Tomb of Christopher Columbus
Cathedral and Tomb in Seville
Just inside the Cathedral door of Seville’s massive cathedral stands a monument to Christobel Colon or as he is also known, Christopher Columbus. His tomb is held aloft by four allegorical figures representing the four kingdoms of Spain during Columbus’ life, Castille, Aragon, Navara, and Leon.
Columbus died in the Spanish town of Valladolid in 1506 after his fourth and last voyage. He was moved shortly thereafter to be buried in a Carthusian monastery in Seville, by orders of his surviving brother, Diego. Then his remains, along with those of his son Diego were then removed to the newly completed Santo Domingo Cathedral in the Dominican Republic at the request of Maria de Toledo, Diego’s widow. As apparently Columbus had fallen out of favor with the Spanish royal family and his final wish, apparently, not to be buried in Spanish soil. They remained there for a couple of centuries until, in 1795 when Spain lost control of the Dominican Republic. They were moved to Havana, and stayed for the next 100 years until 1898, when the Spanish were also thrown out of Cuba, they were finally returned back to Seville.
The tomb’s catafalque was designed by the sculptor Arturo Melida, and was originally intended to be installed in Havana. However before this Spain lost control of Cuba and Columbus was returned to Seville. When Columbus’ body was returned to Seville it was installed into the tomb there and was one of the last additions to the cathedral, installed in 1899.
Where is the real Tomb of Christopher Columbus?
In 1877, while the Tomb of Christoper Columbus was supposed to be in the Spanish controlled Havana, workmen in Santo Domingo Cathedral unearthed a lead box. The box contained bones and the inscription “Illustrious and enlightened male Don Christobel Colon, Admiral of the Ocean Sea”. That box is now contained in the massive “Faro a Colon” Lighthouse in Santo Domingo.
So for some years the question of where Columbus is buried was still in dispute, however forensic tests carried out in 2006 have confirmed that the body in Seville is either Christopher Columbus or his brother.
Symbolism on the Tomb of Christopher Columbus
The tomb was carved in alabaster and polychrome bronze that is based on a large stone and marble base where you can read: “When the island of Cuba was emancipated by the mother of Spain, Seville obtained the deposit of the remains of Columbus and its town hall erected this pedestal.”
The sepulchre represents four heralds symbolizing the kingdoms of the Spanish Crown and carrying on their shoulders the coffin of the discoverer covered by the banner of the Catholic monarchs. The four kingdoms of Spain were: Castilla, Leon, Navarra, and Aragon.
What symbols to look out for:
- The king of Leon is easy to recognize, as there is a giant lion on the back and front of his coat.
- Navarra has linked chains, which can also be found in the coat of arms, around the drapery on the leg-area.
- The Kingdom of Aragon had stripes in its coat of arms, so the striped drapery on the remaining statue is reminiscent of that. Also both the crown and the clothing have bats on them and while not represented on the coat of arms of Aragon, it was represented on the coat of arms of several important cities in Aragon, such as Valencia and Novallas.
- The statue of Castile, is also easy as he has a castle on the front. Castile is also represented by a paddle marked with a marine animal, a symbol of the voyages that the Queen Isabel was Queen of Castile supported when she sent Christopher Columbus on his journey to America.
- The king of Leon has pomegranates on his robe which is the symbol of Granada. The spear through the pomegranate is symbolizing that Grenada was the last kingdom to be conquered in the name of Catholicism.