Bartolomeo Colombo was the younger brother of his far more famous sibling – Cristoforo. He too was an Italian explorer. In the 1470s, Bartolomeo was a mapmaker in Lisbon, the principal center of cartography of the time. When Cristoforo Colombo envisioned the “Enterprise of the Indies,” a plan to reach the Orient and its lucrative spice trade by a western rather than an eastern route, he was working with Bartolomeo in Lisbon. In 1489, the lesser known brother went to England to seek assistance from King Henry VII for the funding of the expedition. Before landing in England, his ship was taken by pirates. By the time he reached the island nation, he was in a terrible condition; still he pressed on and presented himself at Court. By all accounts, he was unfavorably received by the King. Bartolomeo then travelled to France and sought financial backing at the Court of King Charles VIII. This too, ended without success. Meanwhile, his brother was in Castile and persuaded Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon to back the plan.
When word arrived in 1493 that his brother had succeeded, Bartolomeo returned to Spain, where he missed Cristoforo, who had already left on the second voyage of his four to the “New World.” Funded by the crown, Bartolomeo traveled to Hispaniola in 1494 to meet his brother. After captaining one of the ships, he remained on the island for six and a half years (1494–1500), serving as governor with the title of Adelantado during his brother’s absences. He founded the city of Santo Domingo on Hispaniola between 1496 and 1498, which is now the capital of the Dominican Republic. Bartolomeo accompanied his brother on the last of his New World voyages, where, in 1502 he joined his brother’s last transatlantic expedition, which discovered the gold deposits of Veragua, in what is now Panama. Bartolomeo was to be left with a garrison near the Belén River.
Following Cristoforo Colombo’s death in 1506, Bartolomeo returned to the Antilles, accompanying his nephew Diego. But Bartolomeo soon returned to Spain to settle a claim with the King regarding a small island that had been granted to him. He died on August 12, 1514, in Hispaniola at the age of 54.