Wednesday, November 3, 2021

"Genoan Monk Mentioned America" or "Italians Knew About America 150 Years Before Columbus" Debunked

It is sad how many people share “news” links based on the headline, without taking the time to read the article. Many times the article contradicts the headline because it is just clickbait, or as in this case, a reflection of the ignorance of the publisher. This year (2021) we have several headlines circulating the news claiming that “Italians knew about America long before Columbus...” NY Post

Another headline was “Ancient Documents Suggest Italian Sailors Knew of America 150 Years Before Christopher Columbus.” SciTechDaily

Or that “The First Mention of America” was made in 1340. (Taylor & Francis Online). Taylor & Francis Online

The headlines above are a reference to an unfinished unpublished book by a Genoan monk named Galvaneus Flamma (14th century) where Markland (Marckalada) is mentioned. Markland is supposed to be somewhere in North America. This document was “recently” found (2015) by a professor of Medieval history named Paolo Chiesa.

Here are the reasons why the headlines are ALL incorrect: America is NOT mentioned by the monk in 1340, nor by anyone else before him, because Amerigo Vespucci (where the name “America” comes from) was a contemporary of Columbus and not of Galvaneus. 

If by America what they mean is Markland, then the headline is incorrect since Markland is not the “old” name for America. The name of Markland was not new either since it was mentioned in several sagas, like the “Saga of Erik the Red” (written in the 13th century).

If what they mean by “America” is the knowledge that there is a continent in between Europe and Asia, then the headline is incorrect again, since Galvaneus did not make such a claim. 

All this is evidence that people don’t understand Columbus’ discoveries, so let me explain. But first, let’s take a look at the claims made by Galvaneus, the Genoan monk. 

I’m writing the following under the premise and assumption that there is no forgery on this Genoan document. The reason for mentioning this is because many elaborate hoaxes have been used in the past (and in recent years), trying to discredit Columbus. I wrote an entire chapter on this subject in my third book “Christopher Columbus and the Christian Church” titled, “Hoaxes, Forgeries and Crimes.”

One of the articles above, written by Taylor and Francis Online, contains excerpts from Galvaneus’ account known as “Cronica universalis.”  The account doesn’t contradict Columbus at all, but confirms what we already knew about the subject. For example, the Cronica mentions Marco Polo, whom Columbus was inspired after. Marco Polo’s accounts are about the Indies, or Asia, the east side of the world. Then the Cronica talks about the west side of the globe, when it mentions Yslandia (Iceland) and Grolandia (Greenland). The Cronica does not mention anything of another continent in between Asia and Europe. Though it mentions “Marckalada” [Markland], which it’s believed to be in North America today, the article acknowledges “the news about” it was vague, nothing “for sure.” In fact, the ancient cosmographers did not know that there was a continent in between Asia and Europe. Maps ended with Iceland and Greenland which they called “Tile” or “Thule.” Cartographers added imaginary islands on maps in this area because, as stated and confirmed by Galvaneus, “no sailor was ever able to know anything for sure about this land or about its features.”

Columbus himself had visited Tile (Iceland) 15 years before his discoveries. He wrote, “In the month of February, 1477, I sailed one hundred leagues beyond the island of Tile [Iceland]...” Source: The Life of the Admiral by Ferdinand Columbus, Chapter 4, p. 11.

The only “new” thing here is that Markland is mentioned in the Cronica. But even that is not new either, since the article acknowledges Markland was mentioned by the aforementioned Icelandic sagas. What the article finds “exceptional” is that Markland is mentioned here, outside a Nordic saga.

Though I discussed it many times before (in books, blogs and videos), I’m forced to repeat myself here to explain the difference between Columbus and the “Vikings,” or Norsemen (the explorers of the Nordic sagas):

The Norsemen were not trying to reach the Indies, or Asia, as Columbus intended. When one looks at a world map, one will see that on the north side of the globe there are many lands in between Europe and America. That includes England, Ireland, Iceland and Greenland. People believed that after Thule (Iceland/ Greenland) there was nothing but water. All the Norsemen did was what everyone else had done before them: Sail from land to land. Land that is close to each other. They sailed from the continent to England, to Ireland, to Iceland, till one day one of them, Erik the Red, found Greenland, which is next to Iceland. They lived there, which was where the maps ended. Later, as some of them were returning to Greenland, the waves took them further to the lands next door, which are part of North America. Source: The Saga of Eirik the Red, pp. 23-24.

They never thought they were on the Indies or in a continent in between. According to scholar Paolo Emilio Taviani, “Greenland and lands beyond were for them simply other lands of Europe.” Source: The Grand Design by Taviani, p. 90.

As for Columbus, he intended to pass Thule until he reached the Indies (Asia). But unlike the Norsemen, he left from the center/ south side of the globe, where there are no close lands to make stops, as one can do on the north. He literally sailed into the unknown. The sea route was known as “the Sea of Darkness.” His sailors initially rigged twice one of the ships; they wept when they could not see the land anymore; they complained every day; they threatened Columbus’ life a few times, but in the end they reached land because he was right. 

If sailors knew that America was close, why did they give Columbus a hard time? 

We all know that Spain helped Columbus with his enterprise. But most people don’t know he had lived in Portugal and made his first request to fund his enterprise there. Portugal denied his request and ridiculed him. Columbus moved to Spain where he was ridiculed again. Some people think he also requested Genoa for assistance, but they also said “no” to him. Columbus sent his brother Bartholomew to lobby for him in England. After waiting for seven years for a response, Spain denied Columbus as well, so he made his way to France when the Queen of Spain had a change of heart and sent for him to return. 

The point here is that if people knew about “America,” why then did Columbus have a hard time getting support and received so much ridicule instead? Why did Portugal deny him help when Portugal was the leading force of discovery during Columbus’ residence there? Why did England not respond to his brother right away? If “Italian sailors knew about America” before Columbus, why did Genoa not help him? If people knew about America, why then did the Spanish council mock Columbus and tell him there was no land (or people) where he wanted to go?

Someone might say that “perhaps Columbus knew about America because of the Genoan monk and his Cronica.” That would be a conspiracy theory and not history. Besides, Galvaneus’ Cronica was unfinished and unpublished. Again, that is assuming the Cronica is not a hoax. As for the Nordic sagas, Columbus never mentioned them, nor did he need them since they never claimed the Norsemen were trying to reach the Indies, nor that they did, or that they found a “new” continent. Columbus’ ideas were based on the great cosmographers of the past, including Ptolemy, Pliny, Marinus, Aristotle, Strabo, Pierre d’Ailly, Capitolinus, etc. They all either believed that the Earth was smaller than it is, and/ or that Indies were not far from Spain or Europe. There was also a contemporary cosmographer named Toscanelli who had written to Columbus saying the same. Source: The Life of the Admiral by Ferdinand Columbus, Chapters 6-8. 

The “professionals” who made fun of Columbus seem not to be aware of this kind of information. They also have their share of myths and unproven hypotheses. It was Columbus who took the risk against all odds. Once he proved that it was safe to sail west, other explorers followed and finished the maps he started. This eventually led to the realization that Columbus’ discoveries were bigger than anyone thought; and here we are today.

Before someone makes the usual snarky comment that “Columbus discovered an insignificant island in the Caribbean:” He actually explored most, if not all, of the Caribbean, and he later reached and explored the continent in Central and South America. North America was reached due to him, when England heard of his success. In addition, one of his men (Juan Ponce de Leon) explored Florida in North America.

I would suggest the readers to read Columbus’ primary sources to see and understand more of what people believed about cosmography at the time. “The Life of the Admiral” by Ferdinand Columbus is a good start. My books go into great depth on this subject as well. 

As we can see, real history is more complex than people may think today. Many people are not reading history,  but guessing “history,” making conclusions based on modern-day perceptions. 

In summary, there is no document claiming or proving that people knew that “America” existed before Columbus. That is fake news. It is just clickbait rooted in misunderstanding, error, and sensationalism.

#GenoanMonk #GalvaneusFlamma #Markland #AmericaBeforeColumbus