Columbus Monument history
The Columbus Monument, or “Monumento a Colón” as it goes by in Spanish, has a rich history. Many people mistakenly think that “Colón” refers to “column”, but it is actually the name which Columbus goes by in Spain. As hinted, the monument is dedicated to the legendary Christopher Columbus.
Columbus was born in the mid 15th century, presumably in Genoa, Italy. However, some historians claim that he was born in Catalonia, which is another reason why this monument is placed here. He was born in a middle class family and quickly developed an interest in exploring. He is said to have gone to sea for the first time already at the age of ten.
When he became older, he took part in sea convoys around northern Europe and became a skilled navigator. He left his home in Italy and moved away, first to Portugal and later he settled in Spain.
During the 15th century, Europe had long conducted trade with Asia in general and India in particular, via safe land routes. However, troubling times in the east made these trade routes much more dangerous. Columbus had idea that it would be much smarter to travel to the Indies by sailing directly west, across today’s Atlantic Ocean.
Columbus presented his plans for the King of Portugal as well as for the Italian cities of Venice and Genoa, but none of them was interested in funding his voyage of discovery.
He then turned to the monarchs on the Iberian Peninsula; Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castille, whom he after two years of lobbying managed to convince. Columbus set out on his first of four voyages the very same year his plans were funded and reached land two months after his departure.
A fun fact is that as Columbus reached land, his first thought was that he had successfully reached India. When he met the native population, he called them “Indos”, believing they were from India. This has lived on and is why the Native American population is called “Indians” even though they have nothing to do with India at all.
In contrast to popular belief, Columbus wasn’t the first European to discover America. The first ones were Vikings, led by Leif Ericsson, who discovered America 500 years earlier by travelling through Iceland and Greenland to the North West coast of today’s Canada.
Columbus was however the man who initiated widespread contact between Europeans and indigenous Americans and which was the start of the colonization of North and South America.
The idea to create a monument dedicated to Columbus was born in the mid 19th century. The idea didn’t become reality until Barcelona was chosen to host the World Expo of 1888.
A design completion was held which was won by the Catalan Gaietà Buigas and the construction of the monument began in 1882. It stood completed six years later, just in time for the World Expo.
Why visit Columbus Monument ?
The monument is beautiful piece, dominated by several striking statues – all full of symbolism. Surrounding the pillar, visitors can see four seated figures which represents the four realms of Spain: the Principality of Catalonia and the kingdoms of León, Aragon and Castile.
In between these seated statues stand four additional statues. These depict people who made the voyages possible or who participated in the expeditions themselves. One can also find portrait medallions depicting people related to Columbus.
At the bottom of the monument is eight large bronze bas-reliefs located. These reliefs depict important scenes in Columbus’s first voyage; all the way from the first meeting with King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to his arrival in the New World and his return to Barcelona.
In between the reliefs, visitors can find the coat of arms representing locations Columbus visited. This includes the coat of arms of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Santa Fe, Barcelona, amongst others.
The bottom of the pillar itself is decorated with four bronze sculptures of the Roman victory goddess, Victoria, each one taking flight towards one of the corners of the world.
The monument is crowned with a seven meters high statue showing Columbus standing on a globe, pointing towards sea – perhaps to encourage us to do some more voyages of discovery.
What many people might not know is that it is possible to take a small lift to an observation platform at the top. From there, you will get an excellent view over the Marina, Montjuïc and Barcelona’s old town – Barri Gothic.
The landing site
This beautiful 60 meters high monument is not located at the center of Plaça de la Porta de Pau, the Square of the Gate of Peace, without a reason. This is actually the site where Columbus is said to have landed upon returning after his first voyage to America.
Columbus Monument location
The Columbus Monument is located in central Barcelona, in eastern Spain. The building can be found near the Barcelonan Marina, in central parts of the city. For the exact location of Columbus Monument, check out the location map to the right.