Christopher Columbus died in Valladolid, Spain on May 20, 1506, but his bones went on a journey not unlike the one he himself took while he was still alive.In honor of Columbus Day 2011, here’s a look at an age old question: where are Christopher Columbus’ bones?The question is not so easily answered, so we’ll begin at the end of Columbus’ life.
Columbus suffered through a long terminal illness that was first apparent on his third voyage eight years before his death at the age of 54. His son officially reported the death as “gout,” though in those times, the name gout was commonly used for anything that caused joint pain.Recent research suggests that a more likely cause of death was a rare tropical disease called Reiter’s Syndrome, or reactive arthritis.
However he died, Columbus perhaps travelled more in death than in life. After death, Columbus’ body underwent excarnation where the flesh was removed so that only his bones remained.
Columbus was buried without fanfare with only a handful of people in attendance. Despite his wishes to be buried in La Espanola (the Caribbean island of Hispaniola), he was buried in a small monastery at Valladolid, Spain with the chains he wore upon his arrest after the third voyage to the New World.
After three years, Columbus’ bones were moved to the monastery of La Cartuja in Seville, in accordance with his eldest son Diego’s wishes. Diego died in 1526 and was buried beside his father. However, in 1537, Diego’s widow, Maria de Rojas y Toledo, sent both Diego and Christopher Columbus’ bones to Santo Domingo (in present day Dominican Republic) for burial.