THE LAST VOYAGE OF COLUMBUS

Christopher Columbus is one of the most famous characters in the history of mankind. It is true that in the last century the almost epic narrative of his achievements has been nuanced, giving way to a more critical view of the figure of the admiral. Today, it is questioned everything related to his behavior with the inhabitants of the newly discovered territories and the process of conquest of America that begins with him. In any case, there is no doubt that his determination to travel to the West, although his initial calculation was wrong, ended up being a turning point in the history of the incipient Hispanic Monarchy. That Columbus undertook his journeys under the flag of Castile would end up having incalculable repercussions on the historical future of our country, Europe and America, so the relevance of the character is indisputable.

Columbus's relationship with Seville was intense even before his first voyage and we know that he had frequent and prolonged stays in the Carthusian monastery of Santa María de las Cuevas, between 1484 and 1492. There he obtained advice and the support of the monks in all the process prior to the approval of your project by the Crown. He established a special relationship with the monk Gaspar Gorricio de Novara, who in addition to being his friend, came to act as his treasurer and archivist.

After returning from his first voyage in 1493, Columbus would spend most of the time he lived in Spain in Seville, since the so-called Puerto de Indias was located in the city from the beginning. It must be remembered that the admiral would make three more trips to America, and that all the preparations and procedures before and after would be carried out above all in Seville.

However, his death would reach him in Valladolid in 1506, where he had traveled following the court of Fernando el Católico. There he was buried in the convent of San Francisco, now disappeared. Three years later, in 1509, his remains would be brought to Seville, to the aforementioned Monastery of Santa María de las Cuevas. Along with him, his son Diego would also be buried in 1526. His widow, Viceroy María Álvarez de Toledo, ordered the transfer of the remains of both her husband and her father-in-law to Hispaniola in 1544, receiving burial in the cathedral of Santo Domingo.

They remained there until 1795, the year in which Spain ceded the island to France by virtue of the Treaty of Basel, making sure before transferring the remains of Columbus to the Havana cathedral. It would not be the admiral's last posthumous voyage. In 1898, when the island of Cuba was also lost, his remains were brought back to Spain. Various locations were proposed to bury them, such as the Monastery of La Rábida in Huelva, the Royal Chapel of Granada, the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba or the Cathedral of Cádiz. In the final decision to bring them to Seville weighed the criteria of a descendant of the admiral, Cristóbal Colón de la Cerda, Duke of Veragua, who was Minister of Public Works and the Navy in the Regency of María Cristina and in the reign of Alfonso XIII.

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The remains were received in the city on January 19, 1899, being deposited in the crypt of the Archbishops of the cathedral. From there they would be transferred in 1902 to the sepulcher made by the Valencian sculptor and architect Arturo Mélida, originally intended for the Havana cathedral. In Seville it was placed on the epistle side of the transept, between an enormous fresco depicting Saint Christopher, by Mateo Pérez Alesio, and the chapel of the Virgen de la Antigua. This dedication always had a large number of faithful among the navigators and the survivors of the first circumnavigation of the world appeared before it in 1522. The door that gives direct access to this space, called San Cristóbal or del Príncipe, had very few years when the funerary monument was inaugurated, although the neo-Gothic style in which it was made hides the chronological difference with the rest of the cathedral.

Arturo Mélida made one of his two main works from an artistic point of view here, precisely next to the Columbus Monument in the square of the same name in Madrid. In the Sevillian case, he made a funerary monument in the historicist and romantic style predominant between the 19th and 20th centuries. Four heralds whose ample clothing recreates those of the time of Columbus, support the admiral's sarcophagus on stretchers carried on their shoulders, forming a composition of great rotundity despite the smooth lines typical of romantic sculpture. Each of them wears a breastplate with one of the symbols of the four original kingdoms that made up the monarchy of the Catholic Monarchs: Castilla, León, Aragón and Navarra.

In the front part, the herald of Castile holds an oar with his right hand, a symbol of the leading role of this crown in the navigation of the Atlantic. On the other side, the herald of Aragon holds a long raised cross, which sticks its lower end in a pomegranate, symbols of the triumph of the Christian faith as unique in Spain and of the conquest of the Nasrid kingdom, the same year of the Discovery. On each side of the cloth that covers the sarcophagus appear the shields of the Catholic Monarchs and of Christopher Columbus himself. In the lower part, again the coat of arms of the Elizabethan monarchy, gold and polychrome, around which an inscription recalls the deposit of the remains in the cathedral of Havana.

To be honest, it must be said that the fact that the mortal remains of Christopher Columbus rest in our cathedral is not universally accepted. Mainly from the Dominican Republic it is maintained that they are in a mammoth lighthouse-mausoleum that they built in his honor in the capital. They argue that an error occurred when moving the remains to Havana and that the real ones remained in Santo Domingo, as evidenced by an inscription that appeared on the chest of the remains that they defend as authentic. It has also been written about the theory that the remains never really left one of their first locations in the monastery of Santa María de las Cuevas, of the Sevillian Carthusians.

What we can say with certainty is that in 2006 an investigation by the Identification Laboratory of the University of Granada showed that the remains corresponded to those of Diego Colón's brother, with whom they share identical mitochondrial DNA, transmitted from the mother. to son. They are, therefore, the mortal remains of Christopher Columbus.

It is true that what is preserved in the cathedral is a relatively small percentage of what is a human skeleton, so we can say that we do not know if Columbus also rests elsewhere, but it is certain that he rests in Seville.

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