The Archivo General de Indias

The Archivo General de Indias is located by the Cathedral and it is the place where all the records of the New World empire of Spain were kept. It is also called Casa Lonja. Lonja means a place where merchants meet. Until the 16th century, the merchants in Seville met daily at the Patio de los Naranjos beside the Cathedral. When the weather was bad, they met in the Cathedral. This was not to the liking of the bishop because the merchants were loud and noisy, and the bishop did not think this was appropriate for the house of God. He threatened to excommunicate the merchants. So King Felipe II decided to order the construction of a building for the merchants beside the Cathedral. This was done between 1585 and 1598. The building has two floors with a square plan and a very large patio in the middle. Juan de Herrera was the architect and he designed it as a serene Renaissance palace without too much exterior decoration.

When the merchant exchange lost importance in the 18th century, King Carlos III converted the building to the Archivo General de Indias in 1785, which kept all the historic documents of the colonial empire of Spain in the Americas and the Philippines. The Spanish turned out to be very meticulous record keepers, so there are millions of documents in this archive. It includes bills of lading for all the ships. There are journals of Columbus and the conquistadores, and the maps they made. This is the place where many researchers go to look for records they are interested in. It is literally a document gold mine. The archive contains 80 million pages! The building and its contents were given the title of World Heritage Site by the UNESCO in 1987. The building hosts many exhibitions related to history and displays the original documents and maps they have, so the exhibitions are usually very interesting.

Archivo General de Indias