The Naval museum presently forms part of the Spanish Armada's Naval Headquarters in Madrid and is one of the most important naval museums in the world. The museum exhibits collections of a variety of historic items that reflect the rich history of the Spanish Navy and the leading role it played in the history of navigation.
Possibly the most prized of these exhibits is the Mappa Mundi, which dates back to 1500 and was drawn by the Spanish cartographer Juan de la Cosa. A mariner and explorer who made seven voyages to America, de la Cosa travelled in the company of Columbus himself on two of the voyages. On the Mappa Mundi Juan de la Cosa made note of the discoveries of Columbus’ first three voyages, even including on it an outline of Cuba. This is the first known representation of the American continent. De la Cosa drew the map on a section of ox-hide and illustrated it exquisitely in watercolours and ink.
The Mappa Mundi was found in a Parisian shop in 1832 by Baron Walckenaer and brought to the world’s attention in 1833 by the German scholar Alexander Humbolt in his Atlas Géographique et Physique. When Baron Walckenaer died in 1853, the Queen of Spain purchased the fascinating map; so returning de la Cosa’s legacy to the Spanish nation. Although now considerably deteriorated, visitors can still marvel at the skill of Juan de Cosa, who died when fatally shot by Indians with poisoned arrows in Turbaco, Columbia.
The other exhibits at Madrid’s Naval Museum embrace a variety of historic items. These are housed in a series of 24 rooms that are chronological ranked from the now distant 15th Century and the time of the Catholic monarchs, right up until present day cutting-edge maritime advances. A treasure trove of naval charts, scale models of ships, original figureheads, paintings of famous sailors and naval battles, flags, weapons and even fragments of artillery await the interest and appreciation of the naval history enthusiast. Exhibits that are of great sentimental value to the patriot, in particular, are those items that were the personal keepsakes of well-known Spanish mariners.
Perhaps the most intriguing item on display is the submarine invented by Isaac Peral, a Spanish scientist, inventor and sailor. The Peral submarine was conceived in 1884, when Lieutenant Isaac Peral made notes on what would become his
"Proyecto de Torpedero Submarino" ("Project for a submarine torpedo boat"). This submarine pioneered new designs in hull, control systems and air systems that proved successful during two years of trials. Its ability to fire torpedoes underwater, while continuing to maintain full propulsive power and control, has led many to call it the first U-boat.
The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 2pm. Admission is free. Special
free guided tours for the public take place at 11:30am on Saturdays and Sundays. The museum is closed on Mondays.
Address: Paseo del Prado, 5, 28005 Madrid
Tel.: 91 523 87 89
Fax.: 91 379 50 56
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 2pm. Closed Mondays, 1st Jan, Easter Thursday & Friday, 1st & 15th May, 16th July, the month of August, 9th November,
24th, 25th & 31st Dec.