Beyond the Name of Columbus
When Columbus returned from his first voyage, he began using an unusual series of coded letters to sign his name. This signature or monogram appears on letters and documents signed by Columbus throughout the rest of his life. However, no record exists that would explain the meaning behind the letters.
Decoding the Signature
The letters form a pyramid shape. At the bottom, Columbus wrote “Xpo Ferens” or “Christoferens” – similar to his own first name but with a more religious meaning that some translate as “Christ Bearer” or “The Porter of Christ.”
Different historians have tried to decode the letters. The letters “XMY” may have had significance to Columbus as a devout Catholic: “Xristus Maria Yesys” (Jesus, Mary and Joseph). Others claim that the “Y” might be a reference to “Ysabel” the Old Spanish name for Queen Isabella. Some believe the letters form the mast of a ship, and may have meaning to Columbus as an explorer.
Columbus even instructed his family members and heirs to use the letters, but did not explain the meaning. It remains a mystery to this day.
Sources and Further Reading
Taviani, P. E. (1985). Christopher Columbus: The grand design. London: Orbis, p.248-249.
Wilford, J. N. (1991). The mysterious history of Columbus: An exploration of the man, the myth, the legacy. New York: Knopf, p.224-227.
* Dodge, S. (1991). Christopher Columbus and the first voyages. New York: Chelsea House, p.119.
* Young Readers Selection