The details of the first landfall of Europeans in the Americas are rather unknown in modern times. Historians have typically shied away from the Catholic aspects of Columbus’ journeys, either making passing mention or ignoring them entirely.
Article: What your history books didn’t tell you about Columbus
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MYTH: Columbus was sailing to prove the world was round
FACT: Columbus was well educated. He was not lightly given command of three ships on a voyage of discovery. All educated people of the late 1400’s knew the earth was a sphere - - - a fact known since antiquity. What was in dispute was the earth’s circumference, which Columbus underestimated by one-fourth.
MYTH: Queen Isabella sold her crown jewels to finance the first voyage.
FACT: The royal treasury of Spain was depleted after the 780 year Reconquest of Spain from Islam. The “Reconquista” was completed by Ferdinand and Isabella’s conquest of Granada on January 2, 1492. Columbus had previously retained about 50% financing from Italian sources. The Spanish royal treasurer retained the balance from long established Crusading societies around the Mediterranean Sea and in Spain and elsewhere.
MYTH: There was a priest on board the Santa Maria in 1492.
FACT: There were no priests or friars on the first voyage because of the unknown dangers involved. There were five priests on the second voyage.
MYTH: Columbus introduced slavery to the New World.
FACT: Slavery was already widespread among the native Indians when Columbus arrived. Bartolome de las Casas, a Spanish friar who worked for the protection of the Indians, is quick to excoriate his fellow Spaniards in their grave abuses, but is filled with nothing but respect and admiration for Columbus. The mass subjugation and importation of Africans to the Americas did not begin until a generation after Columbus’ death.
MYTH: Columbus died a pauper, in chains, in a Spanish prison.
FACT: Columbus was relatively wealthy at the time of his death. Although he returned to Spain in chains in 1500 after his third voyage, the King and Queen apologized for the misunderstanding and had them removed. Christopher Columbus died May 20, 1506, Feast of the Ascension. As friars chanted Compline, his last words echoed those of Christ on the cross: Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
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