By Jon Platakis – Founder/Chairman of the National Lithuanian American Hall of Fame, exclusive for the Lithuania Tribune
Will the National Lithuanian American Hall of Fame have Christopher Columbus as a new candidate for induction? The answer looks to be yes, according to a new theory that Columbus was the Portuguese-born son to the King of Poland, Hungary and Lithuania, Wladyslaw III.
How could this be true? The hypothesis supporting Columbus’s royal origins was first published in 2009 in the Spanish book “COLON: La Historia Nunca Contada,” and then in 2012 in the best-selling Polish book, “KOLUMB: Historia Nieznana,” both written by Manuel Rosa, a Portuguese-American historian and author who has been recasting the Columbus biography in the light of recently uncovered evidence.
The fact that Columbus used some 80 Portuguese toponyms to name the New World, and that he never wrote in Italian, but did write in Portuguese flavored Spanish, and referred to Portugal as his homeland constitute clues to his Portuguese identity. To substantiate the noble birth, Rosa points out that Columbus and his two brothers had easy access to four courts in Europe, and one brother even lived as a guest of the King of France, all of this long before 1492. Among the more intriguing new pieces of evidence, Rosa shows that the Last Will of 1498 (Mayorazgo or deed of primogeniture), where Columbus supposedly claimed to be “born in Genoa,” is a forgery written by a Genoese interloper long after Columbus died. Henry Harrisse had considered the 1498 Last Will a forgery from a later period, but Rosa was the first to prove that the document was falsified.
After reading the known biographies of Columbus, one realizes that there are enough bits and pieces to support the idea that Columbus, his biographer son Fernando, and the court of Spain made herculean efforts to obscure his true identity and origins. Columbus even changed his name in Spain to that of Cristóbal Colón in order to distance himself from his true lineage. Cristóbal Colón is the only name he ever used during his public life and there is no record in Spain of what his original name was. That by itself does not prove Columbus was royalty, but it appears that, if the identity was successfully obscured during his lifetime, it is almost impossible at this point in history to definitively prove Columbus’s true identity without forensic research. All that remains is the evidence that the obscuring was done and a few clues pointing to his true identity.
Over the centuries, many respected historians came up with different opinions about the true birthplace of Columbus. They had to speculate about what the truth might be since little evidence remains. The majority of scholars came to a conviction that Cristóbal Colón, discoverer, was the same person as Cristoforo Colombo, Genoese wool-weaver, while other historians supported their own convictions that the wool-weaver and the discoverer could not be the same person.
The Italian historian, Paolo Emilio Taviani, fierce proponent of the Genoese Colombo wrote: “What wild imaginings could have generated a Greek Columbus, an English Columbus, three French Columbuses, and, as if that were not enough, a Corsican Columbus, a Swiss Columbus, and three Portuguese Columbuses? For an explanation, we can look only to the immeasurable greatness of Columbus’s achievement and to its profound consequences on the course of human history.”
Antonio Ballesteros Beretta wrote: “One person is responsible for the polemics about the birthplace of Christopher Columbus, and that person is his own son Ferdinand, who, in his biography of his father, displayed ignorance and doubts on a subject which, on the contrary, he should have known well. His dubious attitude” continues Ballesteros, “about the Discoverer’s origins has given rise to an endless series of hypotheses, some of which are farfetched and fantastic.” Ballesteros adamantly stuck to the belief that Christopher and his son Ferdinand were peasants who wanted to conceal, with a “claim of noble ancestry, their humble wool-weaving origins.”
Another historian, Felipe Fernández-Armesto wrote that “The Catalan, French, Galician, Greek, Ibizan, Jewish, Majorcan,Polish, Scottish, and other increasingly silly Columbuses concocted by historical fantasists are agenda-driven creations.” Like many, Fernández-Armesto, claimed that the “evidence of Columbus’s origins in Genoa is overwhelming,” referring to certain Genoese documents purported to be “beyond the possibility of doubt” about Columbus’s early life. They claim those documents identify the discoverer Colón as the son of Domenico Colombo, a wool-weaver from Genoa.
These Genoese documents were proudly published by the City of Genoa in 1892 and 1896 in a collection of books known by its short tile of Raccolta Colombiana. There one can clearly see that the Cristoforo Colombo of Genoa was by trade nothing more than a lanaiolo: a lowly wool-weaver, son of another wool-weaver.
Mr. Taviani and the other supporters of the Genoese Columbus, however, completely downplayed the fact that the discoverer was a man with extensive schooling who moved within noble circles and that, in Spain, Columbus’s origins were maintained secret from the public. Thus, the Genoese theory discarded many inconvenient truths and invented details to mesh the weaver’s life with the discoverer’s life.
One of the questions we asked Mr. Rosa was how could these accepted documents be contested?
“In actuality there should not even be a need to contest them, because anyone who spends a few hours looking at them will realize that the documents from Genoa are related to a completely different person and have nothing to do with the life of the discoverer. However, since those documents have been accepted for over a century as being related to the discoverer, one is forced to explain them,” Mr. Rosa stated.
When pressed for more specifics, he advises reading his books carefully as they cover 22 years of scientific research that tackle each issue step by step. “However”, he cautioned, “keep in mind that most of the documents in the Raccolta Colombiana are fodder and irrelevant to the solution of Columbus’s identity. Some of the documents do not even exist from the date they were supposedly created but are only referenced in other documents centuries later. Other documents are forged to add information that was not there initially.”
In fact, copies of documents that made it out of Genoa prior to the start of the Columbus controversy, such as Antonio Gallo’s chronicle, do not even mention Columbus, while Gallo’s copy found in Genoa today does. Of the four manuscripts that are attributed to Gallo, where the “Columbus brothers” are mentioned, (British Codex, Torino Codex, Civica Genoa Codex and Federici Codex) NOT ONE is from 1506, when Gallo wrote his chronicle. They are copies done in the 17th and 18th Centuries. Interestingly the Codex stored in the Library of Copenhagen “Ms. Reale antico fondo n. 2205” the oldest writing from the sixteenth century – therefore written long before the British, Torino, Civica and Federici codexes – has nothing in it about “Columbus brothers”! Clearly Gallo had not written this additional text about Columbus before he died, someone added it later. The famous Asseretto Document was doctored in the Italian publications to remove several blank pages, fraudulently making it look like the text was continuous.
These are only some examples that show how unreliable the Genoese documents and the Raccolta Colombiana are to solving the mystery of Columbus’s identity. “What the Raccolta Colombiana did was help to cover up the truth for yet another 100 years” claims Rosa.
Considered one of today’s leading scholars on the life of Columbus, Mr. Rosa points out that Ferdinand Colón, the discoverer’s son, claimed that his father descended not only from Italian aristocracy, but from the legendary Roman General Colonius and that people were wrong to call him “Christopher Columbus” in Latin, warning that the correct Latin form is “Christopher Colonus.” While historians widely inferred that Christopher Columbus used this noble persona to ingratiate himself to the good graces of the Spanish court in an elaborate illusion to mask a humble weaver background, Rosa thinks Ferdinand was telling the truth. The historians, going against solid evidence in Spain and Portugal, came up with the wrong solution swapping “Cristobal Colón” for a “genovés Cristoforo Colombo.”
The particulars were not always obvious, but because of his familiarity with the Portuguese history of the discoveries and fluency in several languages, Rosa was able to see that something was not right in the official narrative. His biggest clue came when he learned that Columbus had married a Portuguese noblewoman in 1479, a full 14 years before becoming famous in Spain. Knowing that peasants and wool-weavers could never marry nobility, it was apparent something was not correct. By examining more carefully Columbus’s assumed identity, he was able to show how historians had made several simple mistakes that completely changed the course of their research.
First, they mistranslated the name Colón to Columbus, even though Ferdinand alerted us that Colón is not the same as Columbus. Colombo is Italian, Colombe is French, Colom is Catalan, Palomo is Spanish, Pombo is Portuguese and Columbus is Latin. All these names are the same for they mean Pigeon. However, the discoverer’s name was Colón, as in the English colon, and semi-colon, coming from the Greek κωλον (kólon) meaning Member, just as Ferdinand also informed us.
Second, although many contemporary Spanish writers referred to Cristobal Colón as “ginovés” historians missed the important point that in 15th Century Spain, ginovés was slang for “foreigner” and not necessarily confirmation that Columbus was from Genoa. These are two honest mistakes that have led historians in a wild-goose chase to Genoa.
Instead of relying on previous published biographies, Rosa went directly to the medieval sources from multiple kingdoms, plus ancient genealogy and heraldry, in order to cross-reference the historical events with the personalities. In addition, Rosa’s mastery of Spanish and Portuguese, allowed him a more accurate interpretation of these primary source documents, so often prone to errors of translation into English.
By reviewing the ancient documents, chronicles and manuscripts, and taking an active involvement in the DNA studies of Columbus’s bones at the University of Granada, Spain, Mr. Rosa was able to disprove the official narrative as nothing more than a fairytale which was based on repeated misinterpretations of the original facts. Nevertheless, the fact remains that Columbus married Filipa Moniz Perestrelo. Filipa was not only daughter of a high noble and Captain of the Portuguese Island of Porto Santo, but a member of the elite Portuguese Military Order of Santiago, as the newly presented documents show. This makes it impossible for her husband to be a wool-weaver from anywhere. Filipa required the approval of the King of Portugal, Master of the Order of Santiago, in order to marry anyone. Such a granting was a procedure reserved only for someone of high noble standing in Portugal.
It becomes irrelevant what the writers of the last Century, such as Tavianni and Morison concocted about the noble Filipa Moniz. Today we have valid documentation that Filipa Moniz was one of the twelve elite “donnas” of the Portuguese Military Order of Santiago. This new Portuguese document alone, according to Rosa, makes the entirety of the history about an Italian wool-weaver’s son named Colombo a false account.
Aside from the Order of Santiago document, Rosa was also the first to show Columbus’s original coat of arms and to publish the similarities that exist between it and that of the Polish king. The evidence appears irrefutable that Columbus, who had been housed in the palaces of the nobility, had access to royal courts, and married into nobility, could not be, as our history books tell us, the illiterate son of a poor weaver from Genoa.
“Another nutty conspiracy theory! That’s what I first supposed. I now believe that Columbus is guilty of a huge fraud carried out over two decades.” Wrote Prof. James T. McDonough Jr., of St. Joseph’s University.
Columbus never wrote in Italian or Genoese, not even to his two brothers, and the scholars who have dedicated themselves to in-depth research of Christopher Columbus’s language have declared it to be a rough Castilian punctuated by noteworthy and frequent Portuguese words. This is clearly a clue to his Portuguese birth as are Columbus’s own words written to the Spanish court in March 4, 1493 saying that he “left wife and homeland” (Portugal) to go serve the court of Spain.
Now, 21st Century science is shedding more light on the Centuries-old Italian invention of a Genoese Colombo. Prof. José Lorente’s DNA studies prove that the discoverer Cristóbal Colón’s DNA did not match 477 Colombo families from the Genoa area. This constitutes 477 proofs that Colón was not a Colombo.
So, who was Christopher Columbus, or better Cristóbal Colón, if not a poor weaver’s son from Genoa? With so much uncertainty, how can we be sure of what is the truth?
When pressed to further expound on his theory, pointing to his extensive research, Rosa confidently, and with source documents to verify his assertions, claims “Colón was a royal prince, son of a Portuguese noblewoman from the Italian Colonna family and a man named Henrique Alemão (Henry the German) resident on the Portuguese island of Madeira.”
Turns out that Henrique Alemão was the false name of none other than King Wladyslaw III (a direct descendent of one of Europe’s greatest ruling dynasties, Lithuania’s Gedimin dynasty). After disappearing in the Battle of Varna in 1444, King Wladyslaw III went into self-exile at the Island of Madeira and hid his identity from the public at large. Ferdinand Colón also claimed that his father was a resident of Madeira.
Rosa has pieced together many previously missed clues, including the fact that Prince Georges Paleologue de Bissipat, an exiled Byzantine nobleman living in France nicknamed “Colombo the Younger”, said to be a relative of Christopher Columbus was also a relative of King Wladyslaw III and that Wladyslaw III descended from the “Kings of Jerusalem” just as Ferdinand states Columbus did.
According to Rosa’s book, documents show that some of Europe’s courts knew exactly who Henrique Alemão was and who Cristóbal Colón was. Their high connections explain why the mystery was perpetrated to hide the famous discoverer’s true identity.
Rosa theorizes that Columbus’s original name was Prince Segismundo Henriques, born on Madeira and son of King Władysław III and his wife Senhorinha Annes, a noblewoman from the Portuguese Sá and Italian Colonna families. Thus the navigator descended from Italian aristocracy as Ferdinand claimed and shortened his mother’s last name Colonna to end up with his new Spanish identity of Colón. The last name, Colón, was mistakenly changed to Colom (Catalan for Pigeon) by the publisher Pedro Posa in April, 1493, and picked up by may other printers over Europe. But all who utilized the names Colom/Colombo/Columbus, were referencing the wrong person.
Is this just another run-of-the-mill conspiracy theory? Not according to historians from University of Lisbon and St. Joseph’s University, and most recently renowned Greek historian, Miltiades Varvounis, who wrote that Rosa’s book “is a magnum opus and by no means should be considered a work of pseudo history or just another source of nutty conspiracy theories. Rosa’s numerous reliable findings and solid theories would make Sherlock Holmes jealous. The History of Columbus has many mixed-up facts and personalities, and maybe the time has come for the discoverer’s life to be finally rewritten.”
Although in Portugal and Poland academics have taken to debating and supporting the new findings, it is lamentable that, up until now, there is little or no debate in America or Lithuania to either accept or contradict Rosa’s findings. It is hoped that Lithuanian publishers, historians and researchers will take an interest in this history altering evidence, as this book deserves an audience not only in Lithuania, but worldwide, since Columbus is a world renowned figure who changed the course of our human history.
Prof. D. Félix Martínez Llorente, of University of Valladolid affirmed “the book is an extensive and well-documented work on the still-enigmatic figure of Christopher Columbus, with evocative and notorious contributions that will, with absolute certainty, be talked about for a long time.”
Based on the extensive research, one can now be assured that the discoverer of America was not the poor wool-weaver’s son from Genoa. Hopefully, in the near future, forensic DNA evidence can be obtained to prove that Christopher Columbus descended from Lithuania’s Royal House but hid his royal lineage to protect a paramount secret. The secret that his father, King Wladyslaw III, did not die at the Battle of Varna in 1444, but survived, and rejecting the crown of Poland, Lithuania and Hungary, went to live out his days in secret exile in Portugal, was the reason for the whole mystery surrounding his identity.
Will Lithuanians now be able to add another page to their already epic history to include the discovery or America?
On April 6, 2013, Manuel Rosa will present a lecture at Boalsburg’s Columbus Chapel, (http://www.boalmuseum.com/columbus-lecture.html) where more evidence will be presented supporting his conclusion that Columbus was of Polish-Lithuanian descent.