Christopher Columbus: History’s man of mystery
Without doubt, Christopher Columbus is one of the most important figures in world history. Unfortunately, some of what we know about Columbus is “fake news” in that it has not been verified by multiple, independent, open, and reputable sources. Apparently, this “fake news” is driven by the desire of so many nations to claim ownership of Christopher Columbus. Or, as he was known in much of the world: Cristobal Colon.
Wonder Wife and I are among the many who question the origins of Christopher Columbus. We have been to Barcelona where Columbus might have been conceived, even though we are convinced he was born in Genoa, Italy. We have been to the Cathedral of Seville where some of the bones of Columbus are kept in a crypt. We have even been to the Dominican Republic which also claims to have the remains of Christopher Columbus. We have been to Cadiz where Columbus set sail for the New World in 1492. Thanks to Stephen Birmingham’s “The Grandees,” we have also read about the ups and down of the Sephardic Jews living on the Iberian Peninsula which, of course, includes both Spain and Portugal, where Columbus lived most of his years.
All this travel and study leave us with no clear conclusions. The nationality of Columbus is not only claimed by Italy but also by Spain, Portugal, Greece, Sardinia, even Norway. The most ironic theory, however, of the many theories about Columbus is that he was conceived in the womb of a Jewish woman, resident in the household of a Jewish nobleman living in Barcelona, Catalonia (Spain.) Pressured to flee during one of Spain’s periodic Inquisitions, Colon was taken in the womb to Genoa (technically, not yet Italy) where he was born.
But since Cristobal Colon was never known to speak a work of Italian, it is difficult to believe he grew up around Genoa. Instead, Colon was fluent in Spanish and Portuguese. Yet the marginal notes on Colon’s navigational charts were written in Hebrew. And that is what gives rise to the, probably apocryphal, tale that Colon’s birth mother was a Jewish girl in the household of a wealthy Jewish merchant in Barcelona. After being born in Genoa, Colon was raised in Barcelona as a “Converso” — a Jew forced by the Catholics to convert to Christianity. The distinguished linguist, Estelle Irizarry, notes Colon “…always wrote in Spanish, and occasionally included Hebrew in his writing…”
Good at math, Colon was fascinated with navigation. At the time, navigators used the position of the sun and certain stars to locate themselves along lines of Latitude. It would be another 238 years before, John Harrison, an English clock maker, designed a reliable ship-board clock so lines of Longitude could be determined. Given the limited navigation tools Columbus had available, he did rather well.
Now, fast backward to 1492, the year that King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella expelled all the Jews from Spain and seized their possessions. Choose to believe this version or not, what if Ferdinand and Isabella used some of money seized from the expelled Jews to fund the voyages of Columbus, who may have been born as a Jew? Talk about irony. We report. You decide.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, is a laureate of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, the Nebraska Aviation Hall of Fame, the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame, the Oklahoma University Army ROTC Wall of Fame, and is a recipient of the University of Nebraska 2015 Alumni Achievement Award. He was educated at the University of Oklahoma, the George Washington University, the U.S. Naval War College, the University of Nebraska, and Harvard University. For more see http://www.central-view.com.
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