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Dingle Peninsula Armada Wreck

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Armada Wreck

The Sancta Maria de la Rosa, a galleon of 945 tons, was part of the ill-fated Spanish Armada which sailed from Lisbon in May 1588. After the encounter in the English Channel, the galleon had sailed up to the west coast of Scotland, along the N coast of Ireland, and finally down the W coast, arriving in the treacherous waters of the Blasket Sound during a violent gale at about midday on September 21, 1588. Three other ships, the galleon San Juan Bautista, vice-flagship of the Castilian Squadron, the galleon San Juan de Portugal, vice-flagship of the entire Armada, and a small tender, were already in the sound. On her arrival, the Sancta Maria had been accompanied by another unnamed vessel, commanded by Miguel de Aranivar, and later that afternoon, another ship, probably the armed merchantman also named San Juan Bautista, also arrived in the Sound. The latter was abandoned the following day and her company distributed amongst the other ships; her subsequent fate is not recorded. Of the other ships, all but the Sancta Maria had departed from the Sound on route for Spain by September 27.

The wrecking of the Sancta Maria de la Rosa is described in the log of Marcos de Aramburu, commander of the galleon San Juan Bautista: 'At midday the ship Sancta Maria de la Rosa commanded by Martin de Villafranca, came in by another entrance nearer land on the north-west side. They fired a shot on entering as if seeking help, and another further on. All her sails were in pieces except the foresail. She cast her single anchor, for she was not carrying more, and with the tide coming in from the south-east side and beating against her stern she stayed there until two o'clock. Then the tide waned, and as it turned the ship began dragging on our two cables, and we dragged with her, and in an instant we could see that she was going down, trying to hoist the foresail. Then she sank with all on board, not a person being saved, a most extraordinary and terrifying thing'. Unknown to Aramburu, there was a single survivor, a son of the Sancta Maria's pilot, who on making the shore was taken by English soldiers, interrogated in Dingle and probably subsequently executed. The most interesting piece of information to emerge from his interrogation was his claim that amongst these on board had been the Prince D'Ascoli, bastard son of Philip of Spain.

The search for the wreck of the Sancta Maria began in 1963 and continued intermittently until, in 1968, an expeirelandion led by Sidney Wignall discovered the wreck lying about 200m to SE of the underwater reef of Stromboli which the ship had struck causing its sudden sinking. It consisted of a mound of stone ballast rising 3 feet (.9m) above the sea bed and extending about 100 feet (30m) N-S and 40 feet (35m) across at its widest point; it lay about 115 feet (35m) below the surface at high water. Excavation in 1968 and 1969 revealed much of the ships structure, and other finds included iron shot, lead shot and ingots, pot sherds, animal bones, pewter plates, one with the name Matute (Captain Matute is known to have sailed with the Sancta Maria), arquebuses, muskets, beads, a gold and a silver coin, both of Philip ||, a brass scale-pan, barrel staves and hoops, fragments of wood, rope and leather, and some human bones. The recovery of objects from the wreck continues. From the structural remains Martin concludes that the Sancta Maria was a broad-beamed round ship with a probable keel length of 91 feet, of Mediterranean origin and of slight construction unfit to withstand the Atlantic gales. (Martin 1975; Fallon 1978; Wignall).


This above information was sourced from the Archaeological Survey of the Dingle Peninsula (1986) and provided to dodingle.com courtesy of Oidhreacht Chorca Dhuibhne. Republication of the extract or any part therin, in any form or capacity, is strictly prohibited without the express permission of the publishers. © Oidhreacht Chorca Dhuibhne 1986-2010.

Archaeological survey of the Dingle Peninsula

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