Christopher Columbus Facts. 1492, ocean blue, and all that.

In fourteen hundred ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue. (Here’s the rest)

So begins the poem that helped cement the tale of Columbus in the minds of American school children. Indeed, Columbus was a 15th century explorer who discovered America. Well, the Americas, really; and he didn’t actually “discover” it, of course, since there were native peoples there when he landed. But why mess up a good story. Well, just for fun.  Here are lots of facts and thoughts about Columbus on his day. 

  1. Christopher Columbus’ name is not Christopher Columbus. It is Chrisoffa Corombo. Christopher Columbus is the English translation of sorts.
  2. The Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria were not the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. Well, the Pinta was but the Nina was a nickname for the Santa Clara and the Santa Maria was known as the Gallega.
  3. While Columbus is considered a hero in the U.S., Spain and Italy, he was not well-known during his life.
  4. Christopher Columbus never actually set foot on U.S. soil. He landed on an island in the Bahamas.
  5. Columbus was an opium addict, the same drug used in producing modern-day heroin.
  6. No one knows what Columbus really looked like. Paintings depicting Columbus are not based on his actual looks.
  7. School kids have long been taught that people in Columbus’ time thought the world was flat and they feared he would fall off the edge of the Earth when he sailed in 1492. Not so. Historians say there is no doubt that the educated in Columbus’ day knew quite well that the Earth was not flat but round. In fact, as early as the sixth century B.C., Pythagoras–later followed by Aristotle and Euclid– wrote about Earth as a sphere.
  8. The reports of Columbus’ brutality as governor of Hispanola are based on tenuous evidence, although they’ve been grasped by the political correctness crowd who hate to honor dead white European  males.  (Berkeley, California, replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day in 1992 to honor the original inhabitants of the islands where Columbus landed.)
  9.  According to an uncatalogued document supposedly discovered very late in history purporting to be a record of Columbus’ trial which contained the alleged testimony of 23 witnesses claiming that Columbus regularly used barbaric acts of torture to govern Hispaniola.  Columbus and his brothers lingered in jail for six weeks before busy King Ferdinand ordered their release. Not long after, the king and queen summoned the Columbus brothers to the Alhambra palace in Granada. There the royal couple heard the brothers’ pleas; restored their freedom and wealth; and, after much persuasion, agreed to fund Columbus’s fourth voyage.
  10. While Columbus had many shortcomings, his motives were most certainly Christian. Washington Irving wrote of Christopher Columbus in 1828:

“He was devoutly pious: religion mingled with the whole course of his thoughts and actions, and shone forth in his most private and unstudied writings. Whenever he made any great discovery, he celebrated it by solemn thanks to God. The voice of prayer and melody of praise rose from his ships when they first beheld the New World, and his first action on landing was to prostrate himself upon the earth and return thanksgivings. Every evening the Salve Regina and other vesper hymns were chanted by his crew, and masses were performed in the beautiful groves bordering the wild shores of this heathen land. All his great enterprises were undertaken in the name of the Holy Trinity, and he partook of the communion previous to embarkation. He was a firm believer in the efficacy of vows and penances and pilgrimages, and resorted to them in times of difficulty and danger. The religion thus deeply seated in his soul diffused a sober dignity and benign composure over his whole demeanor. His language was pure and guarded, and free from all imprecations, oaths and other irreverent expressions.”

11.  A Christian defender of Columbus wrote:  

There are few great men in history who do not have both their ardent admirers and their virulent traducers. Christopher Columbus is no exception. But there is one main difference in the case of Columbus. We can identify his critics by their religious affiliation or ideology.

The discoverer of America was a zealous, even militant, Roman Catholic. He lived in the very generation when six whole nations in Europe broke with the Catholic Church to create what we have come to know as Protestantism. The Spain from which Columbus sailed to discover the New World had just succeeded in delivering its people from seven hundred years of Moslem domination.

The real ground for animosity against Columbus is the fact that he brought the Catholic faith to the New World. Columbus believed he was specially chosen by God to bring the Gospel to a people who were living in darkness and the shadow of death.

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About Jim Jewell

I am a writer and consultant on faith and public life, active for many years in management and communications in the evangelical community. I now work as the director of the nonprofit practice at The Valcort Group (www.valcort.com). Everything on this blog, however, is my personal opinion and is not read or approved before it is posted. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Valcort.
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