Columbus and the Virgin Mary

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The Virgin of the Navigators is an alterpiece painted in 1536 by Alejo Fernandez for the chapel at the House of Trade in Seville.  Under the protection of the Virgin are depicted King Ferdinand II of Aragon, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, and, kneeling on the viewer’s right are Christopher Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci and one of the Pinzon Brothers.  In the background are gathering the peoples of the New World.  The painting was made five years after the appearance of Mary as Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico in 1531, and I wonder if word of this miracle had made its way back to Spain.

At any rate, I know Columbus would have loved the painting.  All of his life he had a special devotion to Mary, as demonstrated by the name of his flagship, Santa Maria, and his strict observance of sailors singing Salve Regina at around 7:00 PM after saying their evening prayers.  ( The full name of the Santa Maria was Santa Maria de la  Imaculada ConcepcionSaint Mary of the Immaculate Conception, which indicates that Columbus believed in the Immaculate Conception of Mary.)  On the return voyage from discovering the New World, when supplies were rapidly running out, Columbus and his crew promised pilgrimages to various Marian shrines if they made it back to Spain.  In his will Columbus left a legacy to build a church dedicated to Saint Mary of the Conception on Hispaniola, a wish, alas, his executors did not carry out.  Columbus would rarely write a letter without inserting this phrase:  Jesus cum Maria sit nobis in via. (May Jesus with Mary be with us on the way.)  Not a bad hope for all of us.

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  1. Donald, do you have any articles which address the unbalanced beliefs about Columbus, especially those espoused by Howard Zinn and James W. Loewen?

  2. A good article on Columbus is at New Advent:

    The basic facts about Columbus have been known for a very long time, as indicated by the information contained in the New Advent article from 1908. What has changed is that history has been politicized by people who are historically ignorant like the late Zinn and Loewen but who have political agendas in tune with the powers that be in academia. There are endless articles on the net citing chapter and verse as to what a poor historian Zinn was.

    Loewen is more obscure, but Darwin Catholic has a good take on his politically correct paean to historical ignorance:

  3. Was Columbus a slave trader — of African slaves, that is? I know someone who is convinced of this, and refuses to celebrate Columbus Day because of this.

  4. Thanks for the links. The Reason article did a decent job proving Zinn was no historian. I was looking for something more specific in addressing the Columbus accusations, that he was a greedy and violent SOB who was out for gold and sex slaves, an article that goes like “Zinn says this….. This is what actually happened…”

    This comic by a popular Internet artist summarizes Zinn’s beliefs and what is being fed to young minds.

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