The MARQ (Museo Arqueológico de Alicante) is hosting an exhibition dedicated to the last voyage of the Frigate Nuestra Señora de la Mercedes which was sunk by British forces just one day from port on her journey to Cádiz carrying a cargo of silver coins from South America to Spain.
The coinage from this vessel made international headline news over 200 years later when it became the subject of an acrimonious second battle, this time between the Spanish government and American treasure hunter, Odyssey, after Spanish Guardia Civil vessels chased an Odyssey vessel they believed to have been carrying the coinage, only to find that the treasure hunters had tricked them and shipped the coingae out from Gibraltar onto what they believed was the safety of American shores.
Initially claiming that the coinage had been found scattered across the seabed having come from a vessel they named the “Black Swan”and not the Mercedes, and denying that their target had been this vessel carrying millions of dollars worth of silver coinage, Odyssey fought a protracted judicial fight with the Spanish government to keep their booty. However, in 2012 the Spanish finally won the last battle of the vessel after having successfully proven that the coinage had in fact come from the Mercedes and was the property of the Spanish treasury, and the coinage, worth an estimated 500 million dollars, was returned to Spain.
Since then, this huge bulk of mainly silver pieces of eight has undergone a process of stabilisation and some pieces have been restored, although much of the bulk of the find still remains fused into sack-shaped lumps as it was recovered from the seabed.
The ARQUA museum in Cartagena, Murcia, holds a permanent collection of 30,000 coins and artifacts relating to the wreck (click to read an extensive report charting the recovery process of this coinage and the history behind the wreck) but a second part of the treasure is touring Spain after a successful exhibition in Madrid.
This exhibition shows some of the coins and artifacts recovered from the wreck and also analyses the war which this treasure was destined to fund at a critical moment for Spain as Napolean embarked on a series of conflicts to gain European domination. The exhibition concludes with a section dedicated to the 21st century battle between the Spanish government and Odyssey to decide the fate of the treasure.
The exhibition remains in situ until the 20th September 2015.
The exhibition can be visited in conjunction with the permanent exhibitions within the MARQ, which has an impressive collection of artifacts recovered during excavations in the Alicante Province, or there are also guided visits to the temporary exhibition ( in Spanish)
These take place from Tuesday to Friday at 11.30am and 5pm, on Saturdays at 11.30am, 12.30 midday, 5pm and 7pm, and on Sundays at 11.30am and 12 midday.
There is also a theatrical visit on Sundays at 12.30 midday( also in Spanish).
To book a guided tour call 965 149 006 between 9am and 3pm, Monday to Friday
There is a small entrance fee.
MARQ Museo Arqueológico de Alicante
Plaza Dr. Gómez Ulla, s/n. 03013 Alicante
Winter Opening times ( September to June)
Tuesday to Friday from 10am to 7pm
Saturdays from 10am to 8.30pm
Sundays from 10am to 2pm
Tel: 965 149 000
Photograph Copyright Murcia Today
Click for interesting info about another interesting exhibit in the permanent collection of the MARQ
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