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Arguably the founder of travel and tourism, Christopher Columbus was an explorer, famed for discovering America. His voyages and discoveries changed the course of world history – so here’s the Christopher Columbus timeline!
- Christopher Columbus: World Traveller
- 1451: The beginning of the Christopher Columbus timeline
- 1473: Christopher Columbus’ apprenticeship
- 1477: Columbus in Lisbon
- 1482-1485: travel and tragedy
- 1487: Columbus and his mistress
- 1492: the big voyage begins
- 1493: voyage number two
- 1498: the third voyage and Columbus discovers South America
- 1502: the fourth and final voyage
- 1505 onwards: Christopher Columbus’ timeline slows down
Christopher Columbus: World Traveller
Personally, I find the histories and tales of Christopher Columbus fascinating. Many would argue that it was he who invented travel, who enticed future travel communities to explore the world, and indeed they have.
But how did it all come about?
Below I have given a brief overview of the Christopher Columbus timeline, showing how his travels developed and the impact that this had on the rest of the world.
1451: The beginning of the Christopher Columbus timeline
At some point before October 31st of this year, Christopher Columbus was born. The exact location isn’t really known, but it was somewhere in the Republic of Genoa. This is now part of modern Italy. The Italian version of his name, likely the one he was known by at the time, was Cristoforo Colombo. His father, Domenico Colombo, was a middle-class wool weaver who also owned a cheese stand. Christopher Columbus helped his father here from a young age.
1473: Christopher Columbus’ apprenticeship
Aged 22, Christopher started a business agent apprenticeship for various families. The Spinola, Centurione and Di Negro families were important in Genoa, and this was considered a fantastic opportunity for Columbus. Over the next few years, he travelled to various locations – Chios (an Aegean island, ruled by Genoa at the time), Bristol, Galway and even Iceland.
1477: Columbus in Lisbon
In the autumn of this year, Christopher Columbus travelled to Lisbon, Portugal. His brother Bartolomeo, who worked in a cartography workshop, was based here. Christopher himself decided to relocate to Lisbon and live near his brother – together, they continued trading for the aforementioned Centurione.
Christopher Columbus’ timeline was static for a while. He remained in Lisbon for eight years, marrying Filipa Moniz Perestrelo here. She was the daughter of Bartolomeu Perestrello – governor of Porto Santo and a Portuguese nobleman. There has, of course, been questions as to how the son a wool weaver from Genoa manage to marry a noblewoman, the daughter of a Portuguese Knight of Santiago and a noblewoman herself. But her father was dead at this point, leaving her mother Isabel a widow. Christopher did not request a dowry, and the marriage meant that Isabel would no longer have to pay convent bills that she realistically couldn’t afford.
Shortly after he marred Filipa, Christopher Columbus’ first son was born. He was named Diego Columbus, and he was likely born in 1479 or 1480 – though dates are sketchy.
1482-1485: travel and tragedy
During these years, Columbus travelled a lot. He was trading along the coasts of west Africa as far as Elmina, at the Guinea coast in what is now Ghana. But while he was away, Filipa died. Reports of exactly when and how she perished are incomplete and nobody really knows what happened, but the story goes that it was 1485, and Columbus was in Castile at the time. He returned to Lisbon. Filipa was buried in the Capela da Piedade – the Chapel of Piety – at the Carmo Convent alongside her sister and brother-in-law. Columbus settled her estate and took their son, Diego, with him on his travels.
1487: Columbus and his mistress
A couple of years after the death of his wife, Columbus found a mistress. He met Beatriz Enríquez de Arana in Castile. Again, the exact details can’t be confirmed – but historians say that he likely met Beatriz (an orphan, aged 20) when he was in the area of Córdoba. This was a popular gathering site for Genoese merchants and also where the court of Catholic Monarchs was sometimes located. At some point, Beatriz gave birth to Christopher’s illegitimate son Fernando.
1492: the big voyage begins
Throughout the 1480s, Christopher Columbus’ timeline was peppered with plans to eventually sail to Asia. Land passage had always been safe enough (via the Silk Road) but after the fall of Constantinople in 1453 it became a bit more difficult. Sea passage was needed! There was a lot to consider – geography, nautical considerations, practicality, funding and more. Eventually, after lobbying and begging for support from various kingdoms, Christopher Columbus came to an agreement with the Spanish crown in April 1492.
A few months later, he was ready. On August 3rd 1492, Christopher Columbus set off with three ships – a carrack and two caravels. He sailed to the Canary Islands, and then onwards for five weeks until he and his crew reached land: an island in what is now the Bahamas. Columbus named this island San Salvador. The natives, however, called it Guanahani.
This particular voyage also took him the northeast coast of Cuba, and to the northern coast of Hispaniola. He continued sailing along this coast before making his final stop, in January 1493, at the Bay of Rincón in northeast Hispaniola. Getting back to Spain was tricky due to storms. So Columbus ended this voyage in Lisbon in March 1493, before travelling back to Spain a week or so later. He had found new lands, despite not quite reaching Asia – and word began to spread throughout Europe.
1493: voyage number two
In September, Columbus tried again. This time he had 17 ships and 1,200 men – with enough supplies to establish permanent colonies. Priests, farmers and soldiers travelled in his midst – they were to be the colonists, or colonisers. After a brief stop at the Canary Islands, Columbus came across various islands. One he named Dominica, and another Marie-Galante. He passed Les Saintes, and stopped at Guadeloupe. Columbus named this island Santa Maria de Guadalupe de Extremadura, and he spent a week in November exploring it.
This exact route of this voyage isn’t certain. But it is agreed that Columbus sighted and named several islands throughout this journey: Redonda, Saint Kitts, Antigua and plenty more. He returned to Hispaniola – the fort he had built during his first voyage, La Navidad on the northern coast oh Haiti, was destroyed and many of the Spanish men he had left behind were dead.
In later November Columbus settled at La Isabela for a short time before returning to Spain. This is now known as the Dominican Republic.
1498: the third voyage and Columbus discovers South America
In May, with six ships this time, Columbus set out once more. Three ships went straight o Hispaniola with supplies for those settled there, and Columbus took the further three ships in another direction – south of the Caribbean, in search of the passage to Asia that he so craved.
While crossing the Atlantic, visiting the Canary Islands and Cape Verde, Columbus discovered what is now known as compass variation. After being stranded for a few days the crew had little water so headed for Dominica – but spotted Trinidad for the first time. He stocked up there before Columbus explored the Gulf of Paria. This was when he touched the mainland of South America.
After plenty of exploration, Columbus returned to Hispaniola. His health wasn’t great at this point. However, the Spanish men he had left there had rebelled against him and there was a lot of drama. Eventually, Columbus made peace with them by surrendering to arrest in 1500. The Crown removed him as governor and he was imprisoned.
1502: the fourth and final voyage
Research led Christopher Columbus to embark on one final voyage. This was in search of the Strait of Malacca to the Indian Ocean. His brother and youngest son, Fernando, came along on this voyage.
They sailed to Arzila, Matinique, Santo Domingo, Jamaica and Central America – exploring Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. Columbus also sighted the Cayman Islands, got caught in a major storm and found himself (and his men) stranded in Jamaica.
Columbus eventually returned to Spain in November of 1504.
1505 onwards: Christopher Columbus’ timeline slows down
During his later life, Columbus wrote two books. These were a Book of Privileges and a Book of Prophecies – he also became more and more religious. He continued to argue with the Spanish Crown in regards to the rewards he felt he was owed – a percentage of all profits made in the New World, as promised before he was stripped of his governor title.
In May 1506, Columbus died. He was suffering from Reiter’s syndrome, a type of arthritis. His remains have since been moved multiple times, and Columbus Day is now celebrated on the second Monday in October each year.
Christopher Columbus achieved a lot in his 54 years, and he is fascinating to learn about it. It’s funny to think, when you walk along the beaches of various islands such as Costa Rica or the Dominican Republic, that Christopher Columbus’ timeline took him there!