Sunday, October 9, 2011

UNCOVERING THE REAL COLUMBUS



a new look at the life of the great explorer,


The following excerpts are from the book,UNCOVERING THE REAL COLUMBUS,
copyright 1992. This material cannot be used for gain or without attribution, and may not be copied without permission from John B. W olcott.

Chapter I : Introducing Columbus
... He was a secretive man, apparently both by his nature and by the requirements of his ambitions.... Not only did he intentionally hide many of the things we would like to know about him, he also told a multitude of lies, even to his own friends and relatives....

Chapter II : The Weavers
... Christopher Columbus was almost certainly born in...1451. There exists today a notarized document, drawn up in Genoa in October of 1470, which declares that Christopher Columbus, son of Dominic Columbus, stated before a notary that he was then 19 years of age.... Until such documents were found, historians thought that Christopher was born much earlier. Using various facts that Columbus had given about himself, putting together such things as the length of time he said he had been to sea and how long he said he had spent trying to get the king of Portugal to accept his plans, they had estimated his birth as some ten to fifteen years earlier than 1451....
... He was so reticent about mentioning his parents that until old records preserved in the musty archives of the city of Genoa were uncovered in the last century, no one, not even his own son, Ferdinand, knew his parent's names....

... There are a number of legal documents dated 1470, 1472 and 1473, that record the presence of Christopher in Genoa during these years. On many of these both his name and his father's name appear. They indicate that during these years Christopher and his father were in the weaving business together. By this time their business seems to have also included the selling of wine, for a document dated 1470, in which Dominic agreed to take on an apprentice, describes Dominic as the son of Giovanni Columbus of Quito and a resident of Genoa, and gives his occupation as a weaver of cloth and tavern keeper.

About this time, the Columbus family began to have problems. In September, 1470, Dominic Columbus and his son, Christopher, accepted arbitration in settlement of their dispute with a man named Gerolamo del Porto.... This disagreement must have caused Dominic to be put in jail, for another document of the same date tells that "Dominic Columbus, having been incarcerated by order of the mayor of Genoa and by the judge, for certain causes, and not having later been found guilty, the judge orders that he be freed on bond and his promise to present himself whenever required by the same mayor and judge, on pain of a 25 ducat fine." A month later, Christopher, son of Dominic Columbus, age 19, on behalf of his father, signed a document acknowledging a debt for a quantity of wine that they sold for a Peter Bellesio. These debts were probably what caused Dominic to sell the land that had been Susanna's dowry, engendering other legal disputes with her brother the following year.

Dominic may, like sellers of alcohol since time immemorial, have sampled his wares too frequently, for his affairs seem to have continued down hill from this point. In 1472, both he and Christopher had to acknowledge a debt of 140 lira; and in 1473 he sold the house in the Via Olivelli that Christopher had apparently been born in. Susanna and her sons, Christopher and John, had to acknowledge before a notary that they were aware of the sale and consented to it. About that time, Dominic seems to have leased out the house in Via Diritto where the family had lived since 1455, and moved to the town of Savona, several miles down the coast from Genoa. He also seems to have given up the wine business, for other deeds dated 1476 and 1477 describe him simply as a resident of Savona and a weaver of wool. He sold the Via Diritto house to his son-in-law in 1477, and in 1481 gave up the Savona house, his last remaining property. After this he may have lived with his daughter. It's hard to be sure what was happening here, but before 1470 Dominic had acquired three different pieces of property, and by 1474 two of these were sold and the other leased out, and the family had moved out of the city of Genoa. His fortunes seem to have been reversed at just about the time he took up the wine business and shortly before Christopher left home for good. 

Alcoholism is pure conjecture, but it seems to fit the pattern. This would provide ample explanation for Christopher's leaving home to follow a new career in a far away place where he could bring his brothers; a new home where they would never mention their father again....
... In his writings, Christopher claims to have gone to sea at the age of 14, which would have been in 1465. In another document he says that in 1492 he had been a seafarer for 23 years, which would have been since 1469. There is no evidence to support either of these statements. They seem to be pure fiction....in a will he witnessed in March of 1472 he unequivocally describes himself as a "lanerius", or wool worker, of Genoa. Nowhere is there any evidence of his being at sea before 1472. By then he was 21 years old, an age when nearly all enterprising young men of that era would have been expected to be well settled in a trade. His trade was certainly, from all the evidence that has been found, as a wool worker, not as a mariner....

... Still, Columbus obviously learned the rudiments of navigation and cartography somewhere. In his writings, he claims to have travelled to the island of Chios, a Greek island in the Aegean Sea, giving specific facts that seem to show he really had been there. There are old records that show that voyages from Genoa to Chios were made in 1474 and 1475 by small groups of ships owned by certain Genoese merchants....
... Another old record found in Genoa is a deposition drawn up in August of 1479, which shows that in 1478 Christopher was employed in Portugal by Paul di Negro, a Genoese merchant who had sent a ship to Chios in 1475.... In this document, Christopher describes himself as a citizen of Genoa, age about 27, and preparing to leave Genoa the next day to return to Lisbon. This again confirms his birth date of 1451, and verifies his residence in Portugal in 1478. It also shows that he had, by 1478, become a man who was trusted with important business responsibilities, even though, we should note, these responsibilities had nothing to do with navigation or command of a ship....

... This seems to be the last time Christopher ever visited Genoa, although documents uncovered in the Genoa archives show that Christopher's father lived there until at least 1491, and was referred to as "recently deceased" in 1494, two years after his son discovered the New World. Dominic apparently never visited either Spain or Portugal, although his other two sons went there to be with Christopher. Dominic lived until the end of his life in obscurity in Genoa, like some skeleton in the family closet. Christopher's son, Ferdinand, claims to have never even heard of his grandfather's name!

Chapter III: Land of Opportunity
... In 1418, two of Prince Henry's men, John Gonzalvez Zarco and Tristan Vaz Teixeira, while sailing off the coast, encountered a storm and were blown out into the Atlantic. Much to their surprise they found themselves looking at a large island that was not on their maps, an island which they named Porto Santo. A year later, Zarco also discovered the nearby island of Madeira, a much larger and more habitable land. Both Zarco and Teixeira were given large land grants on Madeira and became wealthy.... Teixeira's daughter would become Christopher's sister-in-law. These explorers must have been quite an example for young men seeking their fortunes, men such as our young Columbus....

... The 15th century Portuguese historian, Gomez Eanes de Zurara, tells how when the Portuguese were planning the settlement of these islands, a gentleman of the household of Prince Henry's brother, Prince John, named Bartholomew Perestrelo, offered to accompany them.... In 1455, Prince Henry sent Perestrelo back to Porto Santo as governor, a post that he held until shortly before Columbus' arrival. Bartholomew Perestrelo's daughter was to become Columbus' wife....

Chapter IV : The First Big Catch
Columbus' new life can be attributed largely to a fortunate marriage. As the title of respect, Dona, indicates, Columbus' Portuguese wife, Dona Philippa Moniz, was an aristocrat, with aristocratic connections.... Philippa's father, Bartholomew Perestrelo, was the son of an Italian aristocrat, Philip Pallastrelli, who had settled in Portugal and changed the spelling of his surname to Perestrelo. Bartholomew was born shortly after 1400, and resided in the city of Lisbon, where he and his first wife, Margaret Martins, owned property. In 1438, both Bartholomew and his brother, Raphael, were members of the Council of the City of Lisbon. Bartholomew Perestrelo became a gentleman of the household of one of King John's sons, Prince John, who was the Grand Master of the Knights of Santiago. It is likely that the prince made Bartholomew a knight of this order, for he is called a knight in a document of 1442. Prince John died in that year, and Bartholomew then entered the service of John's brother, Prince Henry, who, as head of the Order of Christ, governed the island of Porto Santo. Prince Henry sent Bartholomew Perestrelo to colonize and govern this island. In 1446 a royal grant was issued giving the island to him and his heirs to govern in perpetuity. Unlike the nearby and much larger island of Madeira, Porto Santo never really became economically profitable....

... Beatrice Furtado de Mendoza, Bartholomew's second wife, was from a leading Portuguese family, and related to...Anna Mendoza, the mistress of King John II. Anna was the mother of the king's illegitimate son, George, who was born in 1480. The daughters of Beatrice Furtado de Mendoza and Bartholomew Perestrelo had both married well; Catherine's husband, Mem Rodriguez de Vasconcelos, had a large land grant on the island of Madeira and was military governor of Seixo. Isabell did as well with Peter Correa, a member of Prince Henry's household staff, second governor of Porto Santo, and later governor of the island of Terciera in the Azores....
... Bartholomew's brother, Raphael Perestrelo, was a priest with several children born illegitimately. Two of Raphael's sons were legitimized in 1423. One of them, John, is thought to have been the John Lopez de Perestrelo who was a squire of the royal household in 1485 and a knight in 1488. He had command of one of the ships that sailed with Vasco da Gama to India in 1502. The Perestrelo brothers, Bartholomew and Raphael, are believed to have had two sisters who were both mistresses of the Archbishop of Lisbon and mothers of at least some of his many children. Four children of these women and the archbishop were all legitimized in 1444, one becoming military governor of Obidos, another Bishop of Lamego, a third an important diplomat, and their sister the wife of the Marquis of Montemor....

... Columbus's mother-in-law, Isabell Moniz, was a member of another prominent Portuguese family.... Unlike some aristocratic Portuguese families, the Moniz family was quite small....they all seem to have been descendants of Gil Ayres, a man who served as personal secretary to the famous Constable of Portugal, Nuno Alvarez Pereira. Early in the 15th century, Constable Nuno established a monastery of the Carmelite order near Lisbon, where he assigned one of the chapels to his secretary, Gil Ayres, as a burial chapel for him and his descendants. Gil was buried there, and in 1469....an agreement was obtained by Gil's children specifying that in the future Gil's descendants would have exclusive burial rights there. Gil's son, Vasco Gil Moniz, and his family were buried there, as was Father Anthony Moniz, son of Diego Gil Moniz. We are told in the will of Christopher Columbus' son, Diego, that this was also the final resting place of Columbus' wife.... The agreement of 1469... names three of Gil Ayres's children, Diego Gil, Vasco Gil Moniz, and Guiomar Gil, apparently all living at the time, as well as unnamed brothers and sisters, presumably deceased. The other children seem to include... a Martin Gil who was probably the father of Vasco Martins Moniz. Columbus' mother-in-law must have been a daughter of one or another of these.
Gil Ayres' son, Diego Gil, was in Prince Henry's service and spent most of his time in North Africa.... Vasco Gil Moniz... took up service in the royal household, first as a squire for King Duarte, and then as an administrator for Prince Peter who served as regent after Duarte's death. Unfortunately, Prince Peter quarreled with his young nephew, King Alfonso, and his downfall and death in 1449 meant the end of Vasco's career at the Portuguese court. Vasco was exiled from the country and went with Prince Peter's son to Cyprus, where he married a member of the royal family of Cyprus. He was back in Portugal in Columbus' time with a small royal pension, and with his only son, Febus, a child of his old age, serving as a page at the royal court.

Vasco Gil's brother, Martin Gil, seems to have also been a clerk of the royal court during Prince Peter's regency and remained so during Vasco's exile, serving as secretary of the royal chancery and clerk of the treasury. He died shortly after 1453, at which time Vasco Martins Moniz, his son, obtained real estate on Madeira. This was just about the same time that Isabell Moniz married Bartholomew Perestrelo, captain of the neighboring island of Porto Santo, and it seems probable that Vasco and Isabell were brother and sister. Two of Martin's children, Garcia and Christopher, had embraced the priesthood, and were still alive in the 1480s, on their way to prominent careers in the Church. Two others, Ruy Gil Moniz and Gil Ayres Moniz, had been knights of the royal household. Both were apparently dead when Columbus married into the family, but Ruy's son was treasurer of the Lisbon Mint, as his father had been before him. The Diego Gil Moniz, brother of Isabell Moniz, who served as guardian of Bartholomew Perestrelo's son in the 1450s, was another of Isabell's brothers. Diego Gil Moniz served first as head doorkeeper and then as treasurer to King Alfonso's brother, Prince Ferdinand. He disappears from sight after Ferdinand's death in 1470, but may have been serving Prince Ferdinand's widow and son in Columbus' day....
... Columbus' mode of operation in Spain, as we will see, was to find influential men to act as his sponsors, and persuade them to introduce him to even more influential men. That's the way most things were done at court in those days, and often the way things get done even today. It seems reasonable to assume that he probably used these same tactics in Portugal. When Columbus married Philippa Moniz, her cousin, Vasco Martins Moniz, was a knight of the royal household, his younger brother, Christopher, a page at court, her cousin, Garcia Moniz, was Treasurer of the Lisbon Mint, and another cousin, John Lopez de Perestrelo, was a knight of the king's household. There were other potential contacts through Philippa's Noronha cousins, as well.... Uncle Garcia and Uncle Christopher, both priests, were the only uncles that are known to have been alive at the time Christopher was married to Philippa, but Uncle Diego may have been alive too. Having been her brother's "tutor", and therefore possibly Philippa's as well, he may well have been the person for whom her child, Diego Columbus was named....

... With a father, grandfather, uncles and cousins who had been knights or attendants in the households of Portuguese kings and princes, and relations by marriage in many of the most prominent families in the land, Philippa Moniz was clearly a girl with the right connections. It's certainly amazing that a girl from such a family would deign to marry a man of Columbus' birth and station. In those days, it just wasn't done. It certainly wasn't an appropriate marriage for Philippa, but for Columbus, the advantages of such a match must have been obvious. Even though there doesn't seem to have been much of a dowry to go with her, the marriage surely opened up doors for Columbus that he could never have entered as a Genoese weaver or sailor....

... Ferdinand was the second of Christopher's two sons, the offspring of a Spanish woman named Beatrice Enriquez de Arana.... The book which was published in 1571 was supposedly written by Ferdinand during the many years he spent holed up in his library amidst his father's papers....
... Ferdinand indignantly describes his father as "a learned man who never wasted his time in manual or mechanical labor". Ferdinand seems to have never heard of his father's wool-weaving youth....

... Christopher, Ferdinand states in refutation, did not learn geography from his brother in Lisbon, rather he lived there first, and taught his brother all he knew. The brother spoken of here is Christopher's younger brother, Bartholomew. It would seem from this that Bartholomew must have followed his brother from Genoa to Lisbon, and that the two entered into the business of map making there.... It seems certain that the two brothers were in this business, and that at the time of his marriage Christopher was probably a professional map maker, with occasional employment as a purchasing agent. We know that he was a skilled drawer of maps, for there is at least one map still in existence that was drawn by him. We are also told that he partially supported himself by such work during his early years in Spain....
... Ferdinand gives us a clear description of his father. He tells us that Christopher was a well built man, of more than average stature, neither fat nor lean. He had a long face, high cheekbones, an aquiline nose, light colored eyes, fair skin inclined toward reddish, and blond ("rubia") hair which had turned white when he reached thirty years of age. Actually, other writers have described Christopher Columbus as having had red hair and blue eyes.... In all likelihood, Columbus, in his youth, was what we might call a "carrot top".

The contemporary historian, Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo,... gave a similar description... "A man of honest parents and life, of good stature and appearance, taller than average and with well built limbs, expressive eyes, and the other parts of his face in good proportion, his hair bright red and his face somewhat burned and freckled, well spoken, prudent and of great genius, gracious when he wished to be, but irritable when annoyed." As a young man, Columbus must have been quite appealing, blue eyes and freckles, tall, big biceps, the works! No wonder Philippa Moniz was attracted to him....
... Ferdinand then tells us that because his father was a man of honor, and of handsome appearance, "it happened that a lady called Dona Philippa Moniz, a noble lady in the convent of Los Santos in Lisbon, where it was the custom of the Admiral to attend mass, had such conversation and friendship with him that she came to be his wife."
Ferdinand goes on to say that Dona Philippa's father was dead, so the young couple went to live with his widow. This lady, observing Columbus' great interest in cosmography, gave him navigational books, maps and instruments that had belonged to her husband.... Ferdinand tells us that the books and charts given to him by his mother-in-law, "excited the Admiral still more. Thus inspired, he eagerly sought out whatever information he could find about Portuguese voyages of exploration and sought out men who had traveled on these trips. He began to speculate that if ships could safely sail as far south as they had, it should be possible to sail just as far to the west." To confirm these ideas, his son says, Christopher began to study writers on geography and astronomy, in search of facts which would support this idea.... As Christopher pondered over the charts and papers that his mother-in-law turned over to him, he seems to have had his first confrontation with the exciting possibility that he might have an idea that could bring him both riches and fame....

... Among Christopher's papers, Ferdinand says, was a letter addressed to Columbus, and a copy of another letter and a map that "Paul the physician" had sent in 1474 to a Ferdinand Martins, a retainer of King John's father, Alfonso V.... Ferdinand also quotes a second letter in which "Paul the physician" says that he had received Christopher's letters and other things that Columbus had sent him, and that he approved of Columbus' plan to sail "from west to east by the route indicated on the map I sent you".... Amazingly, Christopher seems to have been the only person known to have ever heard of Toscanelli's plan. Until Ferdinand's book was published in 1571, these letters were apparently completely unknown to anyone but Ferdinand Columbus and his friend, Bishop Bartholomew de las Casas....

"... Christopher, knowing that his enterprise required the cooperation and assistance of some prince, decided to offer it to the king of Portugal, the country in which he was then residing." King John, Ferdinand says, "listened attentively, but appeared cool toward the project because the Portuguese exploration of Africa had put him to great expense with little return." Ferdinand was correct in saying that a royal license was essential before undertaking anything of this kind, for it was the only way to ensure that the successful explorer would be likely to reap a profit from what he might discover. Expense to the king, however, was normally not the issue. Such charters of exploration were freely granted, if the king was so inclined, but usually with the understanding that the licensee would pay all the expenses of his undertaking. It would appear that the problem was that Columbus lacked the money for such an undertaking and was unable to get it from his wife's relatives or his Genoese friends. He was asking King John to put up the cash; quite a different proposition....
... Ferdinand says that Christopher "secretly departed from Portugal with his little son, Diego, fearing that the King might seek to detain him." There exists a copy of a letter written to Christopher by King John in 1488, in which the king addresses Christopher as "dear friend" and says that he would be pleased to have Columbus return to Portugal. The document states: "And because, perchance, to you there may be some concern regarding our justice due to some things to which you may be obligated, we guarantee you that during your arrival, stay and return, you will not be arrested, held, accused, tried, or considered responsible for any thing civil or penal, of any kind." This sure sounds like Christopher was in some kind of trouble before he left Portugal. Some historians think this refers to debts that Columbus left behind when he emigrated, others suggest it may have been navigational secrets he took to a foreign country, and yet others have suggested that Columbus' departure may somehow be connected with Braganza conspiracies of 1483 and 1484. There is no hard evidence to support any of these, but there may be some truth in all of them....

...Ferdinand says nothing about his own birth, which occurred in 1488. In his entire book he never even mentions his mother, Beatrice Enriquez de Arana, even though it is certain that she outlived his father. It makes one wonder whether he wanted his readers to assume that he, too, was the son of the Portuguese aristocrat, Dona Philippa Moniz....

Chapter VI : The Bishop's Account
Another account of the life and adventures of Christopher Columbus is found in Historia de las Indias, written by Bartholmew de las Casas.... Casas does not seem to have actually known Christopher, who died before Casas became a priest, but he did know both of Christopher's brother's, Bartholomew and Diego, and his sons, Diego and Ferdinand, quite well. Also, he says in his book that he had heard accounts of Columbus from his own father who was with Columbus when he returned to Hispaniola in 1493, and from others who accompanied him and served him....
...
Casas does add some new pieces to the story; he says that "after arriving in Lisbon, other Genoese helped him (Christopher) find a place to live, and became his companions. After a while, as he was pleasant and of a gentlemanly appearance and did not neglect the Christian services, he often went to hear mass at Los Santos monastery where there were `comendadoras'; of what order it was I do not have information. There he happened to have conversation with one of them named Philippa Moniz, a lady of noble family, who eventually had to marry him." The Genoese spoken of were probably the business associates of the di Negros and Spinolas, with whom Columbus apparently came to Genoa. The meeting and mating of Columbus and Philippa Moniz Perestrelo here takes on a new dimension. Most historians have considered Philippa to have been merely a boarder at the convent, but Casas seems to have thought otherwise. The word, "comendadora", has two meanings. The first is the head of a convent; the second is a member of a religious order in a convent established by one of the military orders. The latter definition must have been the one that Casas used, for although he was uncertain to what order the convent belonged, Los Santos was just such an institution, established by the Order of Knights of Santiago. Philippa's father, Bartholomew Perestrelo had once been a knight of the household of Prince John, who was then Grand Master of the Knights of Santiago, and had probably been a member of this order.

The convent of Los Santos had been used by the Knights of Santiago as a place of retreat for the women of their families during times when they were away at war. Many of these women took religious vows while they stayed at the convent, from which they could be released when their menfolk returned. Others took permanent vows, while some just lived at the convent for a while. Those who took vows, either permanent or temporary, were called Comendadoras.... It seems unlikely that she would have been in a convent unless she was at least considering a religious vocation, like that which her uncles, Garcia and Christopher Moniz, had chosen.
Furthermore, Casas seems to have thought that it was a "marriage of necessity"! The original Spanish read, "la cual hubo finalmente con el de casarse," which certainly can be interpreted that way. "Haber de" plus an infinitive usually indicates necessity, described in Spanish dictionaries as being "the form of conjugation called obligatory, expressing an action as being necessary or forced". Although "finalmente con el", meaning "finally with him", comes in the middle of "hubo de", it would still be translated, "she was obliged finally with him to marry...."

... If she were just living at the convent as a boarder and not already committed to the religious life, she would have had an abundance of opportunities to marry, but a husband like Columbus would have been out of the question. If she were a pregnant nun, however, it would be a completely different matter. She probably wouldn't be able to stay at the convent in that condition; nor would anyone in her class be likely to marry her. What other choice would she have but to marry the father of her unborn child? It seems the most logical explanation. This would also explain why the date for the marriage and the date of birth of Columbus' son, Diego are never mentioned.... Her dowry may have already gone to the convent and been non-refundable, for she doesn't seem to have brought him any dowry. What she did have to offer was family status and the right connections....
... Casas repeats Ferdinand's story that Perestrelo's widow had maps and navigational materials which she gave to Columbus, spurring his interest in exploration. Casas says that these maps stimulated Columbus to investigate the Portuguese expeditions, and that his imagination was fired by the lands that were unknown and said not to be habitable. Inspired by these documents, we are told, Christopher decided to see from experience what was going on "in the direction of Ethiopia"....
... 
He also quotes the letter that Toscanelli wrote to the canon, Ferdinand Martins, and the cover letter to Columbus, saying that he had personally seen them and held them in his hand. Casas says he believed that the letter Toscanelli sent to Martins influenced Columbus to the extent that, "I think he based the whole scheme of his voyage on this letter." As far as Casas could tell, Isabell Moniz' charts and Toscanelli's letters were the primary inspirations for Christopher's mission in life.
We are told here, too, how the king referred the matter to the study committee composed of the Bishop of Ceuta and two Jewish astronomers, and quotes the Historia Portuguesa of Juan de Barros as saying how they "perceived Columbus' words to be vanities, founded on imagination and stories of the isle of Cipango." Casas also quotes from Barros' La Primera Decada de Asia, that Columbus was seen by the Portuguese as "a great talker and a braggart about his skills, with fantastic imaginings about Cipango, rather than being certain of what he spoke about, so he was given little credit...."
... Casas adds a statement that sounds strange coming from a priest: "to dedicate himself to God's assigned task, he first had to be free of his wife, and God provided by taking her." But for Casas, who saw Columbus as the preordained agent of God's plan for Christianizing the native Americans, this made sense. Christopher, himself, may have seen God's hand in it. Philippa's tutoring and her contacts with the Portuguese aristocrats, were no longer needed. Columbus, the poor Genoese weaver, had mastered Castilian Spanish. He had established an aristocratic persona for himself. He had gained the gray hair and dignity of maturity, and had obtained some valuable experience in dealing with kings and courtiers. He was now ready to move on to another prospect. His wife's death and the fact that the Portuguese, in his own words, were "loath to believe him", were to impel him onward to Spain....

Chapter VII : The Source
... (Andrew) Bernaldez was in a position to know personally what Columbus did in Spain. When he says that Christopher was a merchant of books, he was probably referring to "portolanos", nautical charts, sometimes bound into book form, used by pilots.... Portolanos showing the coasts of Europe and Africa were in great demand in Portugal, and were probably the main product of Christopher and Bartholomew's trade there. Bernaldez says clearly that Columbus also had a world map which he had drawn in Portugal and one which he used to explain his ideas to the Spanish rulers. None of this is surprising; Columbus and his brother, Bartholomew, had fled the weaving trade to become professional map makers.

Bernaldez also tells us that Columbus claimed that his ideas were his own, based on his study of geography and the ancient writers. We know, however, that Columbus had another source of information for making a world map, the letter sent by Paul Toscanelli to Ferdinand Martins.... The letter was addressed to "Ferdinand Martins, a canon residing in Lisbon". A "canon" is an administrative assistant to a bishop.... A canon of Lisbon would undoubtedly been appointed by the Archbishop of Lisbon, and at the time Toscanelli wrote his letter, the Archbishop of Lisbon was an interesting character known as George da Costa... in 1474, when Toscanelli corresponded with Ferdinand Martins, George had been Archbishop of Lisbon for ten years and the confessor and close friend and counselor of King Alfonso....

... In 1476, King Alfonso made an extended visit to France, while his confessor, George da Costa, remained behind in Portugal.... It seems likely that the Stephen Martins who accompanied King Alfonso as the royal confessor was a relative of George's. Ferdinand Martins, Toscanelli's correspondent, was surely another relative, for there is a document... appointing Ferdinand Martins, "nephew of the Cardinal of Lisbon and a native of Alpedrinha", as a squire in the royal guard. Sharing the name Martins, it would appear that the king's confessor, Stephen Martins, and the canon of Lisbon, Ferdinand Martins, were sons of the Cardinal's half-brother, Martin da Costa. When Martin da Costa later became Archbishop of Lisbon, who were there beside him as canons? You guessed it! Stephen Martins and Ferdinand Martins....

Unfortunately for the Cardinal and his relatives, King Alfonso's son, John, pretty much ran the kingdom after 1476. John didn't care much for the cardinal, who had wangled those multiple benefices and a great deal of wealth out of his father. Prince John was a formidable adversary, and the cardinal no fool, so in 1478 Cardinal Archbishop George da Costa departed for Rome, where he spent most of the rest of his long life as the friend and confidant of four different popes. Some of his relatives, including his brother, Martin, went to Rome with him, but it appears that a position as secretary was found for Ferdinand Martins in the household of the Duke of Braganza, the new king's enemy. Stephen Martins seems to have also become a secretary, but in King John's household. George probably placed both of them in these positions as listening posts to inform him of what was going on in Portugal in his absence.

Ferdinand Martins seems to have been something of an opportunist, for following the quelling of the second Braganza conspiracy, he bargained his way into the king's service by helping arrange the surrender of the important fortress of Sabugal, which was held by his aunt, Catherine da Costa, wife of one of the conspirators. Ferdinand must have been away from court during most of the time that Columbus was negotiating with the king, and it may be that his joining the king's service in September of 1484 was one of the reasons why Christopher selected this time to leave for Spain. Columbus' secret map would no longer remain a secret with Ferdinand Martins at court....
... Columbus learned of the Toscanelli-Martins correspondence, wrote to Toscanelli, received a copy of the Martins map from the doctor, constructed a small globe based on the map, sent it to Toscanelli for confirmation of its' accuracy, and received the confirmation that he had requested. His timing was excellent; Toscanelli died soon afterward, in May of 1482. As their correspondence consisted of letters sent on at least four different occasions, and had to be hand carried between Portugal and Italy, this correspondence must have begun by 1480, shortly after Christopher's marriage....

... How then, did the Toscanelli correspondence, intended for the eyes of King Alfonso, fall into the hands of our Columbus? Bartholomew Perestrelo had died in 1457. Toscanelli wrote his letter to Martins in June of 1474, seventeen years later, so Bartholomew could never have had that letter. It arrived, however, when Philippa's cousin, young Vasco Martins Moniz, was a page in King Alfonso's household, and her uncle, Diego Gil Moniz, a knight in the king's service. There are other ways that Toscanelli's letter or map have come into the hands of Columbus' in-laws, as well. Stephen Martins, Ferdinand Martins' brother, was Prince Ferdinand's confessor in the 1460s when Philippa's uncle, Diego Gil Moniz was the prince's treasurer. They must surely have known each other well. Stephen was appointed vicar of the parish of Camara dos Lobos on Madeira in 1473, exchanging parishes with a Gonzalo Moniz, who was probably Diego Gil Moniz's brother.... Another possible explanation might be that the Toscanelli correspondence simply remained in the archives of the see of Lisbon until one of Philippa's priestly uncles came across it....

Chapter VIII : Improving the Odds
... John de Barros, one of the foremost Portuguese historians of this period, began his book, Decades of Asia, in 1539 and published it in 1552. He undoubtedly knew people who had been at court in Columbus' time. Barros recorded:..."The king, observing that Christopher Columbus seemed a great talker, boastful in setting forth his accomplishments, and full of fanciful and imaginary ideas about Cipango, rather than being certain of what he spoke, gave him little credit. However, because of his importuning, the king ordered that he confer with Don Diego Ortiz, Bishop of Ceuta, and Master Rodrigo and Master Joseph, to whom the king had assigned matters of cosmography and discovery.

They all considered the words of Christopher Columbus to be vain, wholly founded on imagination of such things as the island of Cipango of Marco Polo."
This certainly sounds as if Columbus was totally convinced that his map... would lead him to "the Indies", but had little hard facts to back it up. The authority that Columbus used, according to Barros, was Marco Polo. It sounds as if he didn't even cite Toscanelli as a supporting authority, even though his correspondence with the Florentine physician must have been completed at this point.... Christopher undoubtedly learned more about his project from these men than they learned from him.
He probably also learned that he would have to improve his story if he expected anyone to have faith in him. First of all, he must have come to realize that his limited experience at sea would have to be enlarged upon, if he expected any credence. Going to sea at 14 would sound a lot better than going to sea at 23. Commander of a privateer under King Rene would sound a lot better than sailing as a purchasing agent or deck hand. And, he would have to study the ancient authorities. Perhaps he also learned a little about diplomacy. The Portuguese historian, Ruy de Pina, later said of Columbus, "the said Admiral was by his nature a bit haughty, and in telling things that concerned him he altered the bounds of truth; moreover he was rude and unruly." Pina was a close friend of King John II, so this may be the opinion that the king had of Christopher, as well. Pina also happened be the custodian of the royal archives, and should have known about the Toscanelli letter if it was there, or if it had been mentioned by Columbus, yet he makes no mention of it in any of his writings. It appears that the original letter never made it to the archives, and that Columbus never let it be known that it had fallen into his hands.

There is fairly good circumstantial evidence for Columbus' limited knowledge at this time. Some of the authorities cited by his son, Ferdinand, as having influenced him, had not even been printed when he left Portugal in 1484....
... Columbus must have come to the realization that this supporting information was necessary in order to obtain money to finance his voyage. If they wanted "proof", based on the ancient writers, he would give it to them. If they wanted sailing experience, he would give them that also. He may have cared little about ancient writers, and could even have been uncomfortable about lying and exaggerating his nautical experience. 

His unsuccessful confrontation with the Portuguese committee, however, must have shown him what was necessary. He would not make the same mistakes next time. He would have a proposal that he could sell. He would have his authorities. He would have his math work done. He would be able to argue with the experts. In 1484, Columbus arrived in Spain, ready to begin all over with a new prospect....

Chapter IX : The Map
... The Toscanelli letter says that "from Lisbon westward, there are 26 spaces, each containing 250 miles." This would be a total of 6,500 miles. The letter says, also, that there were 10 spaces from the island of Antilia to Cipango, which would be 2,500 miles.... Toscanelli also says that the map showed "the islands which you may start from to make a trip continually westward and the places you ought to come to and how far you should decline between the pole and the equator." Obviously there was a route marked, beginning at unspecified islands and continuing due westward. In view of the fact that Columbus actually began his voyage from the Canary Islands and sailed due west, we can probably assume that the Canaries were the islands to which Toscanelli referred, and the latitude along which he measured was the 28th parallel, on which these islands lay. At this latitude, a degree would equal about 50 miles, if you accepted 56 2/3 miles to a degree at the equator, as 

Columbus claimed he did. Next, it seems safe to conclude that Toscanelli must have used the figure given in Marco Polo's book, which described Cipango as "an island towards the east in the high seas, fifteen hundred miles distant from the continent". That would be equal to six of Toscanelli's spaces, leaving the remaining ten spaces as the distance between Antilia and the meridian on which Lisbon was located....

... Using these figures, we can draw a map on which the isle of Antilia would lie due west of the Canary Islands on the 28th parallel, approximately 2,500 miles west of a point in Africa lying due south of Lisbon. The Canary Islands would be about 500 miles, or two spaces, west of this point in Africa, leaving a distance of 2,000 miles between the Canaries and Antilia. Cipango would be 2,500 miles to the west of Antilia, and China would lie 1,500 miles further on....
... Columbus, according to his notes and journal, told the Spaniards that the distance between the Canaries and Japan was about 3,000 miles. Toscanelli's map, as we have it figured, said that Japan lay 4,500 miles west of the Canary Islands! That's 1,500 miles difference between what Columbus' notes indicate he argued, and what the Toscanelli map apparently showed. Which did Columbus actually believe? To determine this, let's see what Columbus did when he actually sailed west....
.
.. The first time that the log, as we have it written, totals up the distance travelled is on the 19th of September, when it is recorded: "He of the Nina made the Canaries 440 leagues distant, the Pinta, 420. The pilot of the Admiral's ship made the distance exactly 400 leagues. That would put them between 1,600 and 1760 miles due west of the Canaries. Now, you will recall, our rendering of Toscanelli's map put the island of Antilia in a position of about 2,000 miles out of Gomeira. If they had traveled 1,600 or 1,700 miles, they would have been getting close to this spot. The entry for this date says: "The Admiral did not wish to cause delay by beating to windward to ascertain whether land was near, but he considered it certain that there were islands both to the north and to the south of his position....for his desire was to press on to the Indies, the weather being fine, for, on his return, God willing he should see it."

Christopher must have hoped to see Antilia, however, for during the following few days, for the first time, his ships deviated from the westwardly course they had followed since departing from the Canaries. First, on September 22 they turned northwest, two days later they turned west again, then after two more days they went southwest, as if they were looking for something. Obviously, they could not have been looking for Cipango. They were only 2,000 miles west of the Canaries. Columbus had supposedly figured that Cipango was 3,000 miles from the Canaries, and Toscanelli's map said the distance was 4,500 miles. They must have been looking for Antilia, for this was right at the spot where Toscanelli said Antilia would be found.
By the 25th, Columbus was slightly more than 2,000 miles west of Gomeira, just beyond where we estimated Antilia should appear on the Toscanelli map. Columbus' journal bears out the fact that he, at this point, was in the midst of a dilemma. His log for 25 September relates that he "conversed with Martin Alonzo Pinzon, captain of the other caravel, Pinta, respecting a chart which he had sent to the caravel three days before, on which, as it would appear, the Admiral had certain lands depicted in that sea.

Martin Alonzo said that the ships were in the position on which the islands were placed, and the Admiral replied that so it appeared to him, but it might be that they had not fallen in with them owing to the currents which had always set the ships to the northeast, and that they may have not travelled as far as the pilots had reported. The Admiral then asked for the chart to be returned, and it was sent back on a line. The Admiral then began to plot the position on it, with the pilot and mariners." The chart had been sent over to Pinzon right when they were near the spot Antilia should have appeared. Cipango was 1,000 miles further west by Christopher's mathematical calculations, and 2,500 miles away on the Toscanelli map. The islands they were seeking, the islands on the chart they were using to navigate by, could only have been Antilia! The map Columbus was using must indeed have been Toscanelli's, as we have imagined it....
... By the 10th of October, they had travelled some 1,083 leagues, or 4,332 miles. You will remember that our estimate of distances on the Toscanelli map was that it was some 2,000 miles from the Canaries to Antilia, and 2,500 miles further to Cipango, a total of 4,500 miles. They had gone 4,332 miles; if Columbus was following Toscanelli's map he must have thought that they were getting close to Cipango. The next night they sighted land, approximately 4,424 miles west of the Canaries. This was only 76 mile less than where the island of Cipango should be, as shown on the Toscanelli map! No wonder Columbus thought he was near Cipango....

... It looks as if Christopher took both his degrees of ocean and his miles per degree right from Toscanelli. Alfragan and Marinus were the experts he quoted to the Spanish, but Toscanelli seems to have been his sole source, and his secret source!

Chapter X : The Sojourn in Spain
... It is certain that Friar Anthony Marchena was one of the first supporters of Columbus. He was undoubtedly the friar mentioned by the 16th century Spanish historian, Francisco Lopez de Gomara, who recorded, "since he was a foreigner and was poorly dressed, and with no greater support than a friar, he was not believed or listened to by anyone, and because of this he felt a great torment of the spirit...."

... With letters of introduction from Father Marchena, and perhaps a little money in his pocket from the Moliarts or Pinzons, Columbus set out for Cordoba, where the Spanish king and queen were residing. They were at this time busy directing their holy war against the Moslem king of Granada. Casas says that Christopher arrived in Cordoba on the 20th of January, 1485. Casas' words aptly describes what must have been Columbus' approach: "The first step in negotiations with kings is to present a lengthy account of one's goals to those people who have constant access to the king, either at council, in special meetings, or in private. Therefore, Christopher Columbus managed to speak to men who he felt could advance his cause." Casas mentions some of these, including the king's steward and the king's son's tutor. Between them, these insiders were able to set up an audience with the king, where Columbus made his pitch. The king must have had some interest in the proposal, for he referred the matter to a royal committee....

... Casas says that the committee appointed to hear Christopher's plea met often, discussing astronomy, mathematics, navigation and the ancient authorities. Because of his encounter with King John's committee of experts, Columbus must have been ready for them, fielding his own arguments in response to their arguments. Forget Antilia, of whose existence he had no proof; use ancient authorities on the size of the world, adjust their figures mathematically based on more recent discoveries; prove that the treasures of Marco Polo's Orient were but 3,000 miles away....
... All this took a lot of time; about five years. Columbus certainly couldn't live off the small royal grants provided by Quintanilla this long. Yet, he would not give up. He surely must have often been exhausted and discouraged, and sometimes broke. Casas tells us that Columbus' financial circumstances were such that "on certain days he supported himself with the industry of his talents and the work of his own hands, making or drawing nautical charts...and selling them to seamen." The occasional sale of a chart or navigational table must have helped with the pocket money.
Christopher found some consolation, and probably a place to live, with the accommodating young woman, Beatrice de Arana, who gave birth to his son, Ferdinand, in 1487. In her arms he must have found solace for the frustrations and put-downs he encountered, and respite from the dreary life of a lowly petitioner on the fringes of the royal court. He probably also found lodgings, and someone to cook his meals and wash his socks....

... Ferdinand Columbus and Casas both say that the clerk of the exchequer, Luis de Santangel, persuaded Queen Isabell of the worth of Columbus' proposal, but Casas says that what finally convinced her to actively support the enterprise was that the Duke of Medinaceli, one of her subjects, was actually fitting out ships for Columbus' use. Ferdinand Columbus says that the rulers accepted and funded the voyage more because they did not want to be thought cheap than that they were convinced anything would come of it. Perhaps they also feared that the voyage, if successful, could put too much power or wealth into the hands of the noble duke. As soon as she heard what was happening, Queen Isabell told the Duke that she, herself, would see that Columbus' effort received financial support from the royal treasury. She ordered that funds be taken from the treasury to reimburse the Duke for what he had already spent, cutting him totally out of the project. She also decreed, the writer tells us, that work be continued on the ships. Apparently, says Casas, these were the very ships that Columbus sailed on to the New World. If this was so, they must already have been being outfitted at Palos, in cooperation with the Pinzons....

... The final agreement between the Spanish sovereigns and Columbus, aptly called "The Capitulations", was drawn up on 17 April, 1492. It was signed by them two weeks later. Everything that Columbus wished for was granted him, provided his plan worked. All of his titles and honors would be granted if, and only if, he discovered new lands.

Chapter XI : The Voyage
... Columbus had his authority and his money. Now he needed his men. According to testimony that was given later in legal disputes over Columbus' heir's rights, the men were hard to find. Many of them were no more convinced than the "experts" that such a trip was possible. "Many people of Palos mocked the Admiral...and they taunted him in public and considered his enterprise foolish." Martin Pinzon, witnesses testified, came to his rescue and went in search of crewmen....
... With Pinzon's help, the ships were made ready. They put to sea on the third of August, 1492, en route for Cipango....

... The tree covered beach with its naked people apparently wasn't Cipango; that might still be a short way further on. But he had, indeed, discovered new lands! That was the important thing. He was now the hereditary Admiral of the Ocean Sea! He was Don Christopher, a noble of Spain! Years of trial and humiliation were behind him. Those that had laughed at him and his map would sing a different tune, now. He had persevered when most others would have given up the quest. He had kept faith in his map. Maybe it wasn't perfectly accurate, but it had got him to "the Indies"....

... Christopher undoubtedly felt that he did not get all that he deserved, nor all that had been promised him. Yet he was a rich man, far beyond anything that the young weaver boy could have imagined. His "tenth" turned out to be but a tenth of the royal fifth, but that was still a lot of money. He died of age and the gout in 1506, leaving his sons to continue the fight for the honors and privileges that he had worked so hard to obtain for them....

Chapter XII : The Revelation
... he seems to have found a map that purported to show that there were islands out in the ocean, and Asia further beyond. But, surely, it was just a theory. Toscanelli was a renowned cosmographer, but he had probably never even been to sea, much less having seen the western ocean. Columbus had been out in the ocean, but hardly enough to give him sufficient knowledge to accept Toscanelli's idea with such assurance. By this time, he had already achieved a lot. He had a wife and son, social status far above anything he could have expected, an opportunity to make a good living as a cartographer or as a purchasing agent, all that he could reasonably expect. Yet, he left his family, left the country that had accepted him into the upper classes, left his home and work, all to follow a dream. Eight years he spent in Spain, essentially a beggar, seeking that dream. And that's all it would have been if America didn't happen to lie out there, half way to Cipango....

... We know he was very religious. His constant prayers and devotions are described by his son, Ferdinand; his wife, Philippa Moniz, resided in a convent; at least two of her uncles were men of the cloth; Bishop las Casas regarded Columbus as God's divine agent; Father Marchena, Father John Perez, and other pious churchmen aided and supported him; later the Catholic church even considered him for canonization. Christopher doesn't come across as a religious fanatic, yet he definitely seems to have regarded himself as one of God's special agents.
When he stumbled across the Toscanelli map, he must have considered the find to be God's intervention in his life.... Only such a belief in divine election and revelation can fully explain the dogged determination with which Columbus pursued his goal from this point on....
... He appears to have believed, with a certainty beyond belief, that it was his destiny to bring heathen souls to the knowledge of the "true religion", wealth to the queen who believed in him, and honor to his posterity. He would let nothing stand in the way of his bringing this dream to fruition. Neither poverty or ridicule, not even his regard for the truth, could deter him. If Columbus had one quality that we can all admire, it must be his perseverance and total dedication to a goal that he believed was worthy of devoting his life to....

APPENDIX A Chronology
APPENDIX B The Moniz and da Costa Families
APPENDIX C The Toscanelli Correspondence
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