Christopher Columbus was born in 1451. As a boy growing up in Genoa, Italy, Columbus had two dreams: one was to sail the untamed seas, and the other was to live up to his name and be a Christ-Bearer. When he grew up he developed a plan for reaching the Indies by sailing west. Unsuccessfully he sought financial help from the king of Portugal. Columbus next headed to Spain, hoping that Ferdinand and Isabella might support him. Christopher anticipated that his intent of proclaiming the Catholic religion to the heathens in the Indies would appeal to the staunch Catholic monarchs of Spain. Although they were interested, they were busy fighting a war against the Moors. Columbus waited. Many years he waited, until finally in 1492, Ferdinand and Isabella agreed to finance Columbus' voyage across the Ocean Sea (Atlantic) to the Indies, which was a general term used to describe the Far East including China, Japan, and India. Christopher's years of idleness were over -- now he was going to do the work for which he had been born.

On August 3, 1492, at the age of 41, Christopher Columbus began his voyage to discover the Indies, with ninety men and three ships -- the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria. The fleet spent over a month in the Canary Islands acquiring provisions and having the rudder on the Pinta repaired. Finally they sailed west. With each passing day the sailors' fears increased. The notion that people thought the world was flat is a fabricated story started by Washington Irving in his book, History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus In his log, Columbus never mentions the sailors being afraid of falling off a flat earth. Instead they dreaded running out of provisions, being unable to return to Spain since the current was pushing them out to the unknown, and they also resented being led by a foreigner. There is no historical evidence that they believed in a flat earth. Columbus never gave in to the crew's desires to turn back. He knew he would find the Indies.

One night, as Christopher walked the deck of the Santa Maria, he thought he saw a light in the distance. It was land! The next day, on October 12, 1492, Columbus set foot on an island he christened San Salvador (Holy Savior). Columbus praised God for allowing him to reach the Indies. He did not know that he had discovered a new land. Sailing from island to island, Christopher claimed them for Spain. Toward the end of October he discovered the island of Cuba, and thought it must be Japan. He later changed his mind and thought Hispaniola was Japan Columbus found it hard to explain in words the loveliness of the islands. They were so majestic and beautiful. Regrettably, he only found small amounts of gold. The natives willingly traded what gold they had for the hawk bells, beads, mirrors, and other little trinkets that the Spaniards gave them. Columbus had promised to bring back gold, but how could he if he did not discover a mine? Continuing the journey Christopher next found an island that he named la Isla Espanola (Spanish Isle). Today it is called Hispaniola. On Christmas Eve the crew of the Santa Maria left the steering of the ship to a young boy, and unexpectedly the ship went aground on a coral reef. Columbus accepted the accident as Divine Providence because now they would have to establish a fort, and the men who stayed behind could find gold and have it ready when Columbus returned. He called the settlement Navidad (Nativity) because it was established on Christmas. On January 4, 1493, they set sail for Spain, which they reached in March, 1493. On their return, Columbus, who was called Admiral of the Ocean Sea, was received as a hero.

Christopher Columbus' second voyage had the makings of being an even greater success than his first. He sailed with seventeen ships, 1,200 men, and priests to help the Christ-Bearer convert the heathens. Arriving at Hispaniola in late November of 1493, they found Navidad burned to the ground and learned that a neighboring tribe had killed the men. Columbus built another fort -- calling it Isabela, in honor of the Queen -- but the location was infested with mosquitoes and soon men were sick with malaria. Although Columbus was an amazing explorer, he was a very poor governor and was completely incapable of keeping his men in order. Leaving some men at Hispaniola, he went exploring, and when he returned to Isabela he found the situation worse. There were also four supply ships from Spain in need of cargo. Columbus was troubled. What could he send back? They had not found a gold mine yet, so he sent 500 Indians as slaves. Affairs in Hispaniola were going so badly that Ferdinand and Isabella sent for Christopher. Departing for Spain in 1496, Columbus was a humbled man. He felt these difficulties had come upon him because he displayed so much pride on the success of his first voyage. To remedy this problem he began dressing as a monk by wearing a simple brown robe with a knotted rope as a belt. His second voyage, however, had not been a complete failure because of the discovery of many new islands.

Columbus' third voyage began in 1498. His intent was to find the mainland of China and claim it for Spain. On July 31, a pleasant island with three majestic mountains came into view, which Columbus named Trinidad (Trinity). A few days later, the Spaniards set foot on the continent of South America. They found four fresh rivers flowing into the sea. Could they have found the Garden of Eden? They thought they had. Suffering from arthritis, Columbus went to Santo Domingo (the new fort on Hispaniola), for a rest. The Spaniards on Hispaniola were still very rebellious, and in the summer of 1500, a new Chief Justice named Bobadill arrived. When he landed he saw seven dead Spaniards that Columbus had hung. Quickly Bobadill had Columbus arrested, put in chains, and sent to Spain. The skipper of the ship offered to release Christopher but Columbus refused, wishing to be freed by the monarchs. When Ferdinand and Isabella learned of Columbus being in chains, they ordered his liberation at once informing him that they never ordered Bobadilla to imprison him. The Admiral of the Ocean Sea was no longer a great hero.

In 1502, Columbus embarked on his fourth and last voyage. Having great hopes for this trip, he called it "High Voyage." He planned to sail around the world. There were many storms on this journey. It is reported that once, during a particularly bad storm, Christopher read the account of Jesus calming the sea, then drew his sword from its scabbard, made the sign of a cross in the air, and miraculously the weather calmed.

Columbus was tired and wanted to return to Spain, but his four ships were so worm-eaten that they only made it to an island called Jamaica. They were marooned for one year. A brave man named Diego Mendez and six Indians set out for Santo Domingo in a dugout. Although the natives were friendly they became tired of feeding Columbus and his men. Knowing when there was going to be an eclipse, Christopher told them unless they fed his men he would block out the moon. Columbus' plan worked.

Finally help arrived and Columbus was able to start back for Spain. He arrived on November 7, 1504. His fourth voyage had accomplished nothing.
Columbus believed till his dying day that he had found the Indies. The impact of what Columbus discovered was not recognized during his lifetime. Sincerely Christopher tried to do right and be a Christ-Bearer, but sadly many times he failed. With diligence and optimism he answered God's calling to go into the unknown. Even during his years of rejection and ridicule he still pushed on with bold determination. He died on May 20, 1506, a remarkable man who tried to live up to his name, Christ-Bearer.

Study Questions and Follow up Research

  • Read The World of Columbus and Sons by Genevieve Foster. This book does an excellent job of giving an overview of world events during Columbus' life.

  • To learn more about the flat earth error read, Inventing the Flat Earth Columbus and Modern Historians by Jeffrey Burton Russell

  • What did Columbus think he discovered?

  • How many voyages did Columbus make?

  • Who were the King and Queen that supported his voyages?

  • Look on a globe and find: Genoa, Cuba, Trinidad, Jamaica, and Hispaniola (the island contains the countries of Dominican Republic and Haiti).

  • Build a miniature replica of the Santa Maria. Purchase a model kit from your local hobby store or go online to www.model-ships.com.

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Amy Puetz, a homeschool graduate, loves history, sewing, and working as a computer graphic artist for her company A to Z Designs. She is also the author of the exciting book Costumes with Character.  Visit her website at a2zdesigns.vcn.com. Call 1-307-464-0266 to request a free catalog. She makes her home in Wright, Wyoming.

This article was originally published in the May/Jun ’05 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. For more information, visit http://HomeSchoolEnrichment.com. To request a FREE sample copy, visit http://homeschoolenrichment.com/magazine/request-sample-issue.html.