Tag Archives: Columbus

Warriors who hear my voice, you who will go to war, rejoice … Arm yourselves with the sword of the Maccabees and go to defend the house of Israel who is the daughter of the Lord of Armies… Urban II

Recently we listed a book that maintained that the purpose of Columbus’ voyage was in search of new fishing grounds to satisfy the needs of the practises of fasting and abstinence that were part of Europe’s culture at the time. Now comes a book that maintains that his goal was to help finance a new crusade to reclaim the Holy Land.  Both books offer convincing arguments based on sound research and there is nothing in either book that precludes the thesis of the other. What we are left with is two studies of different facets of a historical era both of which confirm the dominance of a Christian Europe that had not yet – in spite of numerous and serious reversals – surrendered its responsibilities to and for the Faith.

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Two of the practises that may have had the most influence on Columbus – that are almost entirely missing from the modern tradition – are first, the pilgrimage and second, the crusade. The following is one of the canons enacted under King Edgar (959-75) It is a deep penitence that a layman lay aside his weapons and travel far barefoot and nowhere pass a second night and fast and watch much and pray fervently, by day and by night and willingly undergo fatigue and be so squalid that iron come not on hair or on nail. The pilgrimage to Santiago Matamoras [literaly, St. James kill the moors!] became the greatest Spanish pilgrimage of the age.

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The second great force – crusade – announced as Deus le Volt! [God wills it!] was on the decline in Columbus’ Europe since they were on the defensive against muslim invasions and would be for most of the next two hundred years. However if the practical reality was a non-starter the idea of redeeming the Holy Lands was still a desired reality. Since the Middle Ages the meaning of crusade has been extended to include all wars undertaken in pursuance of a vow, and directed against infidels, i.e. against mohammedans, pagans, heretics, or those under the ban of excommunication.

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The idea of the crusade corresponds to a political conception which was realized in Christendom that supposes a union of all peoples and sovereigns under the direction of the Church. All crusades were announced by preaching. After pronouncing a solemn vow, each warrior received a cross from the hands of the pope or his legates, and was thenceforth considered a soldier of the Church. Crusaders were also granted indulgences and temporal privileges such as exemption from civil jurisdiction, inviolability of persons and lands so that the interests of the Church and the interests of the crusader became difficult to distinguish.

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Columbus and the quest for Jerusalem  Carol Delaney  New York : Free Press, 2011  Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xvi, 319 p. : ill., maps ; 24 cm.  Includes bibliographical references (p. [253]-304) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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The dominant understanding of Christopher Columbus holds him responsible for almost everything that went wrong in the New World. This new book radically challenges that interpretation of the man and his mission. Delaney argues that he was inspired to find a western route to the Orient not only to obtain vast sums of gold for the Spanish Crown but primarily to help fund a new crusade to take Jerusalem from the Muslims — a goal that sustained him until the day he died. Delaney reveals Columbus as a man of deep passion, patience, and religious conviction.

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Delaney sets the stage by describing the tumultuous events that had beset Europe in the years leading up to Columbus’s birth — the failure of multiple crusades to keep Jerusalem in Christian hands; the devastation of the Black Plague; and, just two years after his birth, the sacking of Constantinople by the Ottomans barred Christians from the trade route to the East AND the pilgrimage route to Jerusalem. Columbus’s belief that he was destined to play a decisive role in the retaking of Jerusalem was the force that drove him to petition the Spanish monarchy to fund his journey, even in the face of ridicule about his idea of sailing west to reach the East.

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Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem is based on extensive archival research, trips to Spain and Italy to visit important sites in Columbus’s life story, and a close reading of writings from his day. It recounts the drama of the four voyages, bringing the trials of ocean navigation vividly to life and showing Columbus for the master navigator that he was.

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Delaney offers not an apologist’s take, but a clear-eyed, thought-provoking, and timely reappraisal of the man and his legacy. She depicts him as a thoughtful interpreter of the native cultures that he and his men encountered, and unfolds the tragic story of how his initial attempts to establish good relations with the natives turned badly sour, culminating in his being brought back to Spain as a prisoner in chains.

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Putting Columbus back into the context of his times, rather than viewing him through the prism of present-day perspectives on colonial conquests, Delaney shows him to have been neither a greedy imperialist nor a quixotic adventurer, as he has lately been depicted, but a man driven by an abiding religious passion.

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No good fish goes anywhere without a porpoise… Lewis Carroll

Christopher Columbus lived in a time when his society held values that most people today would not recognize nor appreciate either the reasons or the practises that they engendered if they did. Many within living memory know of the fish on Friday rule that was once obeyed with the stricture of a commandment by the faithful. It has passed into disuse thanks to the unwillingness of the formerly faithful and the ambivalence of those who were formerly responsible for the promulgation of the rules that the faithful submitted themselves to as a discipline of faith. In order that the reader may understand what the world of Columbus was like we have excerpted the following explanation of fasting and abstinence that was pretty well in effect from 62 AD until 1962 AD.

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Abstinence signifies abstaining from food and the Bible narrative points to the first instance wherein such a course of conduct was imposed by law (Genesis 2:16-17). The obvious purpose of this mandate was to lead the human race to recognize the necessary dependence of creature upon Creator. The transgression of this law marked an increase in the debt which the creature owed the Creator so Adam’s disobedience rendered all men  liable to the necessity of appeasing God’s justice. To meet this new exigency positive legislation determined the ways and means whereby this natural obligation would best be satisfied and the results are positive statutes concerning fasting and abstinence. Laws relating to fasting are principally intended to define what pertains to the quantity of food allowed on days of fasting, while those regulating abstinence refer to the types of food allowed. In some instances both obligations coincide; thus, the Fridays of Lent are days of fasting and abstinence while in other instances the law of abstinence alone binds the faithful; thus ordinary Fridays are simply days of abstinence.

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From the dawn of Christianity, Friday has been signalized as an abstinence day, in order to do homage to the memory of Christ suffering and dying on that day of the week. Clement of Alexandria (Stromata VI.75), and Tertullian (On Fasting 14) make explicit mention of this practice. Pope Nicholas I (858-867) declares that abstinence from flesh meat is enjoined on Fridays. There is every reason to conjecture that Innocent III (1198-1216) had the existence of this law in mind when he said that this obligation is suppressed as often as Christmas Day falls on Friday (De observ. jejunii, ult. cap. Ap. Layman, Theologia Moralis, I, iv, tract. viii, ii). Moreover, the way in which the custom of abstaining on Saturday originated in the Roman Church is a striking evidence of the early institution of Friday as an abstinence day.

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As early as the time of Tertullian, some churches occasionally prolonged the Friday abstinence and fast so as to embrace Saturday. Such prolongations were quite common at the end of the third century. The Council of Elvira (can. xxvi, ap. Hefele, op. cit., I, 147) enjoins the observance of one such fast and abstinence every month, except during July and August. Moreover, Gregory VII (1073-85) speaks in no uncertain terms of the obligation to abstain on Saturdays, when he declares that all Christians are bound to abstain from flesh meat on Saturday as often as no major solemnity (e.g. Christmas) occurs on Saturday, or no infirmity serves to cancel the obligation.

Fish on Friday : feasting, fasting, and the discovery of the New World  Brian Fagan  New York : Basic Books, c 2005  Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. 338 p. ill. 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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What gave Christopher Columbus the confidence in 1492 to set out across the Atlantic Ocean? What persuaded the king and queen of Spain to commission the voyage? It would be convenient to believe that Columbus and his men were uniquely courageous. A more reasonable explanation, however, is that Columbus was heir to a body of knowledge about seas and ships acquired at great cost over many centuries.

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Fish on Friday tells a new story of the discovery of America. In Brian Fagan’s view, that discovery is the product of the long sweep of history: the spread of Christianity and the cultural changes it brought to Europe, the interaction of economic necessity with a changing climate, and generations of unknown fishermen who explored the North Atlantic in the centuries before Columbus.

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The Church’s tradition of not eating meats on holy days created a vast market for fish that could not be fully satisfied by fish farms, better boats, or new preservation techniques. Then, when climate change in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries diminished fish stocks off Norway and Iceland, fishermen were forced to range ever farther to the west-eventually discovering incredibly rich shoals within sight of the Nova Scotia coast. In Ireland in 1490, Columbus could well have heard about this unknown land. The rest is history.
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Those new regions which we found and explored with the fleet… we may rightly call a New World… a continent more densely peopled and abounding in animals than our Europe or Asia or Africa; and, in addition, a climate milder than in any other region known to us. The manner of their living is very barbarous, because they do not eat at fixed times, but as often as they please… Amerigo Vespucci

Toward the setting sun: Columbus, Cabot, Vespucci, and the race for America New York: Walker & Co. : Distributed to the trade by Macmillan, 2008      David Boyle America Discovery and exploration European Hardcover. 421 p.: ill., maps; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [401]-406) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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The untold story of the rivalries and alliances between Christopher Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci, and John Cabot during the Age of Exploration.  When Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Empire in 1453, the long-established trade routes to the East became treacherous and expensive, forcing merchants of all sorts to find new ways of obtaining and trading their goods. Enterprising young men took to the sea in search of new lands, new routes, new markets, and of course the possibility of glory and vast fortunes. Offering an original vision of the race to discover America, David Boyle reveals that the race was, in fact, as much about commerce and trade as it was about discovery and conquest.

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Contrary to popular belief, Cabot, Columbus, and Vespucci not only knew of each other, they were well acquainted — Columbus and Vespucci at various times worked closely together; Cabot and Columbus were born in Genoa about the same time and had common friends who were interested in Western trade possibilities. They collaborated, knew of each other’s ambitions, and followed each other’s progress. As each attempted to curry favor with various monarchs across Europe, they used news of the others’ successes and failures to further their claims and to garner support from investors. The intrigue, espionage, and treachery that abounded in the courts of Europe provide a compelling backdrop for the intersection of dreams and business ventures that led the way to our modern world.

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Comments Off on Those new regions which we found and explored with the fleet… we may rightly call a New World… a continent more densely peopled and abounding in animals than our Europe or Asia or Africa; and, in addition, a climate milder than in any other region known to us. The manner of their living is very barbarous, because they do not eat at fixed times, but as often as they please… Amerigo Vespucci

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Following the light of the sun, we left the Old World… Christopher Columbus

Columbus Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1991 0192158988 Felipe Fernandez-Armesto America Discovery and exploration Columbus, Christopher Hardcover. xx, 218 p. : ill., maps ; 23 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [195]-210) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

In 1992 we marked the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s first voyage to the New World. But for most of us, this pivotal figure remains as distant and mysterious as the New World must have seemed to him. What sort of man was Columbus? Was he a zealous crusader or a mystic seer, as
various legends have it, or an embodiment of bourgeois capitalism, as new interpretations claim?

In this concise, authoritative biography, Felipe Fernandez-Armesto provides us with a striking view of the first European to explore America, going beyond popular misconception to reveal the real individual behind the romantic fictions.

The Columbus that emerges here may differ from the one described in text books and speculative fantasies, but Fernandez-Armesto’s Columbus derives from thorough research into verifiable sources. Fernandez-Armesto paints a new picture of an ambitious, socially awkward parvenu, an autodidact
who was intellectually aggressive but easily cowed, an embittered escapee from distressing realities, an adventurer inhibited by fear of failure.

The author carefully places Columbus in the context of his society, describing in detail both the explorer’s Genoese roots and the culture of his adopted Castillian home. We gain insight into the workings of Ferdinand and Isabella’s royal court, as we watch him struggle to attain patronage for his ambitious travel plans; we learn about the role of contemporary cartography in the formation of Columbus’s vision of the world through an analysis of
marginal notes in his library.

And of course we accompany him on his four trips to the New World, watching his reactions to these newly discovered lands and people, following his unsuccessful career as a colonial administrator in Hispaniola, and charting his growing religious obsessions.

Fernandez-Armesto assesses the preservation and transcription of Columbus’s writings through the work of the 16th century Spaniard Bartolome de Las Casas, and sets the voyages within the context of the ongoing discovery of North and South America.

Complete with eight pages of illustrations and a chronology of Columbus’s life and work, this biography provides a compact and up-to-date guide to the explorer and his voyages written by an acknowledged authority on the legendary explorer.

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Following the light of the sun, we left the Old World… Christopher Columbus

Columbus    Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1991  0192158988 Felipe Fernandez-Armesto America Discovery and exploration Columbus, Christopher Hardcover. xx, 218 p. : ill., maps ; 23 cm.     Includes bibliographical references (p. [195]-210) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text.  VG/VG

In 1992 we marked the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus‘s first voyage to the New World. But for most of us, this pivotal figure remains as distant and mysterious as the New World must have seemed to him. What sort of man was Columbus? Was he a zealous crusader or a mystic seer, as
various legends have it, or an embodiment of bourgeois capitalism, as new interpretations claim?

In this concise, authoritative biography, Felipe Fernandez-Armesto provides us with a striking view of the first European to explore America, going beyond popular misconception to reveal the real individual behind the romantic fictions.

The Columbus that emerges here may differ from the one described in text books and speculative fantasies, but Fernandez-Armesto’s Columbus derives from thorough research into verifiable sources. Fernandez-Armesto paints a new picture of an ambitious, socially awkward parvenu, an autodidact
who was intellectually aggressive but easily cowed, an embittered escapee from distressing realities, an adventurer inhibited by fear of failure.

The author carefully places Columbus in the context of his society, describing in detail both the explorer’s Genoese roots and the culture of his adopted Castillian home. We gain insight into the workings of Ferdinand and Isabella‘s royal court, as we watch him struggle to attain patronage for his ambitious travel plans; we learn about the role of contemporary cartography in the formation of Columbus’s vision of the world through an analysis of
marginal notes in his library.

And of course we accompany him on his four trips to the New World, watching his reactions to these newly discovered lands and people, following his unsuccessful career as a colonial administrator in Hispaniola, and charting his growing religious obsessions.

Fernandez-Armesto assesses the preservation and transcription of Columbus’s writings through the work of the 16th century Spaniard Bartolome de Las Casas, and sets the voyages within the context of the ongoing discovery of North and South America.

Complete with eight pages of illustrations and a chronology of Columbus’s life and work, this biography provides a compact and up-to-date guide to the explorer and his voyages written by an acknowledged authority on the legendary explorer.

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