project.

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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