The People of Gibraltar
1567 - Anton Van Den Wyngaerde - 'Gubelaltar'

Anton van den Wyngaerde - known in Spain as Antonio de las Viñas - was a brilliant Flemish draughtsman best known for his panoramic sketches of many of the principal European cities of the day. 


Self portrait sketch of the Antonio de las Viñas drawing a picture of the city of Jaen

In 1561 he was commissioned by the Spanish King Philip II to draw 62 meticulous representations of the principal cities of his kingdom. Gibraltar was among them.

These drawings are considered to be the oldest extant annotated pictures of the Rock and are therefore rightly considered to be not just of artistic but of historical importance. Ironically Van den Wyngaerde's panoramic scene of the bay - the original is held by the Ashmolean museum in Oxford - is too long for our digital age. Our screens are too small to appreciate all the details.


The Bay of Gibraltar


Front section of the drawing

Taking the annotated elements on the map from left to right - north to south - they read as follows;

F = La Fozze del Diablo - La Torre del Diablo - Devil's Tower. This monument was unnecessarily destroyed during World War II for supposedly defensive reasons. It was done so on the orders of the Governor of Gibraltar , Lieutenant General Mason. It was of unknown origin but was reputed to have been used as a look-out tower when the levanter made it impossible to use the top of the Rock for such purposes. It has also been suggested that at some time in the past the isthmus may have been covered by the sea and the tower  surrounded by water.

P = el Castyllo - The Moorish Castle - Probably the oldest extant Moorish structure in Spain and never given as much importance as it probably deserves if only for that reason.

On the far right on the isthmus sands is the Torre del Molino - not labelled - which was destroyed during the 'Sortie' ( see LINK ) an event that occurred during the Great Siege and was of unknown origin.  Bottom left is possibly Punta Mala.


Second section

A = Sta maria eglyesia mayor - The Cathedral of St Mary the Crowned. - Originally a Moorish mosque, the 16th century version was bigger than that of today. In 1810 the remnants of a Moorish courtyard - or Patio de los Naranjos - were partially destroyed when the Governor, General Robert Boyd,  proposed the widening and straightening of the narrow section of Main Street in front of its entrance.

B = La misericordia - Nuestra Señora de las Misericordias - However  . . A 1627 map by Luis Bravo ( see LINK ) shows this building on the western side of today's Mackintosh Square, which does not correspond with Wyngaerde's positioning. This hermitage, hospital and asylum had probably only just been completed by the time Wyngaerde drew it. After the British take over it became a debtor's prison and it was later demolished to make space for Aaron Cardozo's ( see LINK ) well known building. 

C = Sto juan de Lezan  - Iglesia de San Juan de Letrán - Again not in the right place in relation to the rest of the drawing. This was also a 16th century church of considerable size. It was supposed to have been situated on the southern side of Main Street. During the excavations for the foundations for the John Mackintosh Hall several skeletons holding rosaries were found which gave rise to the theory that it had once been a Nun's convent.

M = Cueve de Sto mychyl - St Michael's Cave - For quite a while after 1704 the British tried to change the name to St George's Cave. It never caught on.

Q = La guardya de dio- La Guardia del día - From time immemorial known as El Hacho - and then as Signal Hill by the British. This was essentially a look-out station for ships. Although the drawing shows what appears to be a flag, the system was actually based on the hanging of black leather balls attached to the cross beam of a long mast.

Not labelled is what appears to be a breakwater in place of the yet to be constructed Old Mole. ( see LINK ) On its right is the Puerta de Mar. The shaded area between the two may have been a sandy ramp for dragging galleys into the Atarazana, a building specially built for ship repairs inside the Barcina area.


On another preliminary sketch of the Rock - top picture - the breakwater has disappeared and has been replaced by what may or may not be the Old Mole.


Third Section

D = Sto francisco  - Convento de San Francisco - Today this building is the residence of Governor.  In 1567, however, it was still a Franciscan convent. It was built in 1462 when the Spaniards finally captured Gibraltar from the Moors. Extensions and alterations were being carried out when Wyngaede drew it but there is little evidence that it ever had the dome-like structure depicted on the drawing. 

E = nro sra del Rosario - Ermita de Nuestra Señora del Rosario - This 16th century church is correctly positioned close to La Puerta Nueva - South Port Gates - which is also clearly shown on the drawing. It was for many years used as a guard house by the British.

N = La torre de los tarfes - The southern end of the Rock was divided into los Tarfes Altos - Windmill Hill - and los Tarfes bajos - a lower area above several coves on the south western side of the Rock. This tower, which no longer exists, may possibly have also been called La Torre de los Genoveses. According to Alonso Hernández del Portillo ( see LINK ) in his Historia de Gibraltar:
En este Tarfe esta una torre antiquísima dicha ahora de los Genoveses. no se sabe porque se le dio este nombre; a lo que de ella se pude conjeturar es que por estar esta torre en correspondencia de otra que est fuera de esta ciudad casi de la misma fabricación de ella en lo alto de la sierra de la Carbonera, la  debieron de hacer los Cartaginenses o Romanos para avisar a Carteya de las armadas que venían por la mar.
It sounds a rather unlikely theory. Others have argued that it was of Moorish construction, yet others that there was once a small thriving Genoese community living in the area of los Tarfes hence the name of what might have been their main building.

O = Aqui fue La Batalla de don Henryco - This is a reference to the place where Don Enrique Perez de Guzman, the second Conde de Niebla ( see LINK ) drowned during his failed attempt to take Gibraltar from the Moors in 1433. His body was decapitated, placed in a wicker basket - barcina - and hung near the water gate in full view of any passing ship. It stayed there until Gibraltar was recaptured by his grandson in 1462. For many years, the area of town just after the water gate which is today's casemates was known as la Barcina.

G = La torre torto - La Torre del Tuerto - Portillo suggests that its original name may have been La Torre del Puerto as ' se ha de decir la torre del Puerto porque es guarda de este puerto. He may have been wrong. The drawing clearly shows that there was no new mole in front of it when Wyngaede drew it.

H = Ceuto - Ceuta - The town on the opposite side of the Straits of Gibraltar on the Barbary coast. At the time of the drawing it belonged to Portugal but, perhaps appropriately, it would soon  be part of Phillip II empire.


Fourth section

I = El Puento de Carnero - Punta Carnero 

K = Azegires - Algeciras - In those days a rather small town opposite Gibraltar.

L = La Cymera - Mount Abila, the second Pillar of Hercules.

The bottom section seems to have been something of an after-thought as none of the intervening rivers along the Bay from Gibraltar to Algeciras such as the Palmones and the Guadarranque are shown. The small self portrait gives the viewer an idea of where the artist positioned himself in order to draw his picture.


Ant Van den Wyngaerde f (fecit ) ad vivum

Wyngaerde also drew a detail a detailed sketch of the Castle and the northern fortifications as shown below.


The gates from left to right are, the Puerta de Granada, Puerta de España and on the far right the Puerta de Mar. ( see LINK

The Castle is labelled as follows - la torra do los osses del Condo do nobles - in other words the place where the remains of Enrique de Guzman were buried. The fortification to the right of the last three towers at sea level was the Baluarte de San Pablo which had only recently been built. As an added delicate touch the building on the extreme left is labelled as horno de cal. Unlike on his large sketch of the Bay he now spells Gibraltar more or less correctly.

Interestingly Wyngaerde seems to have made a series of preliminary drawings prior to producing the  finished work.  

Preliminary sketches


Detail of preliminary sketches - 1 

Starting with the one on the top left, one can make out the distinctive zigzag of the southern wall running up the Rock. ( see LINK ) It had probably just been built. The building on the far left of the sketch is annotated with the words Gubelaltar  S. Franco. In other words the Convent of San Francisco, today's 'Convent' and residence of the Governor of the Rock. The building to the right of it is Nuestra Señora del Rosario which is situated more or less as Alonso Hernández del Portillo describes it in his 17th century History of Gibraltar.


Detail of preliminary sketches -2

This sketch shows more or less the same scene as Wyngaerde used on his final work except that the southern sea walls appear to be in a worse state here. Soldier historian Barrantes Maldonado, writing  one year earlier also commented on the poor condition of the wall near the Torre del Tuerto.

The wording is the same as on the caption in the main picture  but with the appropriate addition of 'quando se hogo'  - which is precisely what happened to poor Don Enrique de Guzman.


Detail of preliminary sketches -3

On this third sketch the wording by the Castle reads - La torra aqui stano los osses Del Condo do nobles en Jubelaltar. Despite Wyngaerde's insistence, Alonso Hernández del Portillo was not entirely sure whether these were in fact the Count's celebrated bones.

La fabrica de la Torre y su forma es maravillosa y digna de ver  . . y de ser considerada a vista, como lo es, de cualquier persona curiosa que viene a esta ciudad. . . En un aposento de estos están los huesos del Conde de Niebla, Don Enrique de Guzman  . . .  Otros creen que estos huesos son los de Juan de Guzman, primer Duque de Medina, a quien los Moros entregaron la Calahorra. All of which suggests that those relics were a major tourist attraction in the 16th century town of Gibraltar.

Detail of preliminary sketches -4

The details here are particularly interesting in that they show a part of the Rock not included in the final picture. This is the  extreme south of the Rock looked at from the north and towards the sea. It includes the old Chapel of our Lady of Europa labelled as nra sra de europa el fin de la cristianidad.

In front of the southern fortification the words muirallas forto de guardia. The distance from it to Africa is given as 5 leagues  - roughly 24 km although it is probably more like 15 in reality. In the extreme bottom left under the title Banias moriscas is a sketch of what is almost certainly that rather enigmatic building known today as the Nuns' Well. ( see LINK )

Portillo in the 1620s  describes it as being 78 feet by 48 with 22 brick pillars. Francis Carter in 1772 makes that 70 by 40 with 10 brick pillars on either side in Moorish style. Wyngaerde's version seems to show a structure with 20 pillars not all of them supporting arches.



Detail of preliminary sketches -5

Sketch 5 above, shows the town viewed from the south with Sierra Carbonera in the distance sporting its tower.  Rather more difficult to make out is the Puerta Nueva ( see LINK ) through Charles V Wall which is indicated by an arrow and the phrase p nova.

On the left hand side the Torre del Tuerto appears once again as la torra torta . The two churches labelled  A and B, are Na Sr de los Remedios and San Juan Verde respectively. The area in front of the churches seems to be labelled Joan Plaza. The rest, I am afraid,  is illegible.



Detail on the lower section of the preliminary sketch of the entire Rock

This sketch shows part of the chapel in the Calahorra tower, as well as the coffin  in which the remains of the Don Enrique were laid to rest. The text reads as follows - La sepulcra donde estan Los ossos Dol Condo de neblos coberto do Brocado. Presumably this gold covering was ordered to be placed there by Don Juan de Guzman. Portillo, in fact, was of the opinion that the remains belonged to Don Juan himself.


Whatever the case it was obviously one of the main tourist attractions in 16th century Gibraltar. Unfortunatly they didn't last long there as in 1612 the bones were transferred to the church of Nuestra Senora de la Caridad in Sanlucar.

Probably at more or less the same time as he drew his picture of Gibraltar and its bay Wyngaerde also gave us a glimpse of what it looked like  from the other side. 


His viewpoint was Estepona and his interest was not the Rock but the sixty five kilometres of coast line from (A) = Inbelaltar - The Rock from the east, to  Q = La Torre Blanco - Punta Calburras. 

Here is the picture in sections.