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General Archive
of Simancas

The General Archive of Simancas building

The General Archive of Simancas presents a unique feature not found in the other archives. While the fundamental element of any archive is its documentary collection, and the building housing it is secondary, in Simancas both elements are closely intertwined, so much so that their evolution has run in parallel.

The Simancas Archive is the first building designed for an archive in the Modern Age. The intentions for its use were clear from the outset: it was to conserve the documents accrediting the rights of the kings and queens of Castilla. In the 16th century the Spanish monarchy was indisputably the most powerful in Europe, and it needed a building and a group of professionals to curate, conserve, and when necessary deliver the documentation for consultation.

Charles V named a “keeper of the archive of the writings concerning our Royal heritage” and decided that these should be kept in the keep of the fortress of Simancas. The importance of the documents is highlighted by the fact that they were to be kept in one of the most secure locations existing in the early Modern Age, a stone castle with its moat, drawbridge and defensive walls.

Philip II, fully aware of the role of writing and written documents, would be the driving force of the building works in the fortress to adapt it to its new purpose. The greatest architects of the day took part: Juan de Herrera, Francisco de Praves and Francisco de Mora. In the 18th century, Ventura Rodríguez would also have a hand in Simancas.

In 1844 the archives were opened to research, and Simancas had to adapt to its new role, enabling access for historians from Spain and abroad.

In the 20th century new building works would adapt the archive to the modern techniques emerging, above all in the fields of reproduction and restoration.

Finally, another remodelling began in 2000 to equip new spaces and adapt the building to the technological challenges of the new century.

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