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Real Audiencia of Chile

The Real Audiencia of Chile were two Spanish, colonial-era government courts of appeals with regional political authority under the administrative oversight by the Viceroy of Peru. The first one was installed in 1565 at the city of Concepcion in Chile, but abolished in 1575. Immediately, the residents of Chile began to ask for the reinstitution of a court, which was approved in 1605. This second audiencia began holding sessions on September 8, 1609 in Santiago, under the presidency of Governor and Captain General Alonso Garcia de Ramon.

Real Audiencia of Concepcion

Before 1565, the highest court of Chile was the justicia mayor, whose sentences were appealed before the Real Audiencia of Lima. In 1560, on the initiative of the local authorities the creation of an Audiencia for Chile began, formalizing this request with the president of the Audiencia of Lima. It was argued that it would serve to control the actions of the governors, improve the collection revenue for the Real Hacienda or Royal Treasury and hasten the end of the Arauco War.

King Phillip II, in 1565, decided to create a Real Audiencia in Chile, his decrees being sent on May 18th. There were four oidores, one of them being president and a fiscal or public prosecutor, and having related subordinate officials like a alguacil mayor (greater bailiff) and his lieutenants, notary publics, an interpreter, a chaplain and a doorman.

On occasion the Oidores of the Real Audiencia assumed control of the government when the position of governor of Chile was vacant. Various problems in their operations caused it to be dissolved, by the Royal cedula of August 26,1573, that took effect on June 25, 1575, a month after it received the notification. After it was dissolved the judicial functions of the Audiencia were entrusted to the lieutenant governor and Capitan General of Chile.

Real Audiencia de Santiago


Law XII (Audiencia y Chancilleria Real de Santiago de Chile) of Title XV (De las Audiencias y Chancillerias Reales de las Indias) of Book II of the Recopilacion de Leyes de las Indias of 1680which reproduces Philip IV's decree of February 17, 1609describes the limits and functions of the Audiencia.

In the city of Santiago de Chile shall reside another Royal Audiencia and Chancellery of ours, with a president-governor-captain general; four judges of civil cases [oidores], who shall also be judges of criminal cases [alcaldes del crimen]; a crown attorney [fiscal]; a bailiff [alguacil mayor]; a lieutenant of the Gran Chancellor; and the other necessary ministers and officials, which will have for district all of said Kingdom of Chile, with the cities, towns, places and lands, which are included in the government of those provinces, including what is now pacified and populated, as well as what shall be subdued, populated and pacified inside and outside the Straits of Magellan and inland to the Province of Cuyo, inclusive. And we order that said president-governor-captain general govern and administer its government (gobernacion) in all matters and by all means, and that said Audiencia, nor any other minister interfere in this, except our Viceroy of Peru, in the cases, which comply with the laws in this book and as permitted by our orders, and that said president do not intervene in matters of justice, and leave the oidores to decree in them freely, and that all sign that which they decree, sentence or dispatch.

The Province of Cuyo was transferred to the Audiencia of Buenos Aires, when the Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata was created in the late eighteenth century.


The Audiencia continued to function after the establishment of the First Government Junta of the Kingdom of Chile on September 18, 1810, until the Figueroa mutiny of April 1, 1811. In fact, its Regent, Fernando Marquez de la Plata, was elected as one of the junta's members. The Figueroa uprising provided a reason to dissolve the Audiencia, seen by many as a bastion of royalism, and it was replaced by a Tribunal de Apelaciones or Appeals Court.

With the temporary return of royalists to power after the Battle of Rancagua, the body was reconstituted by the new Governor-Captain General, Mariano Osorio. It functioned until 1818, when it was finally shut down by the independent government of Bernardo O'Higgins, again replaced by a new appeals court, this time called the Camara de Apelaciones. This was in turn the ancestor of today's Chilean Appeals Court in Santiago.


Barrientos Grandon, Javier (1992): Las reformas de Carlos III y la Real Audiencia de Santiago, en Temas de Derecho de la Universidad Gabriela Mistral, N 2. p. 23-46

Barrientos Grandon, Javier (1993): La Real Audiencia de Concepcion (1565-1575), en Revista de estudios historico-juridicos de la Universidad Catolica de Valparaiso, vol. 1992-1993, N 15. p. 131-178

Barrientos Grandon, Javier (2000), La Real Audiencia de Chile. La institucion y sus hombres 1605-1817, Madrid: Fundacion Historica Tavera. CD-ROM, Nuevas Aportaciones a la Historia Juridica de Iberoamerica.

Barrientos Grandon, Javier (2003): La creacion de la Real Audiencia de Santiago de Chile y sus ministros fundadores: Sobre la formacion de familias en la judicatura chilena, en Revista de estudios historico-juridicos de la Universidad Catolica de Valparaiso, N 25. p.233-338

Munoz Feliu, Raul (1937), La real audiencia de Chile, Santiago de Chile. Tesis de licenciatura.

Valenzuela, Jaime (1998): Conflicto y equilibrios simbolicos ante un nuevo actor politico: la Real Audiencia en Santiago desde 1609, en Cuadernos de Historia de la Universidad de Chile, N 18. p. 115-138

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