Museu Maritim

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Drever on April 5, 2006

The Museau Maritim is outstanding both for what it displays, and its manner of doing so. Its range of nautical treasure includes: model ships, instruments, maps, charts, drawings, replicas, paintings and figureheads. The virtual reality exhibition Sea Adventure lets visitors imagine life as a galley slave on the Don Juan of Austria, stride the stormy decks of a Cuban-bound corvette and experience crewing the first submarine in history.

Appropriately the museum is contained in The Drassanes Reals. This former royal shipyards built between 1283 and 1328, is the biggest and most complete medieval dockyards in the world and a superb example of Gothic architecture. Its majestic arches, columns, and massive vaults are an example of medieval civic architecture.

This complex then sitting on the water's edge used to dry-dock, build, and repair ships for the Catalan-Aragonese rulers. They turned out 30 war galleys at a time to prepare for the final assault against the Ottoman Empire which occurred in 1571 at Lepanto off the Greek coast and ended in victory. Now only the rush hour traffic laps the museums walls.

Inside the museum, headphones and a Walkman allow you to wander around while being fully briefed on the displays. Exhibits chart the traditional fishing techniques, and sailing as sport through neat little caravels and draggers, snipes, and sloops. They also cover the art of wooden shipbuilding, charting the oceans, and the steam age of ships. Especially fine are the late 19th-century mastheads, navigational instruments and models of the Compañía Trasmediterránea's fleet collection - this local company still runs the Barcelona to Balearic Islands route.

The collection also boasts a model of Ictíneo, one of the world's first submarines designed by the Catalan visionary Narcís Monturiol. There's a superb model of Magellan's Santa María de la Victoria, on which made the first circumnavigation of the world (1519-1522) - though not by Magellan himself, as the natives of the Philippines took a fancy to his head.

In 1568 the flagship of the Santa Liga in the battle of Lepanto launched from here.
A full-size replica of Juan de Austria's Lepanto great golden galley the ‘Reial’ now forms the centrepiece of the museum. Fittingly it was built in the museum. So central to the museum is it that you have to stroll round it to complete the tour, and to be able to go on-board.

Its banks of oars made it agile and gave it the power to drive a ram through enemy ships by steering straight into their side. Giving a suitable wind, sail power could take over for normal sailing. On deck you get a brief 3D virtual reality show of the crew - chained four-by-four to their benches for months on end. You could smell a galley two miles away if downwind – made it difficult to creep up on an enemy at anchor, in fog or at night!

Sheer attention to detail and outstanding craftsmanship is what really makes this museum as it is with the Museu d' Historia.
Museu Marítim
Avinguda Drassanes, 1
Barcelona, Spain, 08001
+34 93 3429920

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