Colombus revisited

Recently there was great news about the finding of one of Columbus’ ships, the Santa Maria off the coast of present day Haiti. While this event has made it into the internet mainstream news reporting, traditional media such as the television channels and daily newspapers in Europpe hardly commented on this extraordinary news item. It is perhaps telling about the state of affairs in 2014, and a contrast compared to the celebration of 500 years of the discovery of the Americas by Columbus. Who was Christopher Columbus? That question seems hardly relevant anymore in 2014. Yet, 22 years after the 500 years of the these days so called ”Columbian exchange” occurred, the person of Columbus is still mired in mystery. Yet it is still important, mythical defining archetype of Western civilization, to which almost everything good or bad can be attributed according to the world view of the modern historian. In the past 22 years Columbus has become neither hero, nor villain, and more and more a mystery.

Simon Schama, the famous historian wrote already in 1992:

Thus, in keeping with the neo-Platonist cult of sublime disclosure and revelation, we should perhaps take more seriously Columbus’s preoccupation with his own name, and especially with the cryptic way that he encoded it in the mystic triangle that, from 1498 onward, he commanded would be the only way his heirs should sign themselves. Though the precise meaning of the symbol remains obscure, we do know that the Admiral meditated, before his third voyage, on the marvel by which his name appeared to prophesy his life: a perfect neo-Platonist conceit. It was preordained, he believed, that he should be Christoferens, or the Christ-bearer, the carrier of the evangel to the nations of the world. In Spanish, moreover, he was Colon, the populator, not merely with new men but also indigenes who would be made new by their conversion to the true faith. And the name Columbus, most miraculously of all, echoes the apparition of the Holy Spirit, who had appeared to him in the form of a Dove to announce his mission and to declare that his name–that is, interchangeably the dove of the Holy Ghost and the clove Columbus–would resound around the world.

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