‘Arcas de caudales’, the safes of the Spanish Imperial Era

‘Arcas de caudales’, the safes of the Spanish Imperial Era

The National Sculpture Museum of Valladolid and the Casa de Contratación in Seville exhibit two chests from the mid-16th century. They are characterized by their imposing structure, which was forged with iron, which gives it an impenetrable appearance.

The coffers of flows

In the Middle Ages they were used to insure the goods that traveled roads quite dangerous.

Sometimes, these medieval chests were covered with engraved ornaments. An example of this is the treasure chest that houses the National Sculpture Museum of Valladolid. This compartment has a quite complex scene, in which two musicians stand out, the fife and a drummer.

The figure is inspired by the procession of Maximilian I recorded by Dürer. These aspects confirm that the box represented imperial power.

Historians maintain that these "safes" carried important documentation, delicate silks from Granada, swords from Toledo, linen from Portugal and even precious stones. However, it is not ruled out that they were used to transport other elements of which there is no record and that have been important for the time, such as plans of some subversion. The box stored and protected them with a complex system of springs, crossbows and latches.

With the materials revolution in the mid 1400s in Nuremberg, the city of metallurgy, there is a significant improvement in the manufacture of safes. The Germans made these compartments with iron, which gave them greater strength and added complicated gears that could only be unlocked with the turn of a single key.

Today's safes have lever-resistant hinges and are made of steel, so remain a guarantee of safety. In the same way, they have up to more than 50 liters of storage, so really important documentation can be kept. For all this, even after several centuries, they are a symbol of security spread throughout the world.

It did not take long for the iron chests to replace the coffers and treasury chests. which were, for a long time, the boxes of choice for storing valuable objects. These chests, which emerged in Germany, displaced their competitors because they had more sophisticated locks.

Both chests are the “ancestors” of today's safes and are considered pioneers due to their complicated latches and bolts, which were a strong security system for medieval times.

According to historians, the treasury coffers of the Museum of Valladolid and the Archive of the Indies in Seville were possibly bought in Germany in the 16th century and are a symbol of the evolution and technological advancement of that era. For this reason, they keep an important historical value. They are the closest antecedents that inspired the creation of the most recent safes, made of stainless steel.

Image: Pixabay


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