Facts about Christopher Columbus
An Italian explorer in the service of the Spanish Crown
Christopher Columbus, the traveler and sailor, was very passionate about sea voyages. The opportunity to explore the distant, unknown world was the guiding principle of his life and he devoted himself to it. Guided mainly by intuition, he made significant discoveries, and although it is believed that he was not aware of these achievements, his diaries prove otherwise.
1Christopher Columbus was an Italian sailor, voyager, and navigator. He was also a member of the Third Order of Saint Francis.
A Franciscan Tertiary is a member of the Secular Franciscan Order, a Catholic international public association whose members participate in the spirit of the Franciscan Order. They live an apostolic life and strive for Christian perfection under the guidance of the order. St. Francis of Assisi is considered the inspirer and founder of this order.
2He was probably born in Genoa in the year 1451.
There is no unanimity among historians about the origin of Columbus - several theories about it have been made. The most probable one gives Genoa as his birthplace, where he was born between August 25 and October 31, 1451. He was the son of a Genoese weaver and small merchant, Domenico Colombo. As a young man, he began to work in the banking house of the Centurioni and, in connection with his profession, began to sail for trade.
3In 1476 he took part in an expedition of Genoese merchant ships to Lisbon and Flanders.
During this expedition, near Cape St. Vincent, a fleet of Franco-Portuguese attacked a Genoese convoy and wrecked it. Columbus miraculously survived and as a castaway landed near Lagos, from where he traveled to Lisbon a few weeks later. There he began working in the Lisbon branch of the Centurioni Bank.
4As part of his work duties, he began his first oceanic trading voyages to England, Madeira and Guinea.
Soon he married Felipa Perestrello de Moniz, the daughter of the former governor of Porto Santo, an island near Madeira. A year later, their son, Diego Colon was born. Unfortunately, Felipa died five years later.
5As a widower, Columbus met Beatriz Enriquez in Spain, whom he never married but left her a large portion of his fortune.
They formed a good relationship, Beatriz treated Diego as her own son and soon after, in 1488, she bore Columbus a second son - Ferdinand. Both sons were very supportive of Columbus when his reputation as an explorer was damaged - they helped to rebuild it.
6While acquiring a maritime practice, Columbus simultaneously educated himself by reading the writings of ancient and classical writers Strabo, Seneca, and Aristotle, as well as his humanist contemporaries.
Imago Mundi by Pierre d'Ailly's and famous map of the Florentine astronomer Toscanelli had a great influence on shaping Columbus' view of the world. He was impressed by the stories of the distant sea voyages of Portuguese and Basque sailors who reached the fishing grounds of Newfoundland and even the shores of North America.
7Based on the information he gathered, Columbus was convinced that by traveling west, one could reach Asia.
However, the geographical knowledge of the time was not very extensive, and he was confident that it would only take a few days to reach distant lands - he had no real idea of the size of the globe.
8Columbus tried to convince King John II of Portugal to his ideas, but he sent him back to his advisors, who rejected his plan.
Confronted with this, Columbus moved to Spain in 1485, where his ideas were heard by the royal court. They could not be implemented until Spain dealt with the Reconquista (the struggle of the Christians to expel the Moors from the Iberian Peninsula) in 1492.
9Isabella I of Castile allowed Columbus to organize an expedition to sail under the flag of the Spanish crown.
The expedition was financed partly by the court and partly by the Pinzon merchant family. Columbus was promised the hereditary title of Grand Admiral, viceroy of the discovered lands, and a tenth of the profits.
10In May 1492, Columbus arrived at the port of Palos in Andalusia, where the town provided him with two caravels: Niña and Pinta, and leased a larger ship, the caravel "Santa Maria," as his flagship.
On August 3, 1492, the three ships set sail with a crew of about 90 men and, after a brief stopover at Las Palmas in the Canary Islands, set course westward. Columbus' first expedition had begun.
11After sailing for more than two months, one of the sailors spotted land. The ships probably reached Watling Island (San Salvador), Bahamas.
The sailors noticed gold jewellery among the natives. When asked about the origin of the jewellery, the native tribesmen directed the sailors south. Columbus took a new course to the southwest and discovered Cuba on October 28, 1492, and Haiti on December 6, which he chose as his quarters.
12When the Santa Maria was wrecked and Columbus lost contact with the Pinta in a storm, he decided to use the only surviving ship, the Niña, to bring news of the discovery of a route to America to the royal court.
He left part of the crew, 43 volunteers, at the fortress of Navidad on Hispaniola and set sail for Spain with the rest of the crew. After arriving in the port of Palos, he proceeded to Barcelona to visit the royal court.
13Columbus' return caused a great stir. He was welcomed by thousands of people, especially since he brought gold and colorful ara parrots as a gift for the king.
In a conversation with the royal couple, Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile, Columbus spoke of the riches that would accrue to Spain if a voyage of discovery continued. The result of these illuminating visions was Columbus' second expedition.
14Columbus' second expedition took place between 1493 and 1494.
It was organized very quickly. While it was difficult to recruit 90 crew members for the first expedition, a selection had to be made because so many people wanted to come on the second one. Eventually, 1500-2500 people were selected and sailed on 15-17 ships (there is no reliable data on the number of people and ships). Among the selected crew were missionaries who wanted to evangelize the inhabitants of the discovered lands.
15On his second expedition, Columbus chose a more southerly route.
He sailed to the Lesser Antilles, discovered Dominica, Marie-Galante, Guadeloupe, Antigua, and Puerto Rico. He sailed again to Haiti, only to find that none of the first expedition crew survived. They died at the hands of the natives. Sailing along the southern coast of Cuba, he discovered Jamaica.
16The crew, exhausted by the hardships of the expedition, the high-handed and ruthless behavior of the captain, and disappointed by the absence of the promised riches, began to rebel.
Some broke away from the expedition and searched for treasure on their own, while others returned to Spain with many complaints against Columbus. These complaints were joined by the sailor's opponents, who demanded that the privileges granted to him be revoked. Columbus had no choice in this situation and returned to the country. He succeeded in clearing himself of all charges before the king, obtained confirmation of all the privileges granted to him, and the assurance of a third expedition.
17He had to wait some time before organizing the third expedition (1498-1500), as it was difficult for him to regain the lost confidence of the people.
He set out for the west with six ships. Three of them he immediately sent back to Haiti, with the others he sailed to the southwest hoping to find the Asian continent.
18He traveled to the American mainland and reached the coast south of the mouth of the Orinoco.
Continuing along the coast in a westerly direction, the expedition discovered Trinidad. He then returned to Haiti, where in the meantime, the first permanent Spanish settlement had been established at West Indies, Santo Domingo. Relations in this Spanish community, however, did not go well. Columbus was accused of favoring his people, especially his son Diego. The expected economic benefits of the expedition were still not forthcoming, and reports to the Crown against Columbus began again.
19This time the king responded decisively, sending Francisco Fernandez de Bobadilla west, equipped with far-reaching powers.
Upon arriving in Haiti, Bobadilla had Columbus and his son Diego arrested and sent back to Spain in chains. Once there, Columbus exonerated himself again before the king, returned to favor with the royal couple, and was promised a fourth expedition.
20The fourth expedition took place between 1502 and 1504 and was Columbus' last voyage to America.
This time he set out with a flotilla of four ships and a crew of 150. He set out to the west because he believed that this route was shorter, more convenient and safer. He intended to find a way to India, so he headed west from Cuba and soon reached the coast of Honduras and the Mosquito Coast in eastern Nicaragua.
21From Nicaraguan tribesmen he learned of the "rich kingdoms" of the - Mayan and possibly Inca civilizations and of the "great sea" (Pacific Ocean) farther west.
However, he was unable to find a water passage to this body of water. After losing two of his four ships, he gave up and sailed to Jamaica, where he was forced to ground the ships. The materials from the wrecked ships were used to build a settlement.
22One of Columbus' companions, Diego Mendez, set out in an Indian boat to find help for the survivors.
After months he did succeed in reaching Haiti, from whence he brought help. Columbus fell seriously ill during this time and was transported back to Spain in this condition.
23On his return to Spain, the ailing Columbus requested an audience at court, but his greatest protector, Isabella of Castile, was already dead, and King Ferdinand was unwilling to receive him.
None of the privileges granted him were granted. Nevertheless, Columbus was a wealthy person thanks to the conquests and the income from the lands he discovered. However, he was bitter and felt abandoned. He died in just such an emotional state.
24Christopher Columbus died in Valladolid on May 20, 1506, and was buried there.
After three years, the body was transferred to Seville. It was Columbus' wish to be buried in America, and so the coffin containing the explorer's body came to the cathedral in San Domingo, Dominican Republic in 1537. The fate of Columbus' body is not known as is its not present burial place. It was likely returned to Spain in the following centuries. The inhabitants of San Domingo claim that the body never left the island and refuse to have the grave examined.
25Columbus Day is celebrated in many countries in the Americas, and in Spain.
It commemorates the discovery of America on October 12, 1492. The unofficial celebration of this holiday dates back to the 18th century and was recognized in most countries in the 20th century. It is traditionally celebrated on October 12, while in the United States, on the second Monday of October.
26Columbus was accused of extreme brutality againts indigenious people.
Some claimed that he refused to baptize the natives just to have an opportunity to abuse them without consequences. Part of the stories could be fabricated to denigrate Spanish activities in the region, but it is safe to say that there is at least a grain of truth in each story.