a 700-year journey through the origins of gunpowder

a 700-year journey through the origins of gunpowder
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The origin of gunpowder in Spain, whose use is commemorated for 700 years, is closely linked to Granada, where in 1324 it was used for the first time to conquer the castle of Huéscar by the Nasrid dynasty, which it subsequently moved to the foot of the Alhambra its particular factory, origin of the still active munitions factory of El Fargue, considered the oldest in Europe.

The anniversary, which will be commemorated this year by a commission formed by the Association of Friends of the Granada Gunpowder Factory, the management of the factory and the Defense Subdelegation, has unique milestones that find their origin on that July 14, 1324 As reported to Efe Joaquín Alastrué, president of the aforementioned association of friends, the first reliable news comes from the contemporary historian Ibn al-Jatib, who described what happened in the siege of Huéscar, then defended by the Knights of Santiago.

The emir Ismail I of Granada surrounded the square supported by the Benimerines, who brought “an imposing device that worked with the help of gasoline,” reported Ibn al-Jatib in what is considered the “first written news about the use of pyroballistics.” in the peninsula and perhaps in Europe”. After the surrender of the square, four days later, Ismail I decided to create a city near the place where the fortress was, hence the Granada municipality of Huéscar also commemorates the 700 years of its foundation on July 18.

The Alhambra, a powder keg

“Although at the beginning black gunpowder was made by hand in mortars in the Real (camp) itself, the fulling mills (fabric mills) were soon adapted and later specific mills for gunpowder were devised. And because it is a strategic asset, the Nasrids installed their mill or factory at the foot of the Alhambra, near the so-called Cadí Bridge,” says Alastrué, author of the book Inventing gunpowder, manufacturing gunpowder. El Fargue and the Granada Factory (2016). And there the Catholic Monarchs found it when they entered Granada in 1492: The defense of Granada was organized by the Count of Tendilla around the fortress of the Alhambra, and both the troops and the production, storage and distribution of gunpowder depended on the Governor. of the palatine city until 1857, when it was still thought to use the of Charles V as a powder magazine.

The factory at the foot of the Alhambra produced the “good gunpowder of Granada”, as defined by the Council of the Indies, both for the Race of the Indies and for the defense of the Kingdom of Granada. But an intentional explosion in 1590 destroyed the factory, devastated the Albaicín and caused damage of more than 6,000 maravedíes in the Alhambra itself, according to Alastrué.


For this reason, in 1624 the factory moved to the Granada neighborhood of El Fargue, where gunpowder continues to be manufactured, as well as missiles, charges for deactivating explosives and projectiles for tanks, among other materials. Hence, as heir to those powder makers who made gunpowder by hand in El Real, it is also considered that the El Fargue factory will turn 700 years old on July 14.

From King Alfonso XIII to Eva Perón

According to Alastrué, the period of the late 19th century and early 20th century was perhaps the factory’s greatest social projection, “because the transition from black powder to smokeless or nitrocellulose powder required a very significant technical and personal effort. “They were totally different technologies.” King Alfonso Smokeless gunpowder.

Nursery schools for both boys and girls and another for apprentices were also created at that time to qualify the necessary personnel (powderers, mechanics or draftsmen).

At that time the factory was visited by numerous delegations, among others one from the then exotic Japan, and participated in several international exhibitions, such as the engineering exhibition in Madrid in 1919, the Ibero-American exhibition in Seville or the international exhibition in , ​​both in 1924.

But perhaps the most unique and well-known visit was the one Eva Perón made in 1947 as part of a tour of Spain that took her to Granada and, once there, to the remote neighborhood of El Fargue to meet with the workers, who gave her gifts, According to the chronicles of the time, with a white mantilla in an inlaid box and a plate with the coats of arms of Spain and Argentina.



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