Columbus's vow (Spanish: El Voto colombino) was a vow by Christopher Columbus and other members of the crew of the caravel Niña on 14 February 1493, during the return trip of Columbus's first voyage to perform certain acts, including pilgrimages, upon their return to Spain. The vow was taken at Columbus's behest during a severe storm at sea.

History Edit

Of the three ships on Columbus's first voyage, the flagship, the Santa María, had been shipwrecked in Hispaniola on December 25, 1492,[1] leaving only the Niña and Pinta to make the homeward voyage. 39 men were left behind,[2] the first Spanish colonists in the Americas. Columbus took command of the Niña; Martín Alonso Pinzón retained command of the Pinta.

A replica in Palos de la Frontera, Spain shows how the Niña may have appeared.

On 14 February 1493, in the Atlantic Ocean east of the Azores, they met with a storm that threatened to capsize the two caravels. In the storm, the boats lost contact with one another, and the crew of the Niña feared the worst. At that moment the admiral, Columbus, proposed a series of vows.

The Admiral ordered that lots should be cast for one of them to go on a pilgrimage to St. Mary of Guadalupe and carry a wax taper of five pounds weight; he caused them all to take an oath that the one on whom the lot fell, should perform the pilgrimage. For this purpose as many peas were selected as there were persons on board, one of them was marked with a cross, and the whole shaken together in a cap. The first who put his hand in, was the Admiral, and he drew the crossed pea. So the lot fell upon him, and he looked upon himself as bound to accomplish the pilgrimage. Another lot was taken for a pilgrimage to St. Mary of Loretto, in the marc of Ancona, territory of the pope, which is the house where Our Lady has performed so many miracles, this fell upon a sailor of Puerto de Santa Maria, called Pedro de Villa; the Admiral promised to furnish him with money for his expenses. A third lot was determined upon, for the selection of a person who should watch a whole night in St. Clara de Moguer, and have a mass said there; it fell again upon the Admiral. After this, he and all the crew made a vow to go in procession, clothed in penitential garments, to the first church dedicated to Our Lady which they should meet with on arriving at land, and there pay their devotions. Besides these general vows, every individual made his private one, all expecting to be lost, so furious was the rage of the hurricane.

Fulfillment of the vows Edit

On March 15, 1493, after having touched down at the Azores and at Lisbon, the Niña arrived on the banks of the Río Tinto in the Spanish province of Huelva. Columbus, the Niño brothers and the rest of the crew from Moguer headed immediately to Moguer,[4] bringing with them some Caribbean natives whom they had taken on their voyage back, and also bringing several parrots. The people of Moguer greeted them happily; Columbus and his crew headed promptly to the Santa Clara Monastery to light a taper and spend the night in vigil, in fulfilment of one of their vows.

Years later, at Columbus's trial in 1513, Juan Rodríguez Cabezudo, a resident of Moguer and a friend of Columbus, who had taken custody of Columbus's son Diego while Columbus was away at sea, described the event:

"…They entered from the caravel whence the said admiral came, and the said admiral showed them golden masks that he brought from the Indies and six or seven Indians that he brought from there, and with a knife the said admiral removed a little gold and gave it to an Indian."[5]

The same archive contains the remarks of another witness, Martín González:

"…he came the year of 'ninety-three and returned to the port of this town and thus the said admiral, like all who came with him, said publicly that they had discovered and found the said Indies and many islands…"

— "…vino el año de noventa e tres e tornó al puerto dsta villa e así el dicho almirante como todos los que venían con él dezían públicamente que avían descubierto e hallado las dichas yndias e otras muchas yslas…"

Commemoration Edit

This act is remembered annually on March 16 in an event at the Santa Clara Monastery in Moguer, attended by civil and military authorities, the Royal Columbian Society of Huelva (Real Sociedad Colombina Onubense), and the general public.[6][7][8]

The event consists of a mass in which a taper is burned as an act of thanksgiving, and later crown of laurel is placed on the Columbus Monument in homage to the Admiral and the sailors of Moguer who took part in the discovery of America. This is then followed by a talk or a cultural event.[9][citation needed]

See also Edit

Further reading Edit

In Spanish:

  • Muro Orejón, Antonio: Crónica historiada del Voto Colombino de D. Cristóbal Colón en el Monasterio de Santa Clara de Moguer. Col. "Montemayor" Archivo Histórico Municipal; Fundación Municipal Cultura, Moguer, 1986.
  • González Gómez, Juan Miguel: El Voto Colombino, el Monasterio de Santa Clara y su influjo en Hispanoamérica. Col. "Montemayor" Archivo Histórico Municipal; Fundación Municipal Cultura, Moguer, 1986.
  • Torres Ramirez, Bibiano: El diario de Colón y el Voto Colombino. Col. "Montemayor" Archivo Histórico Municipal; Fundación Municipal Cultura, Moguer, 1989.
  • Fernández Vial, Ignacio: Las tres carabelas. Diputación Provincial de Huelva, Huelva, 1998. (ISBN 84-8163-139-6)
  • Ropero Regidor, Diego. Los lugares colombinos y su entorno. Fundación Ramón Areces, Madrid, 1992.

Notes Edit

  1. ^ (in Spanish) Diario de a bordo del primer viaje de Cristóbal Colón: texto completo (complete text of the Ship's diary of Columbus's first voyage, as assembled by Fray Bartolomé de las Casas (hereafter, Ship's Diary). Entry for 25 December [1492].
  2. ^ Ship's Diary. Entry for 2 January [1493].
  3. ^ Christopher Columbus and Bartolomé de las Casas, Samuel Kettell (translator), Personal narrative of the first voyage of Columbus to America: From a manuscript recently discovered in Spain, T. B. Wait and Son, 1827. p. 216. Online at Google Books. A Spanish version—in modern Spanish, so this is clearly not Bartolomé de las Casas' original—reads, "Él ordenó que se echase un romero que fuese a Santa María de Guadalupe y llevase un cirio de cinco libras de cera y que hiciesen voto todos que al que cayese la suerte cumpliese la romería, para lo cual mandó traer tantos garbanzos cuantas personas en el navío tenían y señalar uno con un cuchillo, haciendo una cruz, y metellos en un bonete bien revueltos. El primero que metió la mano fue el Almirante y sacó el garbanzo de la cruz; y así cayo sobre él la suerte y desde luego se tuvo por romero y deudor de ir a cumplir el voto. Echóse otra vez la suerte para enviar romero a Santa María de Loreto, que está en la marca de Ancona, tierra del Papa, que es casa donde Nuestra Señora ha hecho y hace muchos y grandes milagros, y cayó la suerte a un marinero del Puerto de Santa María que se llamaba Pedro de Villa, y el almirante le prometió de le dar dineros para las costas. Otro romero acordó que se enviase a que velase una noche en Santa Clara de Moguer e hiciese decir una misa, para lo cual se tornaron a echar los garbanzos con el de la cruz, y cayó la suerte al mismo Almirante. Después de esto el Almirante y toda la gente hicieron voto de, en llegando a la primera tierra, ir todos en camisa en procesión a hacer oración en una Iglesia que fuese de la invocación de Nuestra Señora. Allende los votos generales o comunes, cada uno hacia en especial su voto, porque ninguno pensaba escapar, teniéndose todos por perdidos, según la terrible tormenta que padecían." Text for 11-16 February, accessed online at
  4. ^ Moguer y América, (official site of Moguer). Accessed online 2010-01-08.
  5. ^ "…entraron dentro de la carabela donde el dicho almirante venía e les motró el dicho almirante carátulas de oro que traía de las dichas Yndias e seys o siete yndios que traía de allá, e con un cuchillo quitó el dicho almirante un poco de oro a vn indio e se lo dio." Archivo General de Indias, Signatura: PATRONATO,12, N.2, R.3 (fls. 33v-34r.) Cited online at Several variants of this quotation appear to exist, to the same general effect. For a different version, see John Boyd Thacher, Christopher Columbus: His Life, His Works, His Remains: As Revealed by Original Printed and Manuscript Records, Together with an Essay on Peter Martyr of Anghera and Bartolomé de Las Casas, the First Historians of America, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1904, p. 620n. Online at Google Books. That latter source explicitly mentions Rodríguez Cabezudo as having taken care of Diego Colón.
  6. ^ Moguer Conmemora el 513 Aniversario del Voto Colombino y el Regreso de la Carabela Niña, Ayuntamiento de Moguer, 2006-03-16. Accessed online 2010-01-13.
  7. ^ Hoy se Conmemora el 515 Aniversario del Voto Colombino y el Regreso de la Carabela Niña, Ayuntamiento de Moguer, 2006-03-13. Accessed online 2010-01-13.
  8. ^ Celebraciones anuales, Real Sociedad Colombina Onubense. Accessed online 2010-01-13.
  9. ^ El regreso de la carabela Niña, Europa Press item on Undated, but clearly 2008 from its reference to the "515 Aniversario". Accessed online 2010-01-13.