Wednesday, October 12, 2011

In Columbus' footsteps - Huelva

Huelva and its environs is a Mecca for those interested in Christopher Columbus, with a number of significant tourist attractions relating to the famous explorer. Cristóbal Colón (as he is known in Spain), is thought by most to have been born in Genoa, Italy around 1451. After years of seeking funding support for an expedition which was to find a sea route to Asia, Columbus finally came to an agreement with King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. They would (along with a number of Italian financiers) back his expedition in return for dominion over the any new lands. Columbus would be awarded titles and, of course, a percentage of any fortune that was made. The rest, of course, is world history.

La Rábida, Palos de la Frontera and Moguer are three of the key sites in the Columbus story, which lie along the eastern bank of the Rio Tinto estuary and can be visited in a 40 km return trip from Huelva. At least 10 buses a day run from Huelva bus station to La Rabida and Palos de la Frontera, many of them continuing to Moguer.

La Rábida
 is where Columbus stayed between 1491-92 waiting for financial backing from the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, for his voyage to the New World. The monastery was constructed in 1412 on the site of a Moorish stronghold; 'rábida' is a Arabic word meaning fortress. Its Moorish influences can still be seen in its Mudéjar architecture, including the fine cloister. The monastery has a 14th-century Gothic-Mudéjar church, where Captain Martín Alonso Pinzón, from Palos de la Frontera, who sailed with Columbus in one of his ships, is buried.

La Rábida was damaged by the Lisbon earthquake in 1755 and was left derelict in 1835 only to be restored a few decades later. It reopened in 1856 when it was declared a national monument. In 1920 Fransican monks returned to the convent and monks continue to live there today. The monastery, surrounded by magnificent botanical gardens full of exotic plants, is worth visiting for its museum detailing the discovery of the New World and Columbus's life. Also worth seeing are the murals in one of the monastery's rooms that depict Columbus's life, which were painted by the renowned local artist Daniel Vásquez Díaz in the 1930s. In the chapel is an alabaster statue of the Virgen de los Milagros (Virgin of Miracles), to which Columbus and his crew are said to have prayed. It is still venerated today, as the patron of neighbouring Palos de la Frontera. Every August the statue is taken to Palos for the town's religious festivities. In the Banderas room are flags from all the Latin American countries, along with a casket of earth from each.

No comments:

Post a Comment