Was Columbus a Christian?

“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations …”

— Matthew 24:14

This month marks the annual remembrance of Christopher Columbus’ discovery of the New World. Columbus was a brave and farsighted leader whose monumental discovery changed the world. But our society often questions Columbus’ character. We know he was a man of flesh and blood, a sinner as we all are. And we know he made mistakes. Yet we can’t hold him responsible for all the things modern critics would like to blame him for.

So what kind of person was Columbus? His son portrays him as a gracious, loving father. Columbus was a godly man who so fervently attended to Scripture reading, prayer, fasting, and all of the worship services, that if one didn’t know he was a seafaring man, one would have suspected that he belonged to a holy order. In fact, when Columbus first landed in the New World, his first act was to plant a cross on the land.

The names Columbus chose for the places he discovered also indicate his dedication to Christ. He named his first landing place “San Salvador,” which means “Holy Savior.” He named his next landing places “Vera Cruz,” which means “True Cross,” and “La Navidad,” which means “The Nativity” or “Christmas.” Then Columbus came to an island with three hills on it, and he named it “Trinidad,” meaning “The Trinity.” He did this time after time in the places he landed, indicating his godly focus and nature.

Today you’ll often hear people doubt the goodness of Columbus’ character. Part of this is because they perceive that Columbus sailed for “gold and glory.” But listen to what Columbus himself said about his reason for sailing: “It was the Lord who put it into my mind to sail to the Indies. The fact that the Gospel must be preached to so many lands—that is what convinced me.” Overall, I think Columbus is a model of courage, who admirably drew his life’s vision from Jesus Christ.

“No one should fear to undertake any task
in the name of our Savior, if it is just and if
the intention is purely for His holy service.”
Christopher Columbus