Two Mysteries Surrounding Christopher Columbus

There is no doubt that Christopher Columbus is the greatest explorer and navigator that the world has known. His explorations have brought new continents to life. But not many of know that there are many mysteries that surround the life and death of this man. I have already two posts about him covering the mysteries of his life. Now, I have stumbled upon another – a mystery that is worth discussing. So, here come a couple more questions regarding Christopher Columbus.

Christopher Columbus Final Days

Depiction of Christopher Columbus’ Final Days


The Controversy Regarding His Origin

In most of the resources and even among the scholars it is believed that Christopher Columbus was an Italian by origin. As per traditional accounts Columbus was from Genoa in Italy. But modern researchers claim that he was rather from the region of Catalonia in Northeast Spain. To support their claims the researchers have a sighted a letter that Columbus wrote back from the New World stating his affairs. The letter was written in Spanish and not in Italian. Furthermore, the vocabulary used in the letter has a strong Catalan influence.

Columbus Tomb in Seville

Tomb of Christopher Columbus in Seville


There is a research presently in progress where the DNA of 350 men from Catalonia with the last name Colon (Catalan way to say Columbus) and 80 men from Italy with the last name Colombo (Italian version of Columbus) have been collected. The team of researchers feels these DNA samples will be matched for their likeness to the recently acquired DNA sample of Christopher Columbus and the mystery will be solved.

The Controversy Regarding His Final Resting Place

When Columbus was returning from his first voyage from the New World he suffered an attack of gout. In the following years he suffered from influenza and other types of tropical fever. He would bleed from the eyes and his gout attacks prolonged in their tenure. As the attacks increased Columbus would remain bedridden for months. He died in Valladolid, Spain on May 20, 1506 at the age of 54. By then he had suffered from ill health for 14 long years. After death Columbus’ journeys did not cease. He perhaps travelled more after death then he did when he was alive. And this is where the controversy rages.

Santo Domingo Tomb

Columbus Burial in Santo Domingo


After the death of Christopher Columbus his remains underwent a process whereby his flesh was removed so that only the bones remained to be buried.

  • Valladolid: He was buried in the presence of a small attendance in a small monastery at Valladolid. But this was only the beginning of voyage after death.
  • Seville: His bone remained in Valladolid for only three years, after which his bones were moved to Seville’s Carthusian Monastery. In 1526 Columbus’ eldest son Diego died and he was buried beside his father.
  • Santo Domingo, Santiago: In his death bed Columbus has expressed the desire to be buried in Hispaniola (modern day Haiti & Dominican Republic). The final wish of Columbus was carried out by Maria de Rojas Toledo, the widow of Diego. She sent the bones to be buried in the newly constructed cathedral of Santo Domingo. Some believe that the transportation took place in 1541. Diego too accompanied his father in the journey and he buried just beside him. His bones were entombed in the Cathedral and remained there for over two centuries.
  • Havana, Cuba: Gradually parts of Hispaniola were slipping into French hands. By now, the bones of Christopher Columbus had become a Spanish national treasure and it could not be left at the mercy of the French. So, the tomb of Columbus was dug up ion 1795 and it was moved to Cuba.
  • Seville, Spain: A century later Cuba gained its independence following the Spanish-American war in 1898 and Columbus’ remains were now brought back to Spain. His bones were placed on an elaborately decorated tomb that had four statues of kings representing four kingdoms.


Box of Christopher Columbus

Box with Inscription of Don Christopher Columbus

This is what the historians had settled upon before the Dominican government claimed that the remains of Columbus are still present in Santo Domingo Cathedral and they were never moved in the first place. As the tale goes some workers restoring the cathedral found a box of human remains from the left side of the altar of Columbus. The box had the name of Don Christopher Columbus inscribed upon it. There was also an urn of bones found with the writing “the illustrious and distinguished male, Don Christopher Columbus. The theorists feel that left and right side depends on the direction a person is facing. So, it might be that the diggers had confused the two graves and the remains of Diego (whose grave was just beside) were relocated.

However, recent DNA tests conducted on the remains of Christopher Columbus and his brother Diego proved that the remains in Seville do believe to Columbus. The Dominican government on the other hand has questioned the legitimacy of this probe and challenged Spain for a sampling of remains in Santo Domingo cathedral.


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