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'Highly significant' Spanish Armada cannons discovered off coast of Ireland

'Highly significant' relics from the Spanish Armada have been found off the Irish coast Credit: PA

"Highly significant" relics from the Spanish Armada have been found off the coast of Ireland - thanks to a recent spell of bad weather.

Items from the merchant vessel La Juliana, which sank in 1588, have been washing up in sands off Streedagh in Co Sligo, since April.

It is believed that wreckage has begun to emerge as an unexpected side effect of severe winter storms over the last two years.

Now, rare cannons from the ship that are said to be in "excellent condition" have been discovered on the seabed.

One of the Spanish Armada cannons found on the seabed near Co Sligo Credit: PA

Archaeologists who have examined two of the guns said that one cannon bears a dedication to and depiction of St Matrona, a saint particularly venerated by the people of Catalonia and Barcelona.

It is also dated 1570, the year La Juliana was built, putting the identity of the ship beyond doubt, the Irish Government said.

We have uncovered a wealth of fascinating and highly significant material, which is more than 425 years old.

This material is obviously very historically and archaeologically significant.

– Heather Humphreys, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht
Severe storms are thought to be behind the recent emergence of the 445-year-old cannons Credit: PA

Recovery of the rest of the guns, relics and materials from the sandy seabed off Sligo is expected to last a number of weeks.

A security operation is also in place to safeguard the valuable shipwreck sites from treasure hunters.

Ireland's Spanish Armada relics:

  • More than 1,000 soldiers and mariners drowned in the area when two other vessels from the Armada - La Lavia and Santa Maria de Vision - sank in violent storms in September 1588
  • The vessels are believed to remain concealed and protected by layers of sand which did not shift in the recent storms
  • La Juliana traded between Spain and Italy until King Philip II commandeered it for the Armada fleet of 130 ships to invade England and take Queen Elizabeth I's throne
  • The vessel weighed 860 tonnes, carried 32 guns, 325 soldiers and had a crew of 70