Christopher Columbus, his life in Spain 1485 to 1492

Christopher Columbus, his life in Spain

Columbus arrived at Palos in Andalucia, Spain in 1485 after traveling from Portugal. Columbus, with his son Diego, made his way to the Franciscan friary of Santa María de La Rábida; near the mouth of Rio Tinto. Friaries provided food and shelter for travellers. The monastery stands peacefully on a pine-covered hill, overlooking the junction of the Tinto and Odiel Rivers where their estuary flows out toward the open Atlantic. Its guardian, Antonio de Marchena, was to be a figure of importance to the career of Christopher Columbus.

Columbus and the friar became friends. Columbus received spiritual and intellectual counsel from Marchena, an educated man and dedicated cosmographer. In addition he friar had access to the power structure at court. Antonio de Marchena wrote a letter on is behalf to Hernando de Talavera, the queen's confessor. The letter asked the right to petition the royal council, which made recommendations to the crown. The itinerant court was then at Cordoba, more than a hundred miles away. Columbus made his way to the city.

Columbus also obtained help from the Duke of Medina Celi, Don Luis de la Cerda, for whom he performed some services that brought him a payment of 3000 maravedis in May, 1487. He lived about two years at the home of the duke and made unsuccessful attempts to interest him in his exploration westwards. His attempts to secure the help of the Duke of Medina Sidonia also failed So it was on to the royal court.

After submitting his petition, Columbus began a seven-year struggle for approval. He appeared repeatedly before Isabella and Ferdinand, making presentations to the royal council and before learned commissions. The Government appointed a commission of ecclesiastics that met at Salamanca late in 1486 or early in 1487, in the Dominican convent of San Esteban to investigate the scheme, which they finally rejected. The advisors, disputed his belief in a relatively short Atlantic crossing, just as the Portuguese had done.

In Cordoba, which became his home, he met Beatriz Enriquez de Arana, the orphaned daughter of a farming family . They became lovers, and in August 1488 Beatriz bore him a son. Columbus named him Ferdinand. But it seems the ambitious Columbus would not compromise his advancement by marrying a commoner.

In Seville's magnificent cathedral to visit the Biblioteca Colombina, holds ten of Columbus' books. These include HISTORIA RERUM UBIQUE GESTARUM, or "History of all things and all deeds" , by Aeneas Sylvius (later Pope Pius II), printed in Venice in 1477. Christopher Columbus had studied this over many years. The pages are covered with marginal notes. At the end of the printed text were five additional handwritten pages, including Columbus's copy of the Toscanelli letter. On the last of these pages is a finely drawn, delicately tinted planisphere, with the Equator and other major dividing lines traced on its surface.

Clues to his vision of the universe are given, and the writings reveal his debt to early geographers, especially Ptolemy, a 2nd-century Alexandrian. Both Ptolemy and Columbus believed in an immovable, spherical earth at the center of the universe. Prolemy divided the globe into seven climate zones. So did Columbus. Ptolemy's earth featured one great island of Eurasia, with an incomplete Africa appended, surrounded by the Ocean Sea. Completely missing from Ptolemy's world and Columbus's were the Americas and the Pacific Ocean.

In 1488 Columbus made another visit to Portugal, again seeking support from John II. However the Portuguese court was celebrating the return of Bartolomew Dias with two caravels from his voyage around the Cape of Good Hope, thereby opening the eastern route to India. They no longer had any interest in Columbus' westward route. Columbus was never going to get financed by Portugal, he either had to get money from Castile, or try other donors. He sent his brother Bartholomew to England to present the project to Henry VII and contemplated approaching the king of France.

Early in 1492 when Boabdil-the last of the Moorish rulers-surrendered the keys to Granada. Columbus was an eyewitness. The long war against the Moors had ended; now the energies of the kingdom could be directed outward. The prior of the Dominican convent of La Rábida, Father Juan Perez, the confessor of the queen, probably in January, 1492, was impressed by Columbus. He spoke to the Queen and she influenced the king. . Columbus was called to court, and 20,000 maravedis were assigned him out of the queen's private resources that he might appear in proper condition before the monarch.

Columbus re-presented his plans and made a number of demands. He asked for the hereditary positions of Admiral of the Ocean Sea as well as Viceroy and Governor of lands that he might find, and requested a percentage of all revenues from these new territories. Again his plan was rejected, then reconsidered, and finally approved.

On April 17, 1492, he signed a contract with Castile that gave him the titles he had asked for and one-tenth of all revenues from his discoveries. "I left the city of Granada on Saturday, May 12, and came to the town of Palos, where I outfitted three very good ships." On Friday, August 3, just before dawn, the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria sailed downriver to the sea. They were under way to the Canary Islands and beyond. The people of Palos saw them depart on an expedition regarded by many as foolhardy.

Christopher Columbus - His life