To arrive at Christopher Colombus’ identity, Professor José António Lorente Acosta’s team at the University of Granada carried out analysis between 2002 and 2004 that proved that the handful of fragments of bones that are in the Monumental Cathedral of Seville do belong to the famed Navigator because it was proven that they belonged to the father of Hernan Colon, Columbus’ son also buried in the Cathedral, and a brother of Diego Colon buried in the Carthusian Monastery of the same city.
Once the genetic profile of Colombus was obtained, his DNA was compared with several Italian families with the most diverse variations of the surname, but according to Lorente “it was inconclusive since there were no common markers or connections to any of these families.”
In the absence of other samples of contemporary remains that could support the Genoese theory, scientists turned their attention to the other theories, discarding some more distant ones and now considering those that argue that Columbus was Iberian as the most plausible.
The lack of bone matter and the very small amount that was made available for the project soon proved to be an impediment because the technology at the time could not go any further, and it was destroying what little there was. This determined the suspension of the project, which is now only resumed 16 years later, on May 20, on the occasion of the 515th anniversary of the death of the Navigator in 1506.
In order to test the various theories, bones of alleged relatives of Colombus were sought, which would be analyzed and compared with the DNA markers of the Navigator, his brother and son, in an attempt to establish a close kinship connection. However, the samples to support two of the Portuguese theories were not submitted for analysis at the laboratory headed by Lorente because, according to the defenders of the two theories, the DNA analyzes will be carried out in Portugal and the results will then be sent to Granada for comparison.
However, three samples that may be decisive in this project, were officially delivered to the laboratory last Wednesday by Carlos Evaristo, an archaeologist specializing in sacred relics and medieval sacred iconography who has been involved in the Colombus project now for several years. The relics transported from the Regalis Lipsanotheca (Relic Repository) of the Oureana Foundation in the Castle of Ourém in a metal safe sealed with wax seals was opened in the Granada laboratory and the relics removed and submitted through the signing of a Diocesan affidavit.
As part of the resuming of the DNA study project of Christopher Columbus, announced last Wednesday by the University of Granada, an International Conference was also organized by the same University, and experts in the various theories about the nationality of the navigator, were asked to present evidence to support their claims.
Only the defenders of the most commonly accepted theory, but also the most questioned one, that of Columbus having been born from a Genoese family of wool dyers, were not represented. However, there were presentations made by experts of the theories of Colombus being a Catalan, a Valencian, an Aragonese, a Galician, a Castilian, and three distinct theories that defend that he was of Portuguese origin: one, a privateer, of noble ancestry, presented by Fernando Branco; that he was a bastard son of Princess D. Isabel of Aviz, presented by José Matos e Silva and that he was the son of an Princess of the Royal House of Avis, a theory of the late Augusto Mascarenhas Barreto presented in his memory by Carlos Evaristo.
Evaristo who is a “Custos” (a member of a Diocesan Commission that authenticates and restores relics), considers all the theories presented at the conference “very well grounded” although he sympathizes more with the theory that Columbus was a bastard member of the Portuguese Royal House. In support of this theory Evaristo also presented the University of Granada with a study written with famed underwater explorer Dave Horner on Columbus’ Secrets and Mysteries and they also co-produced a documentary with acclaimed American Producer / Director Paul Perry on the same theme.
At the conference Evaristo presented and defended the theory of his late friend and Mentor, researcher Augusto de Mascarenhas Barreto, who argued that Columbus would be the bastard son of D. Fernando, Duke of Beja and of Isabel Zarco, the daughter of the Explorer Jophn Gonçalves Zarco and was subsequently born in Cuba in the Alentejo, Portugal, his real name having been Salvador Fernandes Zarco or Salvador Gonçalves Zarco.
Evaristo considers however, that “the most important thing is to prove that Columbus was Iberian and not Genoese, something that Pope Alexander VI had already affirmed when referring to the Navigator as a beloved son of Iberia in the Bull Inter Cætera dated May 4th, 1493, and which established a meridian located 100 leagues to the west of the Cape Verde Archipelago, in relation to which the one to the west of the meridian would be Spanish, and the one to the east, Portuguese, preceding the division of the New World that in 1494 it was agreed in Tordesillhas and that came to favor Portugal in the race to find the water route to India. The evidence on the plate weighs more on the historical scale in favor of him having been Portuguese; regardless of the theories, because the fact is that many circumstances in his life all point to him being linked to Royal House. For this reason it is essential to try to establish an eventual genetic link by obtaining equal markers with ancient Saints of the Portuguese Royal House. In any case, it is proven that Columbus served as Captain of War, a kind of secret agent in charge of diverting the attention of the Spanish Pope and Catholic Kings from the true water route to India and the existence of lands in Brazil and Canada, discovered prior to Columbus’ arrival in the Americas in 1492 and which would be lost to Castile, just as the Canary Islands had been, under the Alcáçovas Treaty. That is why these discoveries were only officially revealed after King D. João II guaranteed 370 more leagues with the Treaty of Tordesillas that covered them. That is why with the revelations of the existence of these lands in 1498 and 1500 Columbus fell into disgrace, was arrested and although released, died in relative obscurity and with all rights revoked.
To this end, Evaristo has spent 10 of the last 30 years that he has already dedicated to the study of Columbus, looking for contemporary genetic material or remains that are older, but without success. According to the founder of the Royal Institute of Sacred Archeology; “there are no mortal remains in most of the tombs and graves of the supposed relatives or brothers of Columbus in Portugal, for comparison. Some of Kings like D. Manuel I, D. João II and his sister Princess Saint Joana are difficult to open without causing damage or spending a lot of money. Many remains are simply missing, and because there are no records of transfers, Evaristo believes they were simply removed and transferred to the mass graves of public cemeteries when the order to evict all sepulchers in churches after 1834 was enforced, a action that led to the so-called Maria da Fonte revolt.”
It was then that the author who is one of the world’s foremost experts of Holy Relics and the Founding President of the Portuguese Patrons of the Vatican Museums Chapter, thought of presenting relics of Saints from the Portuguese Royal House for possible comparison of DNA results with the three Columbuses; the Navigator, his son and his brother. The choice fell on the relics that Evaristo collected and keeps at the Regalis Lipsanotheca in Ourém Castle, where the canonically erected Apostolate of Holy Relics is based, having been founded by he and his wife Margarida, an assistant relic conservation technician for 33 years.
“The problem”, according to the Evaristos, “was that 16 years ago, for example, it was not possible to extract DNA from hair and today it is and that is why Professor Lorente, who did not want to spend more bone material because there was little to begin with made available for the project, wisely decided to suspend the study until the technology evolved. Now that it’s possible to use hair, he asked us to submit the samples and we gladly complied.”
The fact that there are few Columbus bones in Seville, a mere handful of bone material that most resembles a handful of stones, according to Evaristo, “is due to the fact that there was a universal religious practice in force until the 19th Century of leaving a third part of the skeleton at the original burial site when there was a transfer, so that in case the bones were lost in transport or later lost, for another reason, there would always be something so that the angels on the day of the final judgment could recreate the body so as to unite it with the soul and thus revive it at the resurrection of the dead.
Evaristo guarantees that “since the remains of Columbus were left unburied in Valladolid awaiting transfer to a family tomb, the body had to be dismembered and excarnated according to the Mos Teutonicus process (the Teutonic Knight’s practice of dismembering and defleshing the bodies for later transport), and was then later transferred to the Carthusian Monastery in Seville from where it was sent to Santo Domingo. When Spain lost possession of Santo Domingo however the remains were sent to the Island of Cuba and then returned back to Seville. Because of this it is not surprising that the Dominican Republic also claims to have a good part of the skeleton of the Navigator in the so-called Colón lighthouse in Santo Domingo, although most of the remains have disappeared. It may also be that the remains that are there are those of his son Diogo Columbus or a mixture of the two.”
In Valladolid the municipality proceeds with excavations at the site of the former Convent of San Francisco, where Columbus died. The precise location of his first burial or resting place of the urn with his bones has already been identified by Historian Marciel Castro and it is believed by Evaristo to be the site where the first third of the remains would have been buried.
Marciel Castro was also the person who first had the idea in 2002 to start genetic studies on the remains of Columbus. He was also the instrumental person in the location of the remains of the brother of the Navigator, named Diego Colón, and proposed the idea for the opening the tomb of the son of the Navigator; Hernan Colón who was also buried in the Cathedral. Castro located the chapel of the first grave by superimposing an old map over a current one.
Thus, three hairs of Queen Saint Isabel of Portugal, Princess of Aragon, more than seven centuries old, were carefully removed by Lorente and Evaristo from a reliquary with a lock of hair, sealed in wax with the seal of Bishop Count of Coimbra D. Frei Joaquim de Nossa Senhora da Nazaré. This hair had been collected by the same Prelate in the presence of King D. Miguel I according to existing documentation in historic archives at a time when the opening of the tomb of the Holy Queen was carried out for verification of the state of preservation of the incorrupt body.
The other two samples of Saint’s Relics provided by Evaristo are more difficult to re-authenticate because they have lost their authentics and seals over the centuries and have also been removed from the original reliquaries before being sold by private individuals. They are supposedly blood and bones of two Portuguese Saints who already had a great contemporary religious cult at the time of Columbus and who were members of the Royal Family of Avis / Bragança. Although Evaristo believes that these relic are genuine, if a relationship is not verified, he is prepared to obtain alternative samples of relics of the same saints or others, but that are still in the possession of the original entities since their death.
Evaristo also handed over to Professor Lorente by Protocol, for comparison, several samples of bones that he thinks belonged to members of the Portuguese high nobility and of proven contemporary antiquity to Columbus.
Evaristo affirms that “these Saints of the Portuguese Royal House are common ancestors or else direct relatives of the people presented in the various Iberian theories as being possible parents of Columbus, so if a genetic link is discovered, this could serve to confirm that he was at least Iberian if it cannot be proven that he was actually Portuguese. Everything that revolves around his life, from his writings to the connections and statements made by others at the time goes in this direction. Even the sentence of the Spanish Supreme Court of 1515 that ratified a decision of the Santo Domingo Court regarding the rights to the family inheritance, declared that the Navigator was in fact called Xproval Colomo in 1484 when he arrived from Portugal and that he was probably of Portuguese origin. Other existent writings and the fact of having married a Portuguese noblewoman, of having a Safe Conduct Letter from King D João II among other privileges that only a relative of the Royal Family would have, such as sitting in the presence of the King, attending Mass with him and being alone with the Queen and Prince D. Manuel for several days, are all documented facts that led people to question his true identity and mission at the time.”
For now, the proposal presented to Lorente as being the most concrete to establish a connection to the Portuguese Royal House is another proposed by Carlos Evaristo; namely the opening of the lead urn containing the remains the Infant Prince D. Miguel da Paz, that Evaristo identified several years ago in the Capilla Real in Granada Cathedral. The Prince who was firstborn of King D. Manuel I of Portugal and his wife who was the daughter of Isabel the Catholic, would therefore be nephew of Columbus according to the thesis of Mascarenhas Barreto.
The Cabido da Sé de Granada, however, has so far refused to allow the urn to be opened. It also refused an invasive method proposed by Evaristo of introducing an endoscopic camera with tweezers through a side aperture that exists. In a letter it was said to be “an inopportune moment”.
Evaristo also discovered that the fact of not knowing Columbus’ real name and his true nationality were the main impediments that the Sacred Congregation of Rites had in the 19th century to open the process for the Canonization of the Navigator, as proposed by the founder of the Knights of Columbus, Father Michael Mc Givney through the North American Episcopate.
For Carlos Evaristo “the identity of Columbus is a page of universal history that remains to be written and if it is not Professor Lorente and his team to finally write that final chapter, a mystery that is over 500 years old may never be solved. And even if he is not Genoese, or Spanish or Portuguese, what matters is the truth. This doesn’t detract from the value of those dedicated investigators who, faced with this forensic mystery, followed valid clues based on contemporary facts to present various theories. Is that not what investigators do when there is an unsolved mystery or crime?” Columbus who open up the Americas to evangelization deserves to be recognized by his real identity and nationality.
“But it’s DNA,” says Lorente, “which will be the key to unraveling the mystery”. A mystery that Columbus never wanted to reveal in his life, not even to his children.
The results of the DNA analysis will be announced by Professor Lorente on October 12, the anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in the Americas in 1492.
Granada, May 19th, 2021
Real Instituto Cristóvão Colom – Salvador Fernandes Zarco – RAHA
(DEPARTAMENTO DE PESQUISA COLOMBIANA AUGUSTO MASCARENHAS BARRETO DA FUNDAÇÃO OUREANA)