The Tomb of Christopher Columbus
After hearing so many Christopher Columbus stories this summer my children were eager to visit his tomb in Seville Cathedral. What surprised us all was that even after his death Columbus continued to travel for another 300+ years!
His posthumous voyage started in Valladolid where, in 1506 he died at the age of 55 from what is thought to have been Reiter’s syndrome. Three years later they moved his body to a monastery in Seville, where his son Diego was later to join him in death.
Some 40 years later, at the request of Diego’s wife, both bodies were transferred to Santo Domingo (in the present-day Dominican Republic) and placed in the Cathedral of Santa Maria La Menor. In 1795, when Spain was ousted from Hispaniola Columbus’ remains were moved to the other Spanish stronghold in the Caribbean: Havana in Cuba. Following Cuba’s independence from Spain in 1898 he completed a full circle by returning to Spain, this time to Seville Cathedral where he has stayed put until this day.
Admiral of the Ocean Sea
BUT, and much to my children’s delight, the story has a twist! In 1877 someone in the Cathedral of Santa Maria La Menor found a box marked with the words ‘The illustrious and excellent man, Don Colon, Admiral of the Ocean Sea’. Had the Spanish taken the wrong body back? To confuse matters even more both Christopher Columbus and Diego, were known as ‘Don Colon, Admiral of the Ocean Sea’.
In 2006 DNA testing in Seville confirmed the bones to be those of Columbus. Naturally this doesn’t rule out the possibility that part of him still remains in Santo Domingo (his tomb on that side is now in the Faro a Colon / Columbus Lighthouse). But unless the Dominican Republic carries out DNA testing too (which they refuse to do out of respect for the dead) the question of his final resting place will remain unanswered.
But We’ve Come from the New World!
Upon arrival we were told that the nave of the cathedral was closed to tourists as mass was about to start. We didn’t dare lie in a church and told the usher we had come all the way from The New World to see Columbus! Unfortunately that backfired and he waved us aside in favour of little old ladies fluttering their fans and clutching their rosary. After nudging the children forward to make their own personal pleas in broken Spanish the usher kindly gave in and told us to be quick – the advantages of travelling with kids 🙂
The large marble tomb, made by the 19th century sculptor Arturo Melida, is carried by four figures, representing Spain’s ancient kingdoms – Castille, Aragon, Navara and Leon – and sits at the far end of the colossal nave, just inside the cathedral doors. We took a few sneaky snaps and had a moment of reflection before heading back home for an early night. The following morning we would be returning to the New World. We hope to see you on that side too, Admiral!
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