From the Library of Congress: Columbus' Coat of Arms

To mark  Columbus Day this year, we send you an interesting bit of history: the story behind Columbus’ coat of arms.   As a reward for his explorations, Ferdinand and Isabella granted Columbus the right to design a new  coat of arms.  Columbus added the image of islands to his traditional family crest and included a continent besides the islands. Scroll down for a more detailed explanation and find more interesting information about Columbus Day for your students: visit Today in History on the Library of Congress homepage.


Columbus' Coat of Arms in Christopher Columbus, His Book of Privileges, 1502. Facsimile. London, 1893, Library of Congress

“As a reward for his successful voyage of discovery, the Spanish sovereigns granted Columbus the right to a coat of arms. According to the blazon specified in letters patent dated May 20, 1493, Columbus was to bear in the first and the second quarters the royal charges of Castile and Léon—the castle and the lion—but with different tinctures or colors. In the third quarter would be islands in a wavy sea, and in the fourth, the customary arms of his family.

The earliest graphic representation of Columbus' arms is found in his Book of Privileges and shows the significant modifications Columbus ordered by his own authority. In addition to the royal charges that were authorized in the top quarters, Columbus adopted the royal colors as well, added a continent among the islands in the third quarter, and for the fourth quarter borrowed five anchors in fess from the blazon of the Admiral of Castille. Columbus' bold usurpation of the royal arms, as well as his choice of additional symbols, help to define his personality and his sense of the significance of his service to the Spanish monarchs.” (from The Library of Congress Exhibition:1492: An Ongoing Voyage).

Warm regards,