Ribadeo (1597)


Miguel San Claudio, Ana Crespo, Nigel Nayling, Arnaud Cazenave de la Roche, and Filipe Castro


In 1597 Spain ruled over a large empire that extended around the entire world. King Philip II and his court were extremely organized and developed a bureaucracy that today allows scholars to reconstruct the life of the empire year by year.

A large portion of Anglo-Saxon history – mostly in the US – has been written, however, by scholars that have not studied the Spanish reality and insist in selling a so-called ‘Black Legend,” which is ham-handed and often times borders racism, repeating 16th-Century English propaganda as historical truth.

Fig. 1 – Side scan image of the Ribadeo 1 site by Miguel San Claudio (2015).

Extremely well-preserved, Santiago de Galicia appeared to us as a good pretext to talk about Spanish 16th-Century history in a more objective manner, and Project Director Miguel San Claudio chose an international team to investigate this site and its history.

This project was also partly sponsored by a Marie Curie EU Grant titled ForSEAdiscovery (P.I.s Ana Crespo and Nigel Nayling), and that gave Miguel San Claudio the opportunity to enlarge the team in 2015, performing a short but thorough first assessment of the site.

Fig. 2 – Pre-disturbance photogrammetry of the site by Brandon Mason and Christine Heamagi, from the Maritime Archaeology Trust (2015).

Santiago de Galicia was a warship built for one of the most powerful monarchs of the world in its time, and as such it stands as a good example of the Empire’s shipbuilding standards. Financed by a Ragusan merchant and built in Italy, near Napoli, this ship was designed by some of the best shipwrights of its time. It was part of a second set of galleons designated as “The Apostles,” built to secure the Atlantic routes from pirates and privateers, and protect the uninterrupted flow of wealth that poured previously unimaginable fortunes into Spain, from the four corners of the World.

Fig. 3 – Aspect of the ship heavy construction (Brandon Mason, 2018).

Even though we have secured the support of several institutions, including the regional government and the Spanish Navy, and in 2019 we were granted support by the Institute of Nautical Archaeology (INA), this project is a low-budget project and this circumstance encouraged us to propose a study of the ship, its story, excavation and reconstruction, and a meta-study, on how to maximize the cooperation of all the disciplines and share our discoveries, theories, mistakes, and corrections in real time, and hopefully involve a larger community and include the feedback from the interested public.

Fig.4 – Outer planking and framing of the Ribadeo galleon (Brandom Mason, 2018).

The community is an important component of this project and we work hand in hand with the local association El Galeon de Ribadeo.

Given the fact that Santiago de Galicia is a unique example of a Mediterranean warship from the 16th century, and that this is a critical period in the development of the modern world, we are certain that this ship is a testimony to particularly creative stage of the development of naval warfare and deep sea navigation of its time.

We have only a small number of archaeological examples of warships from this period built in the north of Europe, but none from the Iberian Peninsula, and none from the Mediterranean, where we believe the warships of the 16th century were first developed.

Technical documents on shipbuilding appear in this period, but they don’t describe Italian-built warships in any detail.  All we have are sets of measurements that give us an idea of the ship size, but not of its shape of structural design.

Our research strategy will focus on twelve separate tasks:

1.Archaeology: pending the availability of funds, we intend to excavate this shipwreck site by strategically located trenches, to record the ship structure in detail, together with the hull shape;

2.Iconography: we will develop a database of ship images that may plausibly represent ships of this type;

3.History: we will gather, inventory, and summarize all the existing documentation pertaining to the construction and operation of Santiago de Galicia;

4.Computer graphics: we will develop a series of computer graphics tools selected in order to facilitate the testing of reconstruction hypothesis:

4.1. A set of chronologically organized orthophotographs of the site, from 2011 onwards;

4.2. A set of chronologically organized 3D meshes of the site

4.3. Lines drawings of:

4.3.1. the Pepper Wreck;

4.3.2. Caetano Hormaechea proposal with a round midship section;

4.3.3. Caetano Hormaechea proposal with a flat on the floor;

4.3.4. A set of lines drawings developed from Lomelina’s timbers;

4.3.5. A set of lines drawings developed from the Calvi 1 timber drawings.

5. A number of sections extracted from the meshes;

6. A number of vertical orthophotos of the surfaces exposed (e.g. Area 1, Trench 2.1, Trench 2.2, etc.);

7. A set of drawings for publication, including a site plan, a view of the interior of the hull on Trench 2.2., two orthogonal sections of Trench 4;

8. A set of 3D hypothetical reconstructions of the timbers exposed, total or partially;

9. Reconstruction 3D models combining the meshes (4.2.) and 3D renderings of the timbers exposed (8.);

10. Reconstruction 3D models combining the meshes (4.2.) and the hypothetical lines drawings (4.3.).

11. A timber catalogue, preferably organized as a database.

12. An artifact catalogue, preferably organized as a database to be connected with a GIS database.


The team currently engaged in the investigation of this shipwreck encompasses a large number of disciplines and is too large to be fully described here.

Miguel San Claudio, archaeologist, principal investigator.

Ana Crespo, historian.

Nigel Nayling, archaeologist and specialist in dendrochronology.

Arnaud Cazenave de la Roche, archaeologist.

Filipe Castro, Archaeologist.

Christin Hemaegi, archaeologist, specialist in photogrammetry.

Brandon Mason, archaeologist, specialist in photogrammetry.


Ricardo Borrero, archaeologist, PhD student at Texas A&M University.

The Spanish Navy team encompassed the following participants:




Story of the Ship

The Santiago de Galicia was built… .

As part of the 1597 Armada against England, it saw action and battled the weather in the later months of that year and was beached. The Spanish forces gathered at Ferrol in 1596, under the command of Martin de Padilla, Adelantado de Castilla and Diego Brochero second in command. There were Spanish, Portuguese, French, Danish, Scottish, German, Flemish, Venetian, and Italian ships in the fleet, which encompassed 15 galleons from the crown and nine galleons from Portugal, 53 urcas from Germany and the Low Countries, six patachos, and 15 caravels. A second Armada joined this one from Vigo, encompassing 41 ships under the command of Pedro de Zubiaur: 25 navios of 100-400 toneladas, and16 pinazas.


This ship was lost in November 1597.


This site was found in 2011, during dredging operations.

Site Formation Process

The site formation process is not easy to reconstruct at this point of the project, but it is expected that the King’s men salvaged all they could before abandoning the derelict to its fate, in the estuary. Marine life and the strong tide currents must have done the rest.

The is a layer of fine grey silt under the sand layer that covers the site.  In some points there are pockets of dark, organic sediment, and the structure’s periphery shows signs of destruction by marine life.

Although the ship was relatively young, some timbers in the lower hull show teredo-like damage, suggesting that the lower hull was not immediately covered with sediment.


The site exposed consisted of a


The ballast pile seems to occupy part of the hold amidships, and does not seem to extend towards the stern and bow of the ship. Only a full excavation, however, will allow us to estimate the size and distribution of the ballast.

Most of the central pile consists of large pebbles, 15 to 35 cm in size. 

Ship Fittings


We believe that all anchors were salvaged when the ship was beached at Ribadeo.


As with the anchors, all guns must have been salvaged from this derelict.


No other fittings have been exposed so far.

Hull Remains

The ship’s hull remains are preserved over a large are, and may encompass a parge portion of the port side, far above the turn of the bilge.


We have documents that state the basic dimensions of this ship:

Built in Napoli (Castellammare di Stabia) by Colea Bonifacio.

Keel 44.5 codos  = 25.59 m  (1 codo = 0.575 m)

Beam 20.5 codos  = 11.79 m

Length overall 60 codos = 34.50 m

Flat of the floor 7.5 codos  =  4.31 m

Depth in hold 13.5 codos  =  7.76 m

Entries 2 codos  = 1.15 m

Runs 7.5 codos  =  4.31 m

Largo en Puente 64 codos = 36.80 m

If the stem is tangent to the keel (1/4 circle):

  Length of the stem 13.5 codos

  & 60 (LOA) – 13.5 – 44.5 = 2 codos = rake of the sternpost

  Rake of the sternpost = puntal / 6.75


As after the 2019 field season, the hull remains consist of a structure of floor timbers and first, and perhaps second futtocks, with a heavy outer planking and extremely thick inner planking.

Fig. 5 – The hull remains exposed during the 2019 field season, by Brandon Mason and Christine Heamagi, from the Maritime Archaeology Trust (2015).

The portion of the bottom exposed was heavily reinforced with twin keelson timbers with very high molded dimensions. Only more extensive excavation, however, will allow us to understand this structure better.

Fig. 6 – Aspect of the mast-step remains, exposed during the 2019 field season, by Brandon Mason and Christine Heamagi, from the Maritime Archaeology Trust (2015).


We have been extremely careful to avoid expose the cargo, although a large quantity of cannon balls, both stone and iron, have been found allover the center area of the ship. It is likely that a more extensive excavation will reveal the nature of the cargo of a Spanish warship returning from a deployment. The surface, accidental finds, suggest a large number of personal artifacts, from the soldiers and sailors that shared the ship’s space.

Personal Items



So far no rigging artifacts have been found, other that a sheave from a large block, which we left in situ.






San Claudio, Miguel, 2018. Memoria. Sondaxes sobre o pecio do galeón ragusano San Giacomo di Galizia. Ribadeo, Lugo. Xunta de Galicia.

San Claudio, Miguel, 2015.The Armadas’ Wars in the Iberian Northern Atlantic, a chance for ForSEAdiscovery project. En The Management of Iberian forest resources in the early modern ship building: History and Archaeology. Instituto de Arqueologia e Paleociencias, Universidade Nova de Lisboa. Lisboa.

Casabán Banaclocha, José Luis. «El pecio de Ribadeo: ¿un galeón mediterráneo?» Espejo de navegantes. 19 de Agosto de 2015. http://abcblogs.abc.es/espejo-de-navegantes/2015/08/19/el-pecio-de-ribadeo-un-galeon-mediterraneo/ (último acceso: 8 de Noviembre de 2015).

San Claudio, Miguel, Raúl González, José Luis Casabán, Filipe Castro, y Marta Domínguez. «El pecio de Ribadeo, un excepcionalmente bien conservado pecio español del siglo XVI.» Actas I Congreso de Arqueología Náutica y subacuática española. Cartagena: Ministerio de Cultura, 2014. 208-221.