A 16th-century cannon that is believed to have been aboard one of the ships sent by King Philip II of Spain to fight the English as part of the Second Armada of 1596, has been recovered, after it was looted from the sea floor a day after it had been discovered.
The 425-year-old bronze cannon was among three that were discovered by shellfish gatherers in Punta de Espineirido in the province of La Coruña in Galicia on 14th April, according to a press release by the Spanish Civil Guard on the 5th May.
The Xunta de Galicia organised the retrieval of the cannons with a specialist unit of the Spanish Navy only to find that one of the three was no longer there.
Agents from the Spanish Civil Guard managed to identify the suspects who were spotted moving the 16th-century cannon by using local camera footage from the region.
The security footage led to the detention of five men and two women, who have not been named and now face charges for crimes against national heritage.
The stolen cannon has been recovered and moved to the Museo do Mar in Vigo.
The report said: “It is suspected that the despoliation was done as a personal treat for one of the people that was investigated, who thought the cannon would be a good decorative piece.”
The Civil Guard statement continued that : “[The cannon’s] biggest importance is in the historical and archaeological information it gives, which is lost when the piece is removed from its context and location, often irreparably damaging the sub-aquatic bed where it was found.”
Further testing will help confirm the age and origin of the historical items, but experts believe the bronze cannons were aboard one of the ships of Philip II’s second armada which had been lost in the storm that hit the fleet.
The report said: “They will try to put back together the ‘puzzle’ of where the cannon came from along with the other two that were found initially, which will surely provide information of great historical value.”
Phillip had amassed an armada for a surprise winter attack on England, but before the fleet of over 100 ships, had left Spanish waters, it was shattered by a storm off Cape Finisterre causing the loss of over 5,000 men and 40 ships.
The Second Armada was one of three that formed part of Philip´s offensive angainst Protestant Elizabethan England during the Anglo-Spanish War of 1585–1604.
The war had seen the deeply devout Philip II,take arms as the Catholic defender of Europe against the Protestant Reformation with the strategic aim of defeating Protestant England and overthrowing Elizabeth I – his former sister-in-law through his earlier marriage to her half-sister, Mary I.
The first and much larger armada of 1588 had also foundered on bad weather as well as English resistance.
Despite the two setbacks – and enraged by English attacks on Spain, most notably Sir Francis Drake´s capture of Cadiz in 1596, Phillip insisted on a third attempt to defeat England and the following year he assembled a new fleet.
The third armada proved no more successful than the first two, with most ships sunk or captured by a combination of storms and the English navy.
The war concluded following the death of both Philip, in 1598, and his arch nemesis Elizabeth, in 1603, with the Treaty of London in 1604.