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Posthumous portrait of Christopher Columbus by Sebastiano del Piombo, 1519.

Two New Theories on the Hotly Debated Origins of Christopher Columbus


During the last few years two new and very interesting theories (supported with scientific research) have appeared about Columbus. They suggest that the history of the man who “discovered” America, may be more fascinating than was once believed.

According to the official history, Christopher Columbus (Colon) was born in Genoa and died on May 20, 1506 in Valladolid. He was an explorer, navigator, and colonizer, famous of his voyages across the Atlantic Ocean and “finding” the New World. Nevertheless, the official story actually seems to be based more on legend than facts. The most questioned part of the biography of Columbus is his origins.

The Tale of a Polish King

Manuel Rosa is a researcher who comes from Azores, Portugal. In his theory, Columbus was a son of the Polish King Wladyslaw III, who escaped from the battlefield in Varna and hid on the island of Madeira. Rosa believes that the former Polish king lived on Madeira under the name of Henrique Alemão, and had a wife named Senhorinha Annes, a Portuguese noblewoman. Rosa says that their son was the famous future traveler known as Columbus.

Following Rosa’s hypothesis, Columbus was trained as a pilot in Portugal, and lived in Madeira. He married Filipa Moniz, a Portuguese noblewoman and daughter of Bartolomeo Perestrello, a Knight of the household of Prince Henry the Navigator, Captain and Governor of Porto Santo. 

In his book Columbus: The Untold Story, Rosa presents several arguments about his hypothesis which are worth considering. However, Polish historians believe that it is impossible that king Wladyslaw escaped from the battle in Varna. They ignore the most important proof for it – a note from monks who traveled from Poland to Madeira. These men noted that they met the king, alive and well, on the island. He apparently told them that he would not go back to Poland…but was he Columbus’ father? To confirm it, DNA tests are necessary. Unfortunately, most of the Polish people do not want to exhume the family of Wladyslaw, so it is impossible to check if the theory by Manuel Rosa true.

Wladyslaw III at the Battle of Varna, by Jan Matejko.

Wladyslaw III at the Battle of Varna, by Jan Matejko. (Public Domain)

At the same time, several researchers in Spain are attempting to prove that their theory about the origins of Columbus are true.

The Galician Madruga

According to some experts from the University of Santiago de Compostela, there's no doubt that the theory about a Galician origin of Christopher Columbus is the correct one. 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.

The researchers are convinced that the names Columbus gave to the places he traveled to are related to the names of places he knew from Galicia (Punta Lanzada, San Salvador) or that they have allusions to Galician origins: Port of San Nicholas, Cabo San Miguel, or the Catalina and San Juan Bautista islands. It is believed that around 200 names are related to Galicia. Many of them could be known only by a person who spent lots of time in this part of Spain.

Map of San Salvador.

Map of San Salvador. (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Manuel Rosa believes that the first language of Columbus was Portuguese, but Galician researchers suggest that in documents he wrote he used numerous Galician words.

Several writers, like Aquilino Fariñas Godoy, believe that the history of Columbus is even more surprising than his adventures. In his book, he explains that Christopher Columbus was Pedro Madruga, a Galician man who changed his identity several times.

This point of view is shared by Modesto Manuel Doval, a researcher who published the results of a calligraphic study. According to more than 80 experts, Christopher Columbus and Pedro Madruga are the same person. Their analysis shows also that Columbus didn't use Portuguese, but Galician - which has many similarities. Madruga apparently had to disappear, when he started to have problems and created many enemies for himself.

Christopher Columbus at the gates of the monastery of Santa María de la Rábida with his son Diego, by Benet Mercadé.

Christopher Columbus at the gates of the monastery of Santa María de la Rábida with his son Diego, by Benet Mercadé. (Public Domain)

There are documents proving that Christopher Columbus protected and supported the children of Pedro Madruga, he also took care of the career of the son of Pedro Madruga. There are signatures by Columbus on several documents connected with baptisms and other situations in the family of Pedro Madruga.

Madruga supposedly died in 1486, but there was no burial, there is no proof for the existence of a grave for him either. Coincidentally, at the same time Christopher Columbus is documented as a visitor to the court in Madrid. Furthermore, more than 100 documents connected with money claims, lawsuits, etc. prove that between 1489 and 1506 Pedro Madruga was alive.

Before Madruga disappeared, he became one of the enemies of the Catholic Monarchs. His unusually brave personality, and a blood hot like Tabasco, provided him with many troubles. He made several mistakes with the officials, and his surname became notorious in the court in Madrid.

More Evidence for the Galician Hypothesis

So, the researchers say that Madruga came up with an excellent idea for his future. It was a time when the Spanish and Portuguese already started to explore the Earth. Madruga was a master of navigation and an excellent sailor, so he decided to vanish from Spain as a person who led what many call the greatest expedition of all the time.

When he returned to Spain, nobody was interested in his past life. He was named a hero and the royal family wasn't interested in who he was before. The only thing that mattered was that he made Spain the most important kingdom of his time.

More evidence for the Galician theory comes from Portugal. In the Portuguese court, the man who discovered New Spain is known as Pedro Colon. The family of Madruga also became a part of this mystery. Research shows that his brother, Joao Goncalves de Sotomayor, became Bartholomew Columbus. The researchers are still looking for confirmation connected with his mother – Constance.

Sotomayor’s Castle.

Sotomayor’s Castle. (CC BY-SA 3.0 ES)

Christopher Columbus is believed to be either Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, or even half-Polish. However, the newest research suggests that it is likely that he was from a small town in Galicia, Spain. In Galicia, the legend of Pedro Madruga is very strong. There are restaurants and other places named in his memory. In a harbor in Baiona, there is a replica of the ship “La Pinta”, which brought the information about the “discovery” by Columbus and the crew to Spain. If you ask people there who discovered New Spain, they would tell you without a doubt that the Galicians did it.

Featured image: Posthumous portrait of Christopher Columbus by Sebastiano del Piombo, 1519. Source: Public Domain

By Natalia Klimczak


Aquilino Fariñas Godoy, Pedro Madruga – Cristobal Colon, 2014.

Manuel Rosa, Colombo Português - Novas Revelações, 2009.

Modesto Manuel Doval, Cristóbal Colón señor feudal gallego, 2013.

Rodrigo Cota González, Colón, 2009.

Gaspar Massó, Pedro madruga de Soutomayor Caudillo Feudal, 1975.



Manuel Rosa's book "COLUMBUS-The Untold Story" now in English language in a Limited Edition - get yours before it is sold out


Natalia Klimczak is an historian, journalist and writer and is currently a Ph.D. Candidate at the Faculty of Languages, University of Gdansk. Natalia does research in Narratology, Historiography, History of Galicia (Spain) and Ancient History of Egypt, Rome and Celts. She... Read More

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