cover image Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem

Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem

Carol Delaney. Free Press, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-1-4391-0232-9

Cultural anthropologist and Stanford professor emerita Delaney introduces us to an unfamiliar Christopher Columbus as a product of his times, when, she says, apocalyptic millennialism dominated Europe. Columbus thus believed that his role was to obtain enough of the fabled gold of the East to launch a crusade to conquer Jerusalem and prepare for the Second Coming of Christ. Delaney argues that Columbus believed that the discovery of the Caribbean islands was an integral part of an unfolding cosmological drama. Using the writings of medieval theologians, the author writes, Columbus calculated that the world would end in 155 years. He attempted to convince Spain's sovereigns that the Gospel had to be preached everywhere so all the world's peoples could be saved, and that Jerusalem had to come under Christian control. As Delaney points out, Ferdinand instead sent Peter Martyr to negotiate with the sultan to protect the Holy Sepulchre and Christian pilgrims. While Delaney's take is fresh, it's encumbered by repetitious writing. And even her careful reading of a little-studied compilation called the Book of Prophecies%E2%80%94that may or may not have been written by Columbus%E2%80%94as a basis for her argument about Columbus's motives provides thin evidence for her conclusions. (Sept.)