Christopher Columbus is a name recognised all over the world, famous for discovering the continent of America in 1492. Schoolchildren have been taught that he was a poor weaver’s illiterate son from Genoa, who, by chance, reached Portugal without a penny in his pocket. There, being 25 years of age, he learned astronomy, geography and to speak three languages – Portuguese, Spanish and Latin and he became so proficient that he could even write to famous scientists such as Paolo Toscanelli. Moreover, despite his provincial, foreign background, he managed in short time to marry a Portuguese noblewoman and to be close friends with King John II of Portugal, who then hired him as navigator.
After his successful voyage in 1492, Columbus became famous and gained the prestigious title of Admiral of the Ocean Sea. He passed away in 1506, without leaving a clear clue about his origins and what his real background was. But why? Did he indeed try to cover up his own dangerous past? Until today, biographers have debated over events in his life, and Columbus himself, deliberately, deepened the confusion.
This traditional view of the Genoese origins of Columbus is based on certain legal documents from those times. They were published in a collection commonly referred to by its shortened Italian name, the Raccolta Colombiana (Genoa, 1892). Supporters of the traditional biography of Columbus focus mainly on his Last Will. In Columbus’ will, supposedly written in 1498, the famous explorer writes: “Since I was born in Genoa…came from and was born there.” Moreover, based on other documents in the Genoese archives, where the Italian name version, Christoforo Colombo is mentioned, historians identified him as a commoner of very modest Genoese origins who seemed to fit the profile of the mysterious explorer, known as Don Cristóbal Colón (Don was the highest title of Spanish nobility) in Spain, as is mentioned in several Spanish documents.
Though the Raccolta Colombiana seemed to prove Columbus’ origins from Genoa, Manuel Rosa, a Portuguese-American historian has probably unlocked the mystery of Columbus’ origins once and for all, and if not yet, at least he has proved that Columbus was not a peasant Genoese wool weaver. As the result of more than 25 years of research, Manuel Rosa has pieced together a stunning array of documents, artifacts and data, from Lithuania, Poland and Portugal to Asia, Africa and the Americas: DNA test results, an impressive diversity of documents, analyzed to the detail…and many other clues – meant to be deciphered centuries later, when the need for secrecy for Columbus’ mysterious and real identity would die out.
Manuel Rosa is considered today’s foremost authority on the discoverer of America and his books on the identity of Columbus have been published in the US, Portugal, Poland, Spain and Lithuania. Several academics from the US, Spain and Portugal have praised the enormous research work of Manuel Rosa, believing that, now, the official biography of Columbus has to be rewritten. So, who then was Christopher Columbus, if not a Genoese poor commoner?
COLUMBUS WAS NOT A GENOESE COMMONER
According to the accepted biography of the discoverer, after one-year stay in Lisbon, the “ex-nobody” Columbus was already so important amongst Portuguese nobles as to be attending Mass inside the elite Monastery of All Saints in the Portuguese capital city and courting the noble dame Filipa Moniz Perestrelo, daughter of the Governor of Porto Santo in Madeira. Supporters of this Disney fairytale declare that Filipa Moniz fell in love with the penniless foreign commoner, and she did not care about his social status or that he could not even write or speak Portuguese and Latin well, nor did she care about the fact that he did not even have a post in the Portuguese kingdom. If we have to accept such scenario, Filipa Moniz, an elite member of the Military Order of Santiago (King John II was the master of this Order), married Columbus in 1479 against all odds – the only such marriage between a peasant male and a noble woman at those times.
After the marriage, Columbus became so interested in navigation that in short time he was considered an expert and a well-travelled man, whose “highly-regarded” opinions were considered by the same King John II more valuable than those of his celebrated Assembly of Scientists. Thus, it would have been after the marriage that Columbus began to study languages and the science of astronomy. When Columbus moved to Spain in the mid-1480s, he had a mistress, named Beatriz Enriquez de Arana. They had one child, Fernando, known in Spanish as Hernando Colón (1488-1539).
Hernando wrote the first biography of his father (in Spanish and it was translated into Italian in 1571, known as Historie, a shortened version of its lengthy Italian title), and this biography confounds the reader with its content. It is no wonder why the Spanish historian Antonio Ballesteros Beretta has written: “One person is responsible for the polemics about the birthplace of Columbus, and that person is his own son Hernando, who, in his biography of his father, displayed ignorance and doubt on a subject which, on the contrary, he should have known well. What is behind the father’s silence and the confusion originated by the son?”
Indeed, Hernando may have been ignorant on his father’s origins and past, since his father deliberately obscured his background. According to his work, Columbus’ son had doubts about the identity of the explorer, while he also claimed that his father was from a noble family and not of plebeian origin, as the Genoese documents suggest. Besides it was impossible for someone to pretend to be a nobleman and hide his true (provincial) background at those times.
Throughout his life, Columbus never mentioned his homeland and was only known in the Spanish court as an extranjero, a man of foreign birth. Although it is true that in Spain many declared that the Admiral was a Ginobés (Genoese), this does not mean that they meant the Admiral was born in Genoa. It was merely a Spanish slang word meaning also foreigner in general. This detail is clearly explained in the course of the Lawsuit Against the Spanish Crown in the early 16th century: “The foreigners in these kingdoms [of Spain], we are accustomed to calling them Genoese, even if they are from other nations…we call foreigners Genoese…and this witness is sure that the mentioned Admiral Don Cristóbal [Colón] would be called a Genoese even if he was from another nation.”
Remarkably, in the acclaimed work of Umberto Foglietta, Della Republica di Genova (1559), the world famous Columbus was not mentioned at all. He was not listed among the most famous citizens of Genoa since Early Middle Ages. Another interesting fact is that more than forty Portuguese names were given by Columbus to locations in the Greater and Lesser Antilles of the Caribbean area. Not even one Italian name, not a name identified with the region around Genoa can be found in these locations.
These are just a few inconsistencies that exist between the Genoese weaver Christopher Columbus and the discoverer Don Cristóbal Colón. It is important to clarify a difference regarding the meaning of “Colombo” and “Colón”. Colombo means pigeon or dove, but Colón does not have the same meaning, since in Greek kṓlon means a “member” or “limb” of a body. According to Manuel Rosa, his real name was concealed, Cristóbal Colón being a pseudonym, meaning Member Bearer of Christ and the Holy Spirit.
And what about the Last Will that supposedly shed light on the Genoese origins of Columbus? Most likely it was a forgery created a century later by Balthazar Colombo, who claimed to be the discoverer’s relative, attempting to claim his immense estate. However, in 1598, the Spanish courts dismissed his claims, declaring all the evidence, including the Last Will that Balthazar presented, as being false.
Columbus wrote to his brothers not in Italian but in a Spanish language mixed with distorted Portuguese. And what language did Columbus write to the Genoese bankers in? It was not in Italian but in the language of Castile, in which he used many Portuguese words. If the Admiral made use of a Portuguese word instead of an Italian word when he didn’t know the corresponding Spanish word, then Columbus must have known Portuguese better than Italian or Spanish and therefore Portuguese must have been his mother tongue. In addition, King John II’s secret letter to Columbus addressed to “Xpoval Colon, Our Special Friend in Seville” dated March 20, 1488 is written in Portuguese, which shows that the king of Portugal knew that the discoverer could read Portuguese.
Finally, the DNA analysis of 477 subjects named Colombo – from Italy and Spain (including Catalonia) – concluded in 2006, failed to prove any relationship between these Colombo families with Admiral Columbus’ DNA. This is strong evidence that makes it impossible that Columbus came from these lands, especially Genoa.
SON OF A POLISH KING?
Manuel Rosa’s well-documented research suggests that the great navigator was in fact of royal blood: the son of King Wladyslaw III of Poland who was supposedly slain in the Battle of Varna in 1444. According to new evidence presented in Columbus-The Untold Story (Outwater Media Group, 2016), the young Polish king survived the battle with the Ottomans, fled to live in exile on the island of Madeira where he was known as “Henrique Alemão” (Henry the German) and married a Portuguese noblewoman named Senhorinha Annes de Sa Colonna, his best man being the same King of Portugal. It is most likely that a conspiracy was agreed to hide Columbus’ true origins and to protect the identity of his father as a result of his wishes. Rosa explains that, “The courts of Europe knew who Columbus was and kept his identity secret for their own reasons.”
His high birth would explain how Columbus was able to marry the daughter of a Portuguese governor; a marriage that was approved by the King of Portugal, something that could never have happened if we believe the official theory that Columbus was an illiterate and penniless commoner from a foreign land at that time.
But is this theory possible, that Polish King Wladyslaw III was not killed in Varna?
Despite the Ottoman claim to have taken his head, they did not have his royal armor, royal coat of arms or his distinctive royal sword, which today would be proudly displayed, among other war trophies, at the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. The Ottomans were to make a similar claim in 1683 after the Battle of Parkany, when they mistakenly thought they had King Jan Sobieski’s head and it later turned out that it was not his. In fact, the body of Wladyslaw III was never found, so in our times we could claim that the king went MIA (missing in action), without us knowing his real fate.
After the Battle of Varna, the Hungarian military leader Janos Hunyadi wrote to the Polish cardinal Zbigniew Olesnicki that “no one knew what happened to the King.” Rumors began that Wladyslaw III was sighted alive, first in the Holy Land, then in Portugal. Because of this uncertainty about the king’s fate, there was an interregnum in the Polish kingdom, as Casimir, brother of Wladyslaw III and Grand Duke of Lithuania, waited to learn about his fate, finally succeeding his missing brother as King of Poland in 1447—three years later.
Two Polish monks went to Madeira in 1450 and confirmed that their previous King was indeed alive. Strong evidence of him being alive is presented in a letter dated 1472 written by a Polish monk, Nicolaus Floris, to the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order, claiming that “Vladislaus Rex Poloniae et Ungariae vivit in insulis regni Portugaliae” (Wladyslaw, King of Poland and Hungary lives on an island of the Kingdom of Portugal). This letter, however, is not the only evidence that the King might have survived in Varna.
Portuguese chronicler Henrique Henriques de Noronha (1667-1730) claimed in his work, Nobiliario da ilha da Madeira: “It was said that he (Henrique Alemão) was the Prince of Poland…arrived at this Island, as we said, where he concealed who he was, and even though they came looking for him, and recognized him, he refused to admit he was the person they said he was.” Other evidence supporting Manuel Rosa’s theory includes the similarity of Columbus’s coat of arms with that of the Polish king, a painting of the explorer housed in the Alcazar in Seville in which a crown is hidden under his sleeve and a letter dated June 1424 that Martin V (Otto Colonna) wrote to King Władysław II (Jagiełło), Władysław III’s father, that the Pope and Jagiełło were blood relatives from the Roman house of Colonna.
So is it possible that Wladyslaw III lived secretly on the Portuguese Island of Madeira, under the assumed identity of mysterious nobleman Henrique Alemão?
MANUEL ROSA LIKE SHERLOCK HOLMES
No serious historian, after reading Manuel Rosa’s new book Columbus: The Untold Story, can ignore his methodological research and exceptional investigation on Columbus’ real identity. The numerous reliable findings of the American-Portuguese historian would make Sherlock Holmes jealous and for the first time we have a biography of Columbus where every piece of the puzzle of this great mystery is solved point to point. Columbus: The Untold Story is a fascinating journey to one of the greatest mysteries in history – to the life of an extremely talented man, who had to be someone of the highest nobility and hid his identity, and most likely being a Portuguese spy with an important mission to put Spain off the true route to India (around Africa) by intentionally misleading them to the Caribbean in search of a passage Columbus knew did not exist.
“This book, without a doubt, is one of the best to captivate me in a very long time. Manuel Rosa makes an exceptionally strong case for those who still insist on believing otherwise.” (Amazon Review)
Interested readers can acquire Rosa’s amazing new book directly from: www.Columbus-Book.com
By Miltiades Varvounis
Miltiades Varvounis is a Greek-Polish historian and freelance writer, with a thorough knowledge of the history of Central Europe. He has written several books in Greek and English, including “Jan Sobieski: The King Who Saved Europe.” http://www.miltiadesvarvounis.com