Christopher Columbus is quite possibly one of the most famous world explorers or at least amongst Italians, Spaniards, and North Americans and even Portuguese. Just in case you didn’t learn this during history class, Cristoforo Colombo was in fact, a true-blooded Italian born in Genoa, Italy in 1451.
His Spanish ties were purely business oriented as he was contracted by the rulers of Spain, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, to go on a merchant voyage in search of the East Indies or as it was called, the New World. This is where King John of Portugal went wrong when refusing Columbus’ adventuresome ideas about the enterprise that could be made in the Indies.
So as all American school children learn, ‘’In 1492 Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue,’’ to go on and discover America but that’s not actually the case. He never did ‘’discover’’ North America, and the regions he did explore were already inhabited. He only discovered them from the viewpoint of the Europeans. Yet his first voyage did prove one important thing for sure, that the earth was not only round but exponentially bigger than everyone had thought.
He also did make it to the Indies landing in the Bahamas first. Later he then sailed on to Cuba and then Hispaniola, now known as Haiti. However this is where he underestimated the size of the planet believing Haiti and Cuba were in fact the East Indies, the islands off Southeast Asia.
Upon returning home Columbus’ voyage was seen as a great success by all of Spain so of course, why not give him a monument thought the local government when preparing for the Universal Exposition of Barcelona in 1888. Therefore, over 300 years later after Columbus’ return from his most famous trip the Mirador de Colon (Columbus Monument) was built in commemoration.
It took 16 years before the construction of the monument got off the ground. In 1881 the city passed a resolution to move the project forward and hosted a contest that was only open exclusively to Spanish artisans to submit their designs.
As Barcelona is a stronghold in the Catalan region it comes as no surprise that a Catalan artist was selected as the winner. All of the funding raised came from all over Spain (private funds and public money) nevertheless; the construction (labor and materials) was done by Catalans.
Standing at 197 feet tall at the end of Las Ramblsa where it meets the port, the Monument is located at the very site where Columbus greeted the King and Queen of Spain upon his return to the country. Standing in the same place where a piece of history took place whether you are history buff or not is undeniably kind of cool especially for a North American even if Chris didn’t ‘’really’’ discover our home.
Placed on top of a regal column (131 feet) is a 24-foot tall sculpture of Columbus pointing out to sea with a scroll in his left hand. Originally, the artist intentions were to have him pointing towards the New World however it was highlighted that in fact Columbus is pointing east, which coincidentally is in the direction of his Genoa, his birthplace.
Nevertheless it was sited that instead of pointing to the west towards the New World, the statue actually points east towards Columbus’ home city of Genoa. I suppose it would have appeared odd if he was pointing back towards the hills of Tibidabo, which is west instead out to sea.
The column, which bears a frieze of an anchor, stands on an eight-sided pedestal which is surrounded by four identical Nike goddess statues looking as though they are prepared for flight. Just below the goddess sculptures are griffins, the mystical half lion, half eagle creature thought to be especially powerful and majestic. (According to medieval lore griffins were known for guarding treasures and well-valued priceless possessions.)
Four architectural buttresses placed against the pedestal have mini-portraits of people that had some important relations to Columbus. You’ll also see various figures and bas-relief panels depicting different scenes from the first voyage, places he visited or people of religious significance.
The monument is always top on the list of sites to visit. Because of its height and location it’s a natural meeting and focal point within the city. It’s also an irresistible location for a photo opportunity. For some reason people love climbing the stairs to pose next to one of the ferocious lion sculptures. However the best kept secret of the Mirador de Colon is the secret elevator inside the towering column that you can ride up to the top of the monument for sensational views of the sea and mountains.
Located at the foot of Las Ramblas in Plaça de la Pau
Metro: L3 Green line to Drassanes
Fees: 2.50€ to ride the lift to the top