At 2:00 a.m. on October 12, 1492, 518 years ago today, Christopher Columbus and his crew sighted land 71 days after sailing westward from Palos de la Frontera. This discovery, by a young captain sailing under the flag of Spain, changed the course of history and almost instantly made Spain a world power. In 1492, Spain was a new nation whose future was very much in question. Ferdinand and Isabella had just defeated the Moors in Cordoba, winning back the peninsula from its Arab rulers. But the newly liberated nation of Spain took a back seat to Portugal - whose sailors were reaching down the coast of Africa and around to India - and Genoa - who controlled trade on the Mediterranean. The monarchs' gamble on a visionary but very persistent young sailor changed everything, and Spain become the wealthiest and most power nation in Europe within a decade.
But of much greater importance, Columbus' discovery set in motion a series of events that made possible the restoration of the Gospel over 300 years later. The great voyage of discovery undertaken by Christopher Columbus was of such importance that it was shown to Nephi in vision 2600 years ago:
And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land.” (1 Nephi 13:12)
Columbus himself gave fervent testimony of the fulfillment of Nephi's prophecy:
With a hand that could be felt, the Lord opened my mind to the fact that it would be possible to sail and he opened my will to desire to accomplish the project… this was the fire that burned within me… Who can doubt that this fire was not merely mine, but also of the Holy Spirit…urging me to press forward?” (Cristóbal Colón, Libro de las profecias)
At the end of his voyage of discovery, Columbus traveled to Barcelona where he reported on his voyage to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. He came overland from Sevilla with an entourage that included caged parrots and six native Americans. The king and queen received him on the stairs of the royal palace as his procession marched into the plaza. The formal report was made in the large dining hall which visitors may still see in the medieval palace.
A monumental statue of Columbus stands at the foot of Las Ramblas to commemorate the opening of what is now called the Age of Discovery. A short distance away one can still see the baptismal font in the old Cathedral where the native Americans brought back by Columbus were baptized.
The Barcelona Cathedral (with green construction netting around one of the towers) in the old city. The Royal Place is directly adjacent to the cathedral.
That same fire that burned within Columbus burns within us in the Spain Barcelona Mission. Like Columbus, we are on a great voyage of discovery, bringing light and knowledge to the people of Spain. As we go about our work, we too can say, “Who can doubt that this fire was not merely mine, but also of the Holy Spirit…urging me to press forward?”
Happy Columbus Day from Barcelona!