Stories of Columbus’ travels are known worldwide. Everyone is aware of his birth in Genoa and where he sailed. Yet one overarching mystery remains – where is he now? Throughout the years, Columbus’ remains have been moved across the Atlantic, from Spain to Latin America and back again. Today, over 500 years after his death, it is still unclear where Columbus’ bones were finally laid to rest.
When Columbus died in 1506, his remains were taken to a family mausoleum in Seville, Spain. But nearly 40 years later, his son requested that the remains be placed in the Cathedral of Santo Domingo in the capital of the Dominican Republic, where Columbus himself intended to be buried. In the late 1700s, when the French took control of the Republic, the Spanish moved the bones to Cuba for safe keeping. A hundred years later in 1898, when Cuba gained independence, the Spanish returned Columbus’ bones to Seville, which is where they supposedly remain to this day. However, there is one slight twist to this story.
In 1877, a lead box containing fragments of bone and bearing the inscription “Don Christopher Columbus” was discovered by cathedral workers in Santo Domingo. It was kept in a safe location for over a century until 1992, when the box was moved to the Columbus Lighthouse, a monument erected in honor of Columbus and has rested there ever since. The mystery of Columbus seemed to have been solved in 2006, when on the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ death, a forensic team discovered that DNA from the bones buried in Seville matched the DNA from Columbus’ brother, Diego. In spite of this evidence, the director of the Columbus Lighthouse insists that Columbus’ remains had never actually left the Dominican Republic and they remain there today.