Was Columbus on a Secret Mission?

To Prove the Earth Was Round... or Something Else?

In America today he is called Christopher Columbus; in Spanish-speaking countries his name is Cristobal Colon. In Italian he is Cristoforo Colombo, and in the dialect of Genoa (his supposed place of birth) he is Cristofta Conbo. There has always been some uncertainty regarding his true nationality, but we know he had a brother, Bartolomeo, and that he married a Portuguese woman, Filipa Moniz Perestrelo, daughter of Bartolomeu Perestrelo. Their son was Diego and, after his wife’s death, Columbus had a mistress and, by her, another son, Fernando. He was, we are told, a morally flawed man who brutally mistreated the Indians. He was also one of the finest seaman and most able navigators of his time. There is strong evidence that he may have been intentionally hiding the real purpose of his famous voyages to the New World.

To begin, let us dispel some myths still believed by a few. Columbus did not, as children are taught in school, prove that the world is round (that was left to Magellan, decades later, who first circumnavigated the earth). His sailors did not fear falling off the edge of the earth. All educated people of the time, and even the most ignorant fishermen and merchant seamen, knew perfectly well the earth is round. Indeed the Greek philosopher Eratosthenes in third century Ptolemaic Egypt had measured its circumference with a fair degree of accuracy.

Seamen, it is clear, could not help but notice that, when approaching land, mountain tops were visible first, then the lower slopes, and, finally, the seashore. Conversely, people in the seaports would see first the upper masts of approaching vessels, then the upper decks, and, finally, the whole ship. In fact, on calm seas on clear days, anyone can see that the horizon is a circle at a fixed distance and that it can never be reached. An observant passenger senses that he is at the summit of a hill.

Certainly, Columbus knew a great deal more that he spoke about publicly. The Portuguese and Spanish university professors with whom he conferred knew the earth was round and knew its approximate size. Columbus believed (or pretended to) that the earth was smaller than it really is and that Asia extended further east than it really does. The idea of sailing west to reach the East, as Columbus was doubtless aware, had first been suggested by the Portuguese astronomer Paollo Toscanelli. It would be fascinating to have exact transcripts of Columbus’ talks with the learned professors. Surely, they must have pointed out that the distances were too great and that he would run out of food and water far out at sea. Even if he and his crews were able to complete their mission, the distances would still be too great to provide a practical trade route. Perhaps they spoke of islands where food and water might be obtained, or even the possibility of an unknown continent.

Today we can see, that the voyages of Columbus constituted but another episode in the centuries-long conflict (continuing today) between Islam and the Judeo-Christian West. In fact, they were made possible by certain secret societies that had preserved or rediscovered ancient knowledge. Here is the historical setting for the mission of Columbus: the Ottoman Turks had finally conquered Constantinople (today Istanbul) in 1453, closing off the Silk Road. Muslims already controlled the area around the Red Sea. So now it had become very difficult, if not impossible, for Europeans to trade directly for silk and porcelain and, above all, spices from the Far East. But, at the same time, the Spanish (in 1491) and the Portuguese had succeeded in driving the Moorish Muslims from the Iberian Peninsula. Consequently the Europeans had ports close to Africa and could explore southward. And explore they did, seeking an alternative route to India and the Spice Islands, eventually rounding the Cape of Good Hope (Bartolomew Dias) and then sailing north and east in the Indian Ocean, thus establishing new (if very long and tenuous) routes to the East.

The three ships of Columbus—the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria—are almost always depicted with Templar/Maltese crosses (equal-length arms) on the sails. A group called the “Knights of Christ” was active in Spain and Portugal at the time. A secret society within the Catholic Church, the Knights Hospitaller, was formed in 1099, supposedly to aid pilgrims to Palestine during the Crusades. Much later they were renamed the Knights of Malta, and they exist to this day. In 1118, however, a French knight, Hugues de Payens—more or less sponsored by the Cistercian Order within the Church—inducted eight other knights to form the legendary Knights Templar, or Knights of the Temple, ostensibly to protect (with just nine knights) Christian pilgrims to Palestine. But, apparently, the Templars spent all their time exploring the catacombs under the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Legends have it that they were searching for a mysterious treasure, perhaps including gold, jewels, the Ark of the Covenant, and ancient manuscripts carrying lost knowledge.

The order, which appears to have had some secret knowledge from its very beginning, and possibly was never Christian at all, seems to have been the resurfacing, or rebirth, of an ancient pagan mystery cult. Still, strangely, by the early fourteenth century the Templars had become rich and powerful and controlled most of the European banking industry and owned a large merchant fleet. Nevertheless, the Templars fell afoul of the French King Philip the Fair, who coveted their wealth and feared their power. He and his pet Pope, Clement V, arrested, tortured, and killed most of the Templar leaders in France; but, still, many others escaped, perhaps taking their fleet and much of their treasure with them. Some joined the Knights of Malta, who used the same occult symbols as the Templars. Some escaped to Scotland where they would resurface later as Freemasons. Some went to Spain and Portugal and renamed themselves the Knights of Christ. They and their fleet played a major role in the exploration of the African coast and the Atlantic. Indeed, Portugal’s ‘Prince Henry the Navigator’ was a Grand Master of the order, as were the explorers Vasco de Gama and Magellan. Prince Henry did more than anyone else to begin the age of exploration, playing a personal role in ship design and other important planning. His captains discovered the prevailing east-to-west trade winds and west-to-east westerlies—winds that would make Columbus’ voyages possible. Almost certainly Columbus was a member of the order, and almost certainly he personally possessed ancient charts bearing geographical knowledge unknown to most people (see: “The Secret Search for the Missing Map of Columbus,” Rand and Rose Flem-Ath, Atlantis Rising #78, November/December 2009).

Columbus had previously journeyed to Iceland, where he may have heard accounts of Greenland and North America. Finally receiving official sanction and financial backing from Ferdinand and Isabella and from seven Genoese bankers living in Seville, Spain, and possibly from Lorenzo de Medici, he set sail in 1492, finally making landfall on a Caribbean island he named San Salvador—no one knows its location. He made four voyages in all, exploring and mapping much of the Caribbean, establishing the first European colonies in the New World, and reaching the South American coast of what is now Venezuela. He never reached North America. Until the very end he continued to claim to believe that he had reached Asia, long after many people at least suspected the truth—that he had reached a continent unknown to most Europeans. It is likely that many others before him, not just the Vikings, had crossed the Atlantic and even the Pacific, and, indeed, the Amerindians had reached the Americas many thousands of years earlier. Michael Cremo and others have unearthed evidence of the presence of Man in the ‘New World’ even millions of years ago. Columbus, however, established regular commerce with the Amerindians and began European settlement, which had never happened before, and which led to an exchange of food crops and to diseases that tragically decimated human population in the Americas.

Still, previous ocean crossings, though sporadic, had never been completely forgotten. Evidence of continents to the west of Europe was strong enough that it seems unlikely that a navigator of Columbus’ stature could not have known, or at least suspected the truth. The seafaring, moreover, need not have all been from the European side. Beginning at least as far back as 3000 to 5000 BP the northeast coast of North America was home to the “Red Paint People,” so-called because they anointed their dead before burial with red ochre (as did some Europeans). They were a seafaring people fishing for cod and other fish, with a culture that probably resembled that of the much later seafaring Indians of the Pacific Northwest. Ancient stone ruins are found throughout the area, resembling similar structures in Western Europe dating from the time of Stonehenge’s construction. Transoceanic contact seems almost a certainty.

Nowadays, everyone knows that the Vikings, long before Columbus, crossed from Europe to Iceland, then Greenland, and finally established colonies in Newfoundland and possibly further south. Norwegian Vikings led by Ingolfr Arnarson in AD 874 settled Iceland, and Vikings established colonies in Greenland in 986, but Irish and Scottish monks had settled in Iceland even earlier. In 2343 BP (325 BC) Pythias, a Greek living in what is now Marseilles, sailed out of the Mediterranean and north to England, and then six days further north, near a frozen sea, to a land he called “Thule,” where the sun never set during the summer. This had to have been either Iceland or northern Norway, but his descriptions more closely resemble Iceland—he said the land was already settled. If Europeans really were living in Iceland that early, they could easily have made the relatively short crossings to Greenland and then North America, just as the Vikings later did.

Then there is the account of the voyage of Henry Sinclair. It is virtually certain that some of the Templars escaped to Scotland, and Sinclair was Earl of Orkney from around AD 1326–1402. His descendants built the famous Rosslyn Chapel, incorporating Templar/Masonic symbols. The family has played a prominent role in Freemasonry ever since. The Zeno brothers (Nicolo and Antonio) of Venice claimed that a “prince” they called “Zichmai” (probably Henry Sinclair) hired them as navigators, since they had journeyed to Iceland, and that they accompanied him on a 1398 A.D. voyage to a continent to the west. The Mi’kmaq Indians of Eastern Canada have a legend of a man they called “Glooscap” arriving from the Atlantic. Authors Robert Lomas and Christopher Knight, among others, claim that some of the stone carvings in Rosslyn Chapel resemble American maize (what we in the U.S. today call “corn”). Readers can make their own judgment on this—certainly the carvings don’t look like anything else. They are either something totally abstract or they are depictions of maize, and they definitely date from before the time of Columbus.

There are, moreover, traces of cocaine and tobacco in some Egyptian mummies, drugs from the New World. Roman coins have been found in the Americas, and there is the legend of St. Brendan, who supposedly sailed the North Atlantic in the early sixth century. Some of the islands he claimed to have visited are clearly imaginary, but one closely resembles Iceland.

If Columbus knew all along what he was about, the story that he sought a western route to the Spice Islands was, it seems likely, simply a pretext to get financial backing for a voyage to a mysterious new continent, the existence of which was unproven but that might, or might not, offer commercial opportunities. Whatever the case, we know now that he sold his idea, and connected (or reconnected) the world.


CAPTION: Christopher Columbus, master navigator (Karl von Piloty, 1826–1886)

By William B. Stoecker