Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Destination is less important than the Journey

“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”?  Lao Tzu

The destination is always less important than the journey.  In 1492 Columbus set sail in the direction of a new Continent and took with him a trunk load of assumptions.  He was ambitious and taught himself Latin, Portuguese, and Castilian, and read widely about astronomy, geography, and history, including the works of Claudius Ptolemy, Cardinal Pierre d'Ailly's Imago Mundi, the travels of Marco Polo and Sir John Mandeville, Pliny's Natural History, and Pope Pius II's Historia Rerum Ubique Gestarum. The historian Edmund Morgan once said of him,
“Columbus was not a scholarly man. Yet he studied these books, made hundreds of marginal notations in them and came out with ideas about the world that were characteristically simple and strong and sometimes wrong..” (Christopher Columbus, n.d.)

He knew he was sailing in a westerly direction but he never gave up the false ideas of where he thought he was heading.  He was living within a plan but it took him in a less interesting and certainly less accurate direction than if he had truly allowed himself the freedom of discovery.

Replicas of Niña, Pinta and Santa Maria sailed from Spain to the Chicago Columbian Exposition
E. Benjamin Andrews - Andrews, E. Benjamin. History of the United States, volume V. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. 1912.
Replicas of the Caravels Pinta, Niña and the carrack Santa Maria. Lying in the North River, New York. The two caravels and the carrack which crossed from Spain to be present at the World's Fair at Chicago.

(Nina, Pita and Santa Maria Replicas, n.d.)
In spite of his ambitions Columbus lived his life never knowing where he had been.  He believed to the end of his days that the lands he had visited were part of the Asian continent and that Marco Polo and Ptolemy had been right in a description of the world.  His refusal to believe evidence that was contrary to his beliefs led him in a direction opposite to the one that he had probably intended and that is why the America is named after the Florentine explorer Amerigo Vespucci and not after Christopher Columbus.  (Christopher Columbus, n.d.)

Tomb in Seville Cathedral. The remains are borne by kings of Castile, Leon, Aragon and Navarre. (Christopher Columbus, n.d.)
Where was Christopher Columbus buried?
As an interesting sidenote, until quite recently the issue of exactly where the remains of Christopher Columbus were buried was still an issue for debate.  Five hundred years after his death it was generally accepted that his bones were interred in Seville Cathedral, but the route that his body took to get to that place became somewhat convoluted over time.  The remains were first buried in Valladolid and then at the monastery of La Cartuja in Seville but in 1542, at the insistence of Columbus' son Diego, his body was transferred to Santo Domingo in eastern Hispaniola. When the French took over Hispaniola in 1795 the body was moved again, this time to Havana.  Cuba became independent from Spain following the Spanish-American War in 1898, and Columbus was moved for the fourth time back to Seville and laid to rest in the Cathedral.  The remains were put into an elaborate catafalque, and the sarcophagus is carried by the statues of four king each representing the Kingdoms of Castile, Leon, Aragon and Navarre.  Christopher Columbus, it seems, traveled almost as far after he was dead as he did during his three famous voyages to the New World.  After his final internment, a lead box bearing an inscription identifying "Don Christopher Columbus" and containing fragments of bone and a bullet was discovered at Santo Domingo in 1877 thereby issuing the question "How many bodies of Christopher Columbus are they and where are they buried?"  DNA evidence finally answered that question; the remains that are in the sarcophagus in Seville are the remains of the Adventurer and Explorer. 
It wasn't the Tomb of Columbus that first impressed me when I entered the Cathedral; it was the unearthly golden glow that fills the entire interior of the vast space, an illumination that comes from light reflected off of the vast Gothic retablo of 45 carved scenes from the life of Christ.  This work of Art was the lifetime labor of a single craftsman, Pierre Dancart, and it is the masterpiece of the cathedral.  Not only is it the largest and finest example of Gothic woodcarving in the world, the entire height and breadth of it is covered in sheets of solid gold; Aztec gold, brought to Spain from the Americas. 
I walked behind the statues and took the picture that became this colored pencil drawing, and the intention was to try and capture some impression of that golden glow, like a heavenly radiance but tinged with blood.
TOMB OF COLUMBUS by Catherine L. Gauldin
Pastel and Colored Pencil
16 x 20
Collection of the artist

The image shows the nave of the Cathedral illuminated in contrast to the dark silhouette of the Tomb of Columbus, held aloft for eternity by the four kings of Spain. 
For an interesting perspective on the world as seen through the eyes of the great explorer, view the image of the Columbus Map

Works Cited
Christopher Columbus. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia:
Christopher Columbus. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia:
Nina, Pita and Santa Maria Replicas. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia:

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