Christopher Columbus - History and Biography

Christopher Columbus

Biography of Christopher Columbus
Sebastiano del Piombo / Public Domain

Christopher Columbus Biography

Christopher Columbus is the name with which the Italian navigator and cartographer, called Cristoforo Colombo, is widely known. There is no doubt that Columbus went down in history as the discoverer of the so-called New World, that is, for having discovered America. The maritime expeditions opened the way for the discovery, colonization, and exploitation of the American continent. This event is known as the most important discovery in modern history.

According to some historians, Christopher Columbus was born in the year of 1451 in Genoa, Italy; son of Domenico Colombo and Suzanna Fontanarrosa who named him Cristoforo Colombo.

Columbus himself narrated that his experience as a navigator begins when he was 14 years old. Since then, he was already embarking on the seas, specifically in Genoese galleys that crossed the Mediterranean. In 1470, he served as a pirate in the service of René d’Anjou, and years later arrived at the Greek island of Chios.

In one of his trips, in 1476 he was shipwrecked and disembarked in Portuguese lands, and the famous story indicates that he swam with the help of an oar. Once he was in Lisbon, he worked as an agent for a shipping company and began to shorten his name, sometimes as Colombo, and others as Colom.

The historians state that Columbus would meet his future wife in the Convent of Santos. Felipa Perestrello Moniz, daughter of the governor of the island of Porto Santo, Madeira and of Genoese origin. Their marriage occurred in the year of 1477. However, she would die a year later just after their son Diego was born.

Under the influence of his father-in-law, Columbus already showed great interest in the geographical aspects of navigation, and since then he dreamed of a maritime expedition that would disembark him in the distant kingdoms of the East.

From his experience in navigation in Columbus himself makes a little modest description in his journals:

“Everything that until today has been navigated. I have walked. Treatment and conversation I had with wise people, Ecclesiastics and Laity, Latins and Greeks, Jews and Moors, and with many other sects. In the sea, Our Lord made me abundant; of astrology, they gave me enough, and longing for geometry and arithmetic, and the ingenuity in my soul and hands to draw the earth and in it the cities, rivers and mountains, islands and ports.” Cristopher Columbus.

Around 1483, Christopher Columbus presented his proposal to sail to Catai (China) and Cipango (Japan), to the Portuguese Royal Council. However, a board of mathematicians rejected that idea, said to be uncertain.

According to Columbus himself, he saw and put under study many works and scriptures guided by God; works among which are The Book of Wonders by Marco Polo, The Natural History by Pliny, The Imago Mundi by Cardinal Pierre d’Ailly and The History of the Things of Pope Pius II. From then on, he would vigorously defend the idea that there was a commercial route to reach Asia.

At that time the theory of the Greek geographer Ptolemy was widely accepted. Ptolemy said that the Indian Ocean was enclosed. On the contrary, Columbus believed that the circumference of the Earth was much smaller than it really is. Columbus located Cipango 2,400 nautical miles east from the Canary Islands: Approximately the position of the first land sighted on the first trip.

In 1484, Christopher Columbus traveled to Castile in the company of his inseparable family, his son Diego and his brother Bartholomew. They disembarked in Palos, a place where he would meet Friar Juan Pérez, former confessor of Queen Isabel; In the same way, he met Friar Juan Marchena, superior of the Order of Seville, an expert in astronomy and cartography. His navigation project managed to convince both monks, who recommend it to the court of Castile.

Columbus was a skillful man, aware of his condition and context. Cristoforo Colombo would change his name to Christopher Columbus, his brother will be known as Bartolome and Giacomo, his other brother, like Diego. Soon after, in the spring of 1486, he was received by Queen Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon at their court in Cordoba. The Monarchs asked him for time and patience.

In 1488, Hernando, his second son will be born with Columbus’ new lover, Beatriz Enríquez, a woman 20 years younger than him.

When meeting again with the Monarchs, Christopher Columbus bet more strongly, and asked to be named Admiral of the Ocean Sea, pretensions that could clearly be outlandish, besides being named Viceroy and Governor of the discovered lands; he requested to be entitled to a tenth of all the gold and other treasures found, the eighth part of the profits of the commercial companies and the right of intervention in the disputed mercantile that will arise. The pretensions of Columbus, which could end up canceling the shipping company were, in fact, a faithful example of the conviction and determination of the Genoese, so the Queen ended up accepting his crazy conditions, as can be seen in the capitulations of Santa Fe.

Columbus’s first voyage had to be financed almost entirely by the Holy Brotherhood, a powerful police force had to pay the kings 1,140,000 maravedis, with an interest of 14% in two years. On the other hand, Columbus would invest 250,000 obtained from merchants and the community of Palos, which also donated two caravels.

On August 3, 1942, the small fleet sailed to Asia. The Santa Maria; and two caravels, the Pinta, and the Girl, along with 90 men. His first arrival was made to the Canary Islands, where the ships were repaired, resuming the trip on September 6, a trip that would bring about mutiny and growing desperation in the crew; nevertheless, on October 12, 1942, land was sighted. The land sighted in which the crew disembarked was Guanahaní Island which Christopher Columbus immediately baptized with the name of San Salvador.

The expedition continued in search of gold and baptized lands on the way. On October 27 they would arrive at the northern coast of Cuba, naming it Juana; then to Haiti, whom he called La Española.

In 1492, the Santa María ran aground, leaving his remains, which were used to erect Fort Navidad, the first western settlement in La Española. Before returning to Castile, Columbus left 39 men in the New World. He would arrive in Lisbon on March 3 and landed in Palos on the 15th of the same month. Christopher Columbus would make three more trips to the New World. After the third trip, Columbus would return to Castile as a prisoner because of the claims on supposed abuses committed by him and his brother Bartolomé, although the kings would order his liberation. However, Columbus would be deprived to exert the role of the governor which was stipulated in the capitulations.

Once he failed the litigation for his rights, which he considered infringed, Christopher Columbus would go to Valladolid, tired, ill, but with very good financial resources.

Christopher Columbus would die on May 20, 1506, in the middle of the indifference of the people, and without knowing that he had discovered a new continent because he was convinced that he had discovered a new part of East Asia.


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