Rafael Monleón y Torres, National Library of Spain

The galleon is a sailing vessel used since the early 16th century. Galleons were powerful and very slow warships which could equally be used for trade or war. In the mid-16th century, they became the main trading ships of European countries, and later types of small warships were based on their design.

The galleon was a large vessel, slimmer than a nao, with three masts, a smaller forecastle and a higher aftercastle. Galleons served as merchantmen or warships and carried artillery on one or two decks. In capacity they ranged from 300 to 600 tons. Because of their cargo capacity and their ability to defend themselves, they became the main vessels used in the West Indies Trade Route from the end of the 16th century until the beginning of the 18th century.

Image: Rafael Monleón y Torres, National Library of Spain

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