Pedro Madruga: Galician VIP…and Another Name for Christopher Columbus?
Pedro Madruga is remembered as one of the most important Galicians. His life was full of adventure and also created one of the greatest mysteries of this region. According to many researchers and some quite convincing investigations, this man may have been the famous explorer many people call Christopher Columbus. However, his life story is fascinating enough to be a movie plot even without the part related to Columbus.
The Lord of Soutomaior
Pedro Madruga’s real name was Pedro Álvarez de Soutomaior (Soutomayor). He was born into a very influential family that owned much land and many important buildings in Galicia - Pedro was one of Fernán Eanes de Soutomaior’s sons. However, he was an illegitimate child. The name of Pedro’s mother is also unknown.
His relatives owned many important castles, towers, and lands, they were wealthy and one of the most important families in the region for many centuries. Pedro was, however, one of the most problematic members of the family. He had a rebellious personality and he seemed to have no fear of the authorities. The list of the things he did to shock the community in Galicia and the rest of Spain is long. At the same time, many people also loved him, so he could count on lots of support as well.
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Apart from Pedro, Fernán Eanes de Soutomaior also had a legitimate son – Alvaro. However, Alvaro died a bachelor so Pedro inherited his father’s estate. His aunt helped him obtain his inheritance – even though she could have taken it all for herself.
The nickname ‘Madruga’ comes from the Spanish word 'madrugar', meaning 'in the morning'. Pedro received this moniker because he was always trying to take action before his enemies did. There are several stories related to this legend and each one ends stating that when someone wanted to reach something at a certain time, Pedro would have arrived first.
Soutomaior Castle, the ancestral home of Pedro Madruga. ( CC BY-SA 2.0 )
With time, Pedro became an important figure in Henry IV of Castile’s court. By the king’s orders, Madruga controlled the Bishop of Santiago de Compostela. At that time bishop Alonso de Fonseca was very powerful, but Madruga’s actions caused him many problems. During the Irmandino revolt, Pedro escaped to Portugal and asked for help. He created an army, including a fleet of ships, and returned to fight in Galicia.
Pedro’a situation in the court in Madrid took a turn for the worse when he decided to support the enemy of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand during the War of the Castilian Succession in the 1470s. Madruga supported Joanna la Beltraneja - the daughter of King Henry IV. Isabella’s anger meant that Madruga had to flee for his life. It was obvious that she had written his death sentence.
Joanna la Beltraneja. ( Public Domain )
Pedro Madruga apparently died in 1486. His son claimed that Pedro was buried in the cathedral of Tui, in the modern Pontevedra district. However, the documentation related to this burial suggests that Pedro died in 1491 instead. With this discrepancy and other facts in hand, many Spanish researchers believe that Pedro Madruga didn't die – he just changed his name.
Did Madruga Become Columbus?
Every year more and more evidence is found in Spain to support this story. Modesto Manuel Doval, a researcher who published the results of a calligraphic study, has provided some of the most concrete evidence for this hypothesis. More than 80 experts assert that Christopher Columbus and Pedro Madruga were the same person. Their analysis also shows that Columbus didn't speak Portuguese, but Galician - which has many similarities. Madruga apparently had to disappear when he had created too many enemies for himself.
The Inspiration of Christopher Columbus by José María Obregón, 1856. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )
The researcher and writer Guillermo Garcia de la Riega, great-grandson of the historian Celso Garcia de la Riega (the first promoter of the hypothesis that Columbus was Galician), believes that the evidence is so obvious that history would not allow for so many coincidences. According to the documents studied by these experts, Columbus was born in the town Poio in Pontevedra, Galicia.
It is interesting to note that Columbus gave the places he traveled names related to sites in Galicia (Punta Lanzada, San Salvador) or that they have allusions to Galician origins: Port of San Nicholas, Cabo San Miguel, and the Catalina and San Juan Bautista islands. It is believed that around 200 place names Columbus provided are related to Galicia. Many of them could only be known by a person who had spent lots of time in this part of Spain.
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The team of the website Christopher-Columbus-Galician.com provides more clues that Columbus and Madruga may be the same man, such as the fact that both had three children that shared the same names (two of which were Diego and Hernando and the third likely being Cristopher/Cristobal).
Christopher Columbus at the gates of the monastery of Santa María de la Rábida with his son Diego, by Benet Mercadé. ( Public Domain )
Christopher Columbus had the same friends as Madruga and also protected Madruga's children. There are many other pieces of evidence suggesting that Pedro Madruga created a new life as Christopher Columbus as well. However, with no DNA tests it is hard to prove this hypothesis.
A Galician Hero
Even if Madruga wasn’t Columbus, he is still remembered as one of the most iconic historical persons of Galicia. His story is so interesting that it could be a plot for a great historical adventure movie. Madruga’s fame is so evident today that there are streets, restaurants, and other sites named after him across Galicia. One such building is in front of a harbor where a replica of the famous ship La Pinta, from Columbus’ fleet, is held for most of the year.
Top image: Portrait of a Man said to be Christopher Columbus. ( Public Domain )
Christopher Columbus Galician, available at:
´Tras un peritaje caligráfico 80 expertos indican que Colón y Pedro Madruga son la misma persona by Susana Regueira, available at:
Bibliografía de Pedro Álvarez de Sotomayor (Pedro Madruga), available at:
Gaspar Massó, Pedro Madruga de Soutomayor Caudillo Feudal, 1975.
Pardo de Guevara y Eduardo Valdés, Los señores de Galicia. Tenentes y Condes de Lemos en la Edad Media, 2000.