Archivo General de Simancas

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The Archivo General de Simancas is the former Royal Spanish General Archive and collects documents from the time of the rise of the Catholic Monarchs to the fall of the Ancien Régime . It is housed in a fort in Simancas in the province of Valladolid in Spain and, along with the Vatican secret archive, is considered the most important archive in Europe .


The origins of the current building go back to the 15th century. Around 1465, the noble Enríquez family, in whom the office of Admiral of Castile was hereditary, had taken the village of Simancas and built a castle there over the ruins of a Moorish fortress. As part of the repatriation of former crown estates, the title of which was unclear, the building went to the Crown of Castile in 1490.

Simancas Castle

In 1540, Charles V decided to use this castle to permanently store the most important royal documents - these had been carried with the traveling court until then. Initially, only part of the fort, namely the ground floor of the north tower, was used as an archive, the rest of the fort served as a treasury , armory and prison for military purposes.

In 1574 - probably against the background of the ever expanding Spanish colonial empire and the increasing importance of written documents - Philip II began to expand the archive to the entire fort. He commissioned the builder Juan de Herrera , architect of the Escorial and the Casa Lonja de Mercaderes in Seville, with the necessary renovations and extensions . He completely redesigned the interior of the building, only the exterior of the building preserved the fortress character. This makes the Simancas archive one of the first archives in the Christian West for which a building was specially created.

In 1588 a first set of rules followed, in which the Spanish monarch formulated the manner in which the documents were to be archived, but also the purpose that the archive was to serve. Experts consider it the first of its kind.

With a brief interruption during the Napoleonic Wars , the archive was actively used until 1844. Then it was replaced by the newly established National Archives in Alcalá de Henares and converted into a historical archive.

The stock

All documents of the various central administrative organs of the Spanish monarchy are collected in the archive, for the Spanish colonial empire the documents of the various councils ( Consejos ), for Bourbon Spain the documents of the newly established ministries ( Secretarías ).

Several times in the course of history parts of the inventory were outsourced: For example, in 1785 under Karl III. The documents of the Casa de Contratación were transferred to the Archivo General de Indias in Seville , which was founded especially for this purpose, then all documents of the Consejo de Aragón to the Archivo de la Corona de Aragón, founded in 1738, and finally in the 19th century all documents of the Consejo de Inquisición in the Archivo Histórico Nacional .

Much of the documents kept in the Simancas archives dealt with economic matters. The document of surrender of Boabdil , the last sultan of Granada, can also be found here .


Today the archive houses around 75,000 inventory units on 12 kilometers of shelves . A digitization of the documents was started.


From 1512 - the year in which the archive was founded - until 1811 all archivists belonged to the Ayala family without interruption.


  • Marc-André Grebe: Files, Archives, Absolutism? The Crown Archives of Simancas under the rule of the Spanish Habsburgs (1540–1598) . Vervuert, Frankfurt am Main 2012. ISBN 978-3-86527-637-7 .

Web links

Commons : Archivo General de Simancas  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Coordinates: 41 ° 35 ′ 30.7 "  N , 4 ° 49 ′ 43.9"  W.