The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus

By Washington Irving | Go to book overview

might be his imagination, and vast and visionary his views, his scheme had scientific and practical foundation. His ambition was excited by the possibility of discoveries far more important than those which had shed such glory upon Portugal; and perhaps it was not the least recommendation of the enterprise to this subtle and grasping monarch, that, if successful, it would enable him to forestall that rival nation in the fruits of their long and arduous struggle, and by opening a direct course to India across the ocean, to bear off from them the monopoly of oriental commerce.

Still as usual, Ferdinand was cool and wary, and would not trust his own judgment in a matter that involved so many principles of science. He determined to take the opinion of the most learned men in the kingdom, and to be guided by their decision. Fernando de Talavera, prior of the monastery of Prado and confessor of the queen, one of the most erudite men of Spain, and high in the royal confidence, was commanded to assemble the most learned astronomers and cosmograpbers for the purpose of holding a conference with Columbus, and examining him as to the grounds on which he founded his proposition. After they had informed themselves fully on the subject, they were to consult together and make a report to the sovereign of their collective opinion.*


CHAPTER III.
COLOBOUS BEFORE THE COUNCIL AT SALAMANCA,

[ 1487.]

The interesting conference relative to the proposition of Columbus took place in Salamanca, the great seat of learning in Spain. It was held in the Dominican convent of St. Stephen, in which he was lodged and entertained with great hospitality during the course of the examination.

Religion and science were at that time, and more especially in that country, closely associated. The treasures of learning were immured in monasteries, and the professors' chairs were

____________________
*
Hist. del Almirante, cap. xi.
Hist. de Chiapa por Remesal, lib, ii. cap. 27.

-60-

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