To mark the Fourth Century of the Battle of Lepanto in 1971, a replica was built in the Museu Maritim de Barcelona of the Royal Galley of John of Austria. The Royal Galley of John of Austria was the flagship of the fleet of the Holy League – comprising Spain, the Republic of Venice, the Papal States and Malta. The flagship took part in the battle with the Turkish fleet in Lepanto on October 7th 1571, in which the Holy League deployed 6 galleasses and 206 galleys, while the Ottoman forces numbered 216 galleys and 56 galliots. The combined Christian fleet was placed under the command of John of Austria (Don Juan de Austria) with Marcantonio Colonna as his principal deputy.
This galley was built in the Royal Shipyards in Barcelona in 1568. The dimensions of the galley are 60 metres in length and with a beam of 6.2 metres. Propelled by 59 oars rowed by 236 oarsmen, the Royal Galley was fitted with two masts, a mainmast and foremast, 22 and 25 metres tall respectively, and lateen sails representing a combat surface of 691 square metres.
A particular feature of this galley is the decoration, the work of the most acclaimed Seville artists of the day. Of special note is the decoration of the stern, with carvings and paintings that represent mythological figures and scenes, combined with symbols of Catholic dogma, such as Faith, Hope and Charity on the quarter-deck cabin lanterns.
The galley was the most important warship in the Mediterranean until the 17th century. On the high seas it was sail driven over long distances, and propelled by rowing during fighting and manoeuvring Its basic characteristics were its manoeuvrability and the great speed that it could attain, thanks to the vessel’s fine lines. The galley’s crew was made up of officers, oarsmen (especially galley convicts serving their sentences on galleys), sailors and soldiers.