Aug 20, 2016

Faro a Colon: The Columbus Lighthouse

By on Saturday, August 20, 2016

In Santo Domingo Este of Dominican Republic, is a towering monument dedicated to Christopher Columbus. It’s called “Faro a Colon”, which is Spanish for “Columbus Lighthouse”, so named because of its powerful lighting system consisting up nearly 150 searchlight beams that project a gigantic cross in the sky. The beams are so powerful that they can be seen as far away as Puerto Rico. Unfortunately, when the 70-kilowatt beams are turned on it causes a power blackout in the immediate neighborhood, which is why they are rarely switched on.

There is another thing that makes Faro a Colon a special attraction: it is purported to contain the remains of Christopher Columbus, a claim that is, however, challenged by the Cathedral of Seville, in Spain.
Christopher Columbus died on May 20, 1506, in Valladolid, Spain. He was originally buried in a small monastery at Valladolid, but three years later was moved to the monastery of La Cartuja in Seville by the will of his son Diego Colón. In 1542, he was dug up again and transferred to Santo Domingo, in the present-day Dominican Republic, this time by the order of his widow so as to fulfill the wishes of the explorer that he be buried in “the land he loved most”. But Columbus was not destined to rest there forever.

Some two hundred fifty years later, in 1795, France ousted the Spanish and took control over the entire island of Hispaniola, which today comprises the Dominican Republic and Haiti. When the Spaniards left, they took Columbus's remains with them to Havana, Cuba. After Cuba became independent following the Spanish–American War in 1898, the remains were moved back to Spain, to the Cathedral of Seville.

But back in Santo Domingo, construction workers dug up a lead box bearing the inscription, "Illustrious and distinguished male, don Cristobal Colon," which is Spanish for Christopher Columbus. Inside the box were some bone fragments.

Dominicans claim that the Spaniards took the wrong body back in 1795, but DNA comparison of samples recovered from the body in Seville with that of Columbus's brother, Diego, who is also buried in Seville, seems to point that Spain does have the right body.

Researchers have been trying for years to convince the Dominican Republic to lend samples of the remains in their possession for DNA analysis, so that the mystery surrounding Christopher Columbus' burial place can be put to rest, but the Dominicans would not allow the remains to be tested.

So who has the right body? It’s hard to say. Columbus’ bones have been moved so many times that there is genuine doubt as to where they have ended up. There is also the possibility that they might have actually divided between Spain and the Dominican Republic, which means that the explorer rests in both countries.


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