The Archivo de Indias is said to contain some four million antique documents, including letters exchanged between patron Queen Isabella and explorer Columbus (he detailing his discoveries and impressions). These documents are locked in air-conditioned storage to keep them from disintegrating. Special permission has to be acquired before examining some of them. Displayed in glass cases are other fascinating documents in which the dreams of the early explorers come alive.
Juan de Herrera, the great architect of Philip II's El Escorial, designed the building. It is next to the cathedral and was originally the Lonja (Stock Exchange). Construction on the Archivo de Indias lasted from 1584 to 1646. In the 17th century it headquartered the Academy of Seville, which was founded in part by the great Spanish artist Murillo. In 1785, during the reign of Charles III, the building became a general records office for the Indies.