Ritter Johann von Österreich’s Real
Ritter Johann von Österreich, aka Don Juan de Austria, in English John of Austria, an illegitimate son of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, had this gem built here, in the Barcelona Drassanes shipyards. With its 60 meters lenght, the Real was the largest galley of its time, and Don Juan’s flagship in the battle of Lepanto, in 1571, when a fleet of the Holy League, an alliance of Christian powers of the Mediterranean, decisively defeated an Ottoman fleet under Grand Admiral Müezzinzade Ali Pasha.
In 1971, to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the battle, a replica of La Real was built and displayed in the Museu Marítim in Barcelona where it can be viewed today. The ship was 60 m long and 6.2 m wide, had two masts, and weighed 237 tons empty. It was equipped with three heavy and six light artillery pieces, was propelled by a total of 290 rowers and, in addition, carried some 400 sailors and soldiers at Lepanto. 50 men were posted on the upper deck of the forecastle, 50 on the midships ramp, another 50 each along the sides at the bow, 50 each on the skiff and oven platforms, 50 on the firing steps along the sides near the stern, and 50 more on the stern platform behind the huge battle flag. To help move and maneuvre the huge ship, it was pushed from the rear during the battle by two other galleys.
Befitting a royal flagship, it was luxuriously ornamented and painted in the red and gold colors of Spain. Its poop was elaborately carved and painted with numerous sculptures, bas-reliefs, paintings and other embellishments, most of them evoking religious and humanistic inspirational themes.