Cristoforo Colombo

Cristofer Columb

Under the auspices of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, he completed four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean. Those voyages, and his efforts to establish permanent settlements on the island of Hispaniola, initiated the European colonization of the New World.

Between 1474 and 1475, he made his first trip to the island of Chios, a Genoese possession, located in the Aegean Sea. In 1476, Columbus sailed with a convoy bound for England. While the convoy was off the coast of Portugal, they were attacked by pirates and the ship on which Columbus was sank, but he swam to shore and took refuge in Lisbon.

Based on the information gathered during his travels and studying the books and maps of the time, Christopher concluded that the earth is 25% smaller than he previously thought. Starting from this premise, Columbus believed that Asia can be reached faster by sailing west. In 1484, he presented his ideas to João II, King of Portugal, petitioning him to finance a westward crossing of the Atlantic Ocean. The proposal was rejected by a royal maritime commission. Shortly after, Columbus moved to Spain, where his plans won the support of some very influential people, thus arranging an audience in 1486 at Isabella I, Queen of Castile.

In Spain, as in Portugal, a royal commission rejected his plan. But Columbus continued to seek help and, finally, in April 1492, his persistence was rewarded: Ferdinand V, King of Castile, and Queen Isabella agreed to sponsor the expedition. The signed contract stipulated that Columbus would become viceroy of all territories he discovered and in addition, he was granted a tenth of all precious metals found within his jurisdiction. The first expedition departed from the port of Palos de la Frontera, with ships Santa Maria of about 30 meters long, which was under his command, Pinta and Nina, two smaller caravels of about 15 meters long. The two smaller vessels were ordered by Martín Alonso Pinzón and his brother, Vicente Yañez Pinzón together with 90 people. For the crossing of the ocean, the trade routes were chosen.

On 12 October 1492, at 2 AM, Rodrigo de Triana, a sailor from Pinta sees the earth, discovering thus the New World (America). The following islands are discovered: Santa Maria Conception, Fernandina, Isabella, Juna, Bohio (Española). On 15 March 1493, Columbus returns to Spain in triumph. Columbus explored the northeast coast of Cuba (where he landed on 28  October), and the north coast of Hispaniola on 5 December. Here, the Santa Maria sunk, on the Christmas morning of 1492 and the crew was forced to abandon it. Colombo left 39 men and founded the settlement of La Navidad, which today is a village in Haiti. Before returning to Spain, Columbus kidnapped 10 to 25 Indians, whom he took with him. Only seven or eight of them arrived alive in Spain, making a special impression in Seville.

Columbus planned immediately a second expedition with 17 vessels and about 1.500 people, who left Spain in September 1493. Landings were made on the islands of Dominica, Guadeloupe and Antigua. On 27 November, the vessels anchored at Navidad where all people were killed and the fort was destroyed. Columbus abandoned the ruins, and close to Cape Isabella (in the Dominican Republic), he established a colony which became the first European settlement in the New World. Leaving the colony for a voyage of exploration in the spring of 1494, Columbus surveyed the coasts of Cuba, that he considered not to be an island, but part of the Asian continent.

The last months of his life were marked by illness and vain attempts to recover the privileges from King Ferdinand, although Christopher was quite rich. He died on 20 May 1506 in the town of Valladolid.

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