Consulate of the Sea

From the 13th century, Burgos was an important Spanish hub of international trade. Merchants from the city would export Spanish products, especially the wool from merino sheep, to Flanders, England, France and Italy. At the same time, products manufactured in those countries were imported into Spain.

In 1494, the large volume of trade led the merchants of Burgos to establish an institution of law and commerce, driven by the Catholic Monarchs, known as the Consulate of the Sea (Consulado del Mar), with headquarters in Burgos.

The members of the Consulate of the Sea were leading merchants who lived between Burgos, Bruges, Antwerp, London, Rouen, Toulouse, Florence, Lisbon and other cities. Many amassed large fortunes that enabled them to develop construction projects in these cities, including in Burgos. Some of them financed leading cartographic companies. That is how Burgos-born Cristóbal de Haro came to be the main financier of the expedition where Fernando Magallanes and Juan Sebastián Elcano made the first journey around the world, 500 years ago.

The significance of the merchants of Burgos that comprised the Consulate of the Sea is not related only to their ability to create trade networks, define routes, and their contribution to the beginnings of capitalism. They also played a major role when it came to spreading artistic models, since they were the main importers of European artworks into the Iberian Peninsula. In its churches and museums, Burgos and its province amassed one of the most prominent collections of European art (primarily, paintings, sculptures and tapestries of Flemish origin) on the continent.

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