Tibúrcio Spannocchi

Last updated
Tiburzio Spannocchi
Born 1541
Died 1609
Nationality Siennese, Spanish
Occupation Military Engineer
Known for Chief engineer to Philip III of Spain

Tiburzio Spannocchi (1541–1609) (also Spanucchi, Spanochi, Spanoqui, Hispanochi etc.) was "king's engineer" to Philip II of Spain and subsequently to Philip III of Spain. He was named "Chief Engineer" in 1601. [1]

Philip II of Spain King of Spain who became King of England by marriage to Queen Mary I

Philip II was King of Spain (1556–98), King of Portugal, King of Naples and Sicily, and jure uxoris King of England and Ireland. He was also Duke of Milan. From 1555 he was lord of the Seventeen Provinces of the Netherlands.

Philip III of Spain King of Castile and León and King of Aragon and Portugal [[Plantengent Capet Valios Berry]]

Philip III was King of Spain. He was also, as Philip II, King of Portugal, Naples, Sicily and Sardinia and Duke of Milan from 1598 until his death.



Drawing for a Fort at the Mouth of the Strait of Magellan by Tiburcio Spanoqui circa 1584 Drawing for a Fort at the Mouth of the Strait of Magellan by Tiburcio Spanoqui circa 1584.png
Drawing for a Fort at the Mouth of the Strait of Magellan by Tiburcio Spanoqui circa 1584

Tiburzio Spannocchi was an engineer from Siena. [2] [lower-alpha 1] He was born in 1541. [1] He came from a noble Tuscan family, and served the Papal States in the fleet commanded by Marcantonio Colonna. In 1575 he was sent to Sicily as a Viceroy.[ citation needed ] Spannocchi entered the service of the King of Spain around 1580. [4]

Siena Comune in Tuscany, Italy

Siena is a city in Tuscany, Italy. It is the capital of the province of Siena.

Papal States territories in the Appenine Peninsula under the sovereign direct rule of the pope between 752–1870

The Papal States, officially the State of the Church, were a series of territories in the Italian Peninsula under the direct sovereign rule of the Pope, from the 8th century until 1870. They were among the major states of Italy from roughly the 8th century until the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia unified the Italian Peninsula by conquest in a campaign virtually concluded in 1861 and definitively in 1870. At their zenith, the Papal States covered most of the modern Italian regions of Lazio, Marche, Umbria and Romagna, and portions of Emilia. These holdings were considered to be a manifestation of the temporal power of the pope, as opposed to his ecclesiastical primacy.

Marcantonio Colonna Italian admiral

Marcantonio II Colonna, Duke of Tagliacozzo and Duke and Prince of Paliano, was an Italian aristocrat who served as a Viceroy of Sicily in the service of the Spanish Crown, Spanish general, and Captain General of the Church. He is best remembered for his part as the admiral of the Papal fleet in the Battle of Lepanto.

Engineering works

Spannocchi became involved in a project to control the Strait of Magellan. [4] Two forts were to be placed on either side of the start of the first narrows ( Primera Angostura ) on the Punta Anegada and Punta Delgada, creating an impregnable position. [2] A chain could be slung between the two forts to prevent any ships from passing. [5] Experts agreed that the bastions were extremely efficient in their design. [5] However, the project was abandoned when it was realized that many ships would simply bypass the Strait by sailing round Cape Horn. [4]

Strait of Magellan body of water in Chile connecting Atlantic and Pacific Oceans

The Strait of Magellan, also called the Straits of Magellan, is a navigable sea route in southern Chile separating mainland South America to the north and Tierra del Fuego to the south. The strait is the most important natural passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Primera Angostura

Primera Angostura is a sound of the Strait of Magellan in the Chilean region of Magallanes. It is located near Punta Delgada.

Cape Horn Headland of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago located in Chile

Cape Horn is the southernmost headland of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago of southern Chile, and is located on the small Hornos Island. Although not the most southerly point of South America, Cape Horn marks the northern boundary of the Drake Passage and marks where the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans meet.

Spannocchi worked at Havana between 1586 and 1587, and may have worked at San Juan and Cartagena. [4] In 1588 Spannocchi approved plans for the forts of El Morro and La Punta at Havana, Cuba as senior engineer to King Philip II. [6] Philip II had commissioned the engineer Giovan Giacomo Paleari Fratino to strengthen the Fortifications of Gibraltar. Fratino proposed to destroy the work done on a wall started by his predecessor, Giovanni Battista Calvi, but Spannocchi refused to stop work on the zigzag wall, which was eventually finished in 1599, and is the upper portion of what is now called the Charles V Wall. [7]

Havana Capital city in La Habana, Cuba

Havana is the capital city, largest city, province, major port, and leading commercial center of Cuba. The city has a population of 2.1 million inhabitants, and it spans a total of 781.58 km2 (301.77 sq mi) – making it the largest city by area, the most populous city, and the fourth largest metropolitan area in the Caribbean region.

San Juan, Puerto Rico Municipality in Puerto Rico, United States

San Juan is the capital and most populous municipality in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, an unincorporated territory of the United States. As of the 2010 census, it is the 46th-largest city under the jurisdiction of the United States, with a population of 395,326. San Juan was founded by Spanish colonists in 1521, who called it Ciudad de Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico's capital is the third oldest European-established capital city in the Americas, after Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic, founded in 1496 and Panama City, in Panama, founded in 1519. Several historical buildings are located in San Juan; among the most notable are the city's former defensive forts, Fort San Felipe del Morro and Fort San Cristóbal, and La Fortaleza, the oldest executive mansion in continuous use in the Americas.

Cartagena, Colombia City in Bolívar, Colombia

The city of Cartagena, known in the colonial era as Cartagena de Indias, is a major port founded in 1533, located on the northern coast of Colombia in the Caribbean Coast Region. It was strategically located between the Magdalena and Sinú rivers and became the main port for trade between Spain and its overseas empire, establishing its importance by the early 1540s. During the colonial era it was a key port for the export of Peruvian silver to Spain and for the import of enslaved Africans under the asiento system. It was defensible against pirate attacks in the Caribbean. It is the capital of the Bolívar Department, and had a population 971,592 as of 2016. It is the fifth-largest city in Colombia and the second largest in the region, after Barranquilla. The urban area of Cartagena is also the fifth-largest urban area in the country. Economic activities include the maritime and petrochemicals industries, as well as tourism.

La Aljaferia, Zaragoza Aljaferia 59.JPG
La Aljafería, Zaragoza

Spannocchi undertook various works on the citadel of Aljafería in Zaragoza for which Philip II himself had traced the drawing. [3] Philip II gave him a commission to fortify the palace and transform it into a citadel. He executed the work in 1593, building the fortress of bricks and mortar with cornerstones, and surrounding it by a moat. The two doors were elaborately decorated. After these changes, the Aljafería was used as a military installation until the middle of the 20th century. [8]

Aljafería cultural property in Zaragoza, Spain

The Aljafería Palace is a fortified medieval Islamic palace built during the second half of the 11th century in the Taifa of Zaragoza of Al-Andalus, present day Zaragoza, Aragon, Spain. It was the residence of the Banu Hud dynasty during the era of Abu Jaffar Al-Muqtadir after abolishing Banu Tujibi of Kindah dynasty. The palace reflects the splendour attained by the kingdom of the taifa of Zaragoza at the height of its grandeur. The palace currently contains the Cortes of the autonomous community of Aragon.

Zaragoza Place in Aragon, Spain

Zaragoza is the capital city of the Zaragoza province and of the autonomous community of Aragon, Spain. It lies by the Ebro river and its tributaries, the Huerva and the Gállego, roughly in the center of both Aragon and the Ebro basin.

A wall of the Citadel of Jaca Jaca - Ciudadela 07.jpg
A wall of the Citadel of Jaca

Later Spannocchi's main energy went into mapping sites in the Pyrenees along the frontier between Spain and France, during a period of mounting tension between the two countries. [4] The citadel of Jaca was built in the shape of a pentagon under his direction. [9] In 1598 he advocated construction of a small fort to guard the entrance to the port of Pasaia, but planning did not start until 1620. [10] At the start of the 17th century, Spannochi and Jerónimo de Soto were involved in construction of the palace of La Ventosilla in Burgos, including a supply of running water and other features that would contribute to greater comfort. [11]

Pyrenees Range of mountains in southwest Europe

The Pyrenees is a range of mountains in southwest Europe that forms a natural border between Spain and France. Reaching a height of 3,404 metres (11,168 ft) altitude at the peak of Aneto, the range separates the Iberian Peninsula from the rest of continental Europe, and extends for about 491 km (305 mi) from the Bay of Biscay to the Mediterranean Sea.

Citadel type of fortress protecting a town and naval term for a safe room

A citadel is the core fortified area of a town or city. It may be a castle, fortress, or fortified center. The term is a diminutive of "city" and thus means "little city", so called because it is a smaller part of the city of which it is the defensive core. Ancient Sparta had a citadel as did many other Greek cities and towns.

Jaca Place in Aragon, Spain

Jaca is a city of northeastern Spain in the province of Huesca, located near the Pyrenees and the border with France. Jaca is an ancient fort on the Aragón River, situated at the crossing of two great early medieval routes, one from Pau to Zaragoza. Jaca was the city out of which the County and Kingdom of Aragon developed. It was the capital of Aragon until 1097 and also the capital of Jacetania.

Spannocchi designed the nine-sided Fortaleza da Lage de São Francisco that defended Recife from the seas, and the Forte do Mar de São Marcelo that defended Salvador da Bahia. The plans for these two forts were sent to Brazil in May 1606. [12] Tibúrcio Spannocchi died in 1609. [1]


In 1582 Spannocchi and Juan de Herrera founded the Department of Mathematical Military Architecture under the patronage of Philip II, an important school for training military engineers and architects. [13] Jerónimo de Soto was one of Spannocchi's disciples. [14] Another of his pupils was Cristóbal de Rojas, known for working as an assistant to Juan de Herrera in the construction of the monastery of El Escorial. Rojas worked as Spannocchi's deputy and became especially interested in military architecture, undertaking major works in Spain and North Africa. Rojas was the author of Teórica y práctica de la fortificación ("Theory and practice of fortification"), published in 1598, the first book on the science of fortification published in Spain. It was essentially a compendium of lessons from the Madrid Academy of Mathematics. The text highlights the influence of the Italian School's polygonal and radio-concentric theories. [15]

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  1. Another source says Tibúrcio Espannochi was originally from Naples. [3]


  1. 1 2 3 Alarcón Pérez 2011, p. 28.
  2. 1 2 Ortega 2011, p. 224.
  3. 1 2 Mignet & Pérez 1881, p. 307.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 Reinhartz & Saxon 2005, p. 47.
  5. 1 2 Ortega 2011, p. 225.
  6. Marley 2008, p. 132.
  7. Chipulina 2012.
  8. Drawing of the Aljaferia...
  9. Hidalgo, Hidalgo & Piera 1864, p. 58.
  10. St. Elizabeth's castle.
  11. Varea 2007, p. 140.
  12. Bethell 1984, p. 749.
  13. Cámara Muñoz 1998, p. 102.
  14. Losada Varea 2007, p. 268.
  15. González 2009, p. 63.