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HISTORY

Spain locates Christopher Columbus’ first tomb

Researchers said Thursday they have located the first tomb of Christopher Columbus, the 15th century navigator who began European incursions into the Americas, in the central Spanish city of Valladolid.

Spain locates Christopher Columbus' first tomb
The Christopher Colombus monument in Barcelona. Historians and archeologists have since recreated in 3D the dimensions the chapel in Valladolid that first housed the remains of Columbus. (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP)

It has long been known that Columbus was buried in Valladolid after his death there in 1506 but the exact location of his tomb was not known until now.

Three years later his remains were taken to his family mausoleum in the southern city of Seville, and were moved several more times over the following centuries before returning to Seville in 1898.

Using DNA samples from bone slivers taken from the Seville tomb, a forensics team led by the University of Granada confirmed in 2005 that the remains kept there did in fact belong to Columbus.

Researchers have now determined that he was first buried in the San Francisco convent in Valladolid which no longer exists, Spain’s Naval Museum, which helped coordinate the study, said in statement.

The site is currently a commercial zone near the spacious Plaza Mayor, a broad, pedestrianised expanse surrounded by arcaded buildings painted red.

Columbus’ first resting place is close to Valladolid’s Plaza Mayor, researchers say. Photo: Fernando Santander/Unsplash

This conclusion follows “a detailed historical investigation, confirmed by ground-penetrating radars,” the statement added.

Researchers took samples of elements from the Seville burial sport — lead, brick, golden threads — and found they matched with the location of the spot in Valladolid which was excavated, it added.

Historians and archeologists have since recreated in 3D the dimensions the chapel in Valladolid that housed the remains of Columbus.

In 1544 his remains were moved from Seville to Santo Domingo, which is the capital of the Dominican Republic, in accordance with the instructions he had left behind.

A tourist takes a picture of the tomb of Christopher Columbus in Seville’s cathedral. His tomb is held aloft by four allegorical figures representing the four kingdoms of Spain during Columbus’ life, Castille, Aragón, Navarra and León. (Photo by BORIS HORVAT / AFP)

In 1795 his bones were moved to Havana before being shipped back across the Atlantic and returned to Seville in 1898.

The Dominican Republic claims Columbus is buried at an ornate lighthouse in Santo Domingo.

The teams behind the 2005 DNA study said that while they are convinced the bones in Seville are from Columbus, the tomb in Santo Domingo might also hold part of his remains.

Columbus, long hailed by school textbooks as the so-called discoverer of “The New World,” is considered by many to have spurred years of genocide against indigenous groups in the Americas.

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HISTORY

Blessing at former Franco gravesite sparks Spanish army probe

The Spanish military has suspended an army officer for taking his troops for a blessing at the former burial site of dictator Francisco Franco, military sources said Thursday.

Blessing at former Franco gravesite sparks Spanish army probe

“The captain who headed the company has been suspended and an investigation has been opened,” the army said in a statement to AFP, without giving further details nor saying whether the move was temporary or permanent.

A group of soldiers angered by the gesture published footage of it on the “Citizens in Uniform” Telegram account, denouncing it as “a shameful video”.

In the footage, several dozen of soldiers, one carrying the company’s flag, can be seen kneeing on the stone steps in front of the late dictator’s former mausoleum outside Madrid.

A few steps up stands a priest in a white cassock who reads a blessing.

“Citizens in Uniform” said the captain had organised a march to the Valley of the Fallen, 50 kilometres (30 miles) outside Madrid, “with the idea of having the company’s flag blessed at the basilica”.

They said he had cancelled all leave for that particular day and required that all company members attend.

The imposing basilica is part of what used to be a grandiose hillside mausoleum topped by a 150-metre (500-foot) cross where Franco was buried after his death in 1975.

It is a deeply divisive symbol of a past that Spain still finds difficult to digest.

In October 2019, Franco’s body was exhumed and moved to a more discreet grave in a carefully-choreographed operation led by Spain’s left-wing government.

Built by Franco’s regime after the 1936-1939 civil war — in part by the forced labour of some 20,000 political prisoners — the site contains the remains of more than 33,000 dead from both sides of the civil war.

It has long been a draw for those nostalgic for the Franco era, who used to hold masses in his honour and celebrate his memory.

The exhumation was strongly opposed by the dictator’s living relatives as well as by the prior of the Benedictine monks who manage the site.

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