Feature Article - May 20, 1506 - Christopher Columbus Died

Colonial American History Stories - 1215 - 1664
Colonial American History Stories - 1215 - 1664

May 20, 1506 - Christopher Columbus Died
Christopher Columbus had returned from his fourth, and final, voyage on November 7, 1505. His health was poor. The poor food and bad living conditions during his voyages and the shipwreck had taken its toll. His eyesight was poor, he suffered from painful bouts of arthritis or gout. He went to Seville to await an audience with the King and Queen. The Queen was on her deathbed and died on November 26, 1504. The Spanish Crown had refused to pay him the ten percent commission on profits derived from the new lands because they felt he had forfeited it when it relieved him of the position of governor. Columbus had expected to receive at least a government post of some kind in appreciation for his accomplishment. King Ferdinand had no intention of giving him a post and adamantly refused to see him.  Thus, Columbus never profited from his discoveries. He lived in poverty in Seville, waiting for word from the King. The King did grant him one brief interview. During that moment, the King made no promises of anything. During the time he had left, he still believed he had found a route to China. He did not know he had found an entirely new world. Thus, when he died on May 20, 1506 the discoverer of a new world that would generate wealth beyond measure for Spain would die a disappointed and impoverished man.
Columbus' Nomadic Remains
After his demise, his remains wandered almost as much as he did when alive. After his death, the Valladolid friary was the repository of his body. From there his bones went to the Carthusian monastery of Las Cuevas in Seville, to his family's mausoleum. When his son Diego died, his will stipulated that his father's remains and his own were to be laid together in the Cathedral of Santo Domingo in Hispaniola. This was to satisfy his father's request that his body be buried in his first discovery, Hispaniola. Spain ceded Hispaniola to France in 1697 and the remains went to Cuba to reside in Havana in 1795. They were returned to Seville in 1898. However, workers discovered a set of bones in the Cathedral of Santo Domingo in 1877 that bore markings that indicated that they were the ones of Christopher Columbus. Authorities interred these at the Columbus Lighthouse in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Genetic DNA comparisons to the bones authorities know are Columbus' brother have determined that Spain has the right bones. The testing was completed in 2006. That does not mean that the bones in Santo Domingo are not his. Since the body has been moved several times, it is possible that they became mixed with others, with some in the New World and some in Spain. Spanish authorities are awaiting permission to test the ones in Santo Domingo.

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