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The Spanishmarker ship Santísima Trinidad (officially named Santísima Trinidad y Nuestra Señora del Buen Fin) was a first-rate ship of the line of 120 guns, which was increased in 1795-96 to 136 guns by closing in the spar deck between the quarter deck and forecastle, thus creating what was in effect a continuous fourth gundeck although the extra guns added were actually relatively small. She was the largest ship in the world when built.

Design & construction

She was built at Havanamarker, Cuba, to a design by Irishmarker naval architect Matthew Mullan and launched in 1769 as an 120-gun three-decker (some sources say 116 or 112 guns). She was considerably larger than her British contemporary Victorymarker and somewhat bigger than the French Bretagne.

Schematics of the layout of the Santísima Trinidad
There is no complete plan of the ship in existence, but there are of the 112-gun ship from 1765, which might be found the original dimensions of the ship : (the next dimension are in feet of Burgos (278,6 mm), and metres.)length = 213 2/3 (59,53), keel= 182 5/12 (50,82), beam= 57 3/4 (16,09), depth= 28 11/12 (8,06).

In 1795, her forecastle was joined to her quarterdeck to create a fourth deck containing a battery of eight pounder guns, giving her a total of 140 guns. Her armament seems to have been quickly reduced to 130 to 136 guns, but she still carried more guns than any other ship of her time. As the only ship with four gun decks, she was reputed to be the largest warship in the world, for which she was nicknamed El Escorialmarker de los mares by the Spanish, until surpassed in sheer size by the new type French 120-gun ships such as the Océan and Orient .

The weight of the additional guns, so high above her waterline, made her sail poorly, leading to her nickname, El Ponderoso. It was even suggested by some naval officers that she should be restricted to the defense of the Bay of Cádizmarker.

Santísima Trinidad remains famous as one of the few four-decker ships of the line ever built. The U.S. Navy constructed the four-deck, 136-gun , and the Royal Navy planned—but did not actually build—the four-deck Duke of Kent.


Figurehead of the Santisima Trinidad at berth in the harbour of Málaga
In July 1779, Spainmarker declared war on Great Britain, joining Francemarker in support of the American colonists in the American War of Independence. Santísima Trinidad became the flagship of the Spanish fleet, taking part in the Franco-Spanish operations in the English Channelmarker in the late summer of that year.

In August 1780 she took part in the capture of 55 ships from an English convoy of 63, escorted by the ship of the line HMS Ramillies and three frigates. In 1782 she was incorporated into the Mediterranean Squadron, participating in the second siege of Gibraltar and she fought in the brief and indecisive Battle of Cape Spartel. In 1795, she was modified by the addition of extra 8-pounder guns on a new deck between her forecastle and quarterdeck.

In 1797, she was the flagship of Teniente General José de Córdoba, the Spanishmarker commander, at Battle of Cape St Vincentmarker on 14 February 1797, where she was badly damaged and nearly captured by the British fleet. She was first in action with the British ship Captain (74), commanded by Commodore Nelson, and Culloden (74). She was then attacked by the Blenheim (90), Orion (74), Irresistible (74) and Excellent (74). By now she was severely damaged, having lost all her masts and with half of her crew killed or wounded. She struck her colours, but the British failed to take possession and she was saved by the Pelayo (74) and Principe de Asturias (112). Several days later, Santísima Trinidad was spotted, still damaged, making her way back to Spain, and engaged by the 32-gun frigate under Captain Richard Bowen, but she escaped. She eventually returned to Cadizmarker for repairs.

Eight years later, commanded by Francisco Javier Uriarte and Rear Admiral Baltasar Hidalgo de Cisneros, she took part in the Battle of Trafalgarmarker on October 21 1805, as part of the combined Franco-Spanish fleet. Due to her great bulk, her helm was unresponsive in the light winds of the day, contributing to her ineffective service of the combined fleet's cause. Her great size and position immediately ahead of the fleet flagship Bucentaure made her a target for the British fleet, and she came under concentrated attack by several ships. She lost her mast and eventually surrendered to the Neptune, commanded by Captain Thomas Fremantle. She was taken in tow by the Prince, but sank in a storm the day after the battle having been scuttled by her British captors.


A full-size replica model of the Santísima Trinidad can be seen and visited in the harbour of Málagamarker, in Spain.

A non-profit non-governmental Canadian association, the Friends of Santísima Trinidad[178232], is assisting the Office of the Historian of the City of Havanamarker, Cubamarker with the construction of a new 1:25 four-metre-long scale model of La Santísima Trinidad. Interior construction details will be exposed on one side of the vessel, and visitors will be able to use a computer interface and touch screen to take a virtual tour of the ship in Spanish, English, and French. The model will be displayed in the Naval Museum of La Habana, opened in June 2008 at Castillo de la Real Fuerzamarker, the oldest building in Cuba and the oldest stone fortress in the New World.

Not to be confused with


Sources & references

  1. For exact figures, and those in the General characteristics frame, see: José Cayuela Fernandez, Trafalgar, hombres y naves entre dos épocas: Ariel (2004)
  2. El Ponderoso, the ponderous is a pun on el poderoso, the mighty.
  3. Harbron, John: Trafalgar and the Spanish Navy. Conway Maritime Press, 1988, page 84. ISBN 0851774776
  4. Fremont-Barnes, Gregory and Hook, Christa: Trafalgar 1805: Nelson's crowning victory. Osprey Publishing, 2005, page 23. ISBN 1841768928
  5. Fremont-Barnes and Hook, page 81
  6. barco restaurante-barco discoteca-santisimatrinidad-puerto malaga
  • John D. Harbron Trafalgar and the Spanish Navy (1988) ISBN 0870216953
  • José Cayuela Fernandez - Trafalgar, hombres y naves entre dos épocas - Ariel (Barcelona) 2004 ISBN 84344676070
(ref) Amigos del Santisima Trinidad

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