April 27 – First circumnavigator of the world

April 25, 2019

Ferdinand Magellan

(Portuguese Fernão Magalhaes).

The first circumnavigator of the real world; born about 1480 at Saborosa in Villa Real, Province of Traz os Montes, Portugal; died during his voyage of discovery on the Island of Mactan in the Philippines, 27 April 1521.

Ferdinand Magellan at the Naval Museum of Madrid.

He was the son of Pedro Ruy de Magalhaes, mayor of the town, and of Alda de Mezquita. He was brought up at the Court of Portugal and learned astronomy and the nautical sciences under good teachers, among whom may have been Martin Behaim. These studies filled him at an early age with enthusiasm for the great voyages of discovery which were being made at that period.

In 1505, he took part in the expedition of Francisco d’Almeida, which was equipped to establish the Portuguese viceroyalty in India, and in 1511 he performed important services in the Portuguese conquest of Malacca. He returned home in 1512 and took part in the Portuguese expedition to Morocco, where he was severely wounded. On account of a personal disagreement with the commander-in-chief, he left the army without permission. This and an unfavourable report that had been made upon him by Almeida led to his disgrace with the king.

Detail from a map of Ortelius – Magellan’s ship Victoria.

Condemned to inactivity and checked in his desire for personal distinction, he once more devoted himself to studies and projects to which he was mainly stimulated by the reports of the recently discovered Moluccas sent by his friend Serrão. Serrão so greatly exaggerated the distance of the Moluccas to the east of Malacca that the islands appeared to lie within the half of the world granted by the pope to Spain. Magellan therefore resolved to seek the Moluccas by sailing to the west around South America. As he could not hope to arouse interest for the carrying out of his plans in Portugal, and was himself, moreover misjudged and ignored, he renounced his nationality and offered his services to Spain. He received much aid from Diego Barbosa, warden of the castle of Seville, whose daughter he married, and from the influential Juan de Aranda, agent of the Indian office, who at once desired to claim the Moluccas for Spain. King Charles I of Spain (afterwards the Emperor Charles V) gave his consent as early as 22 March 1518, being largely influenced to do this by the advice of Cardinal Juan Rodriguez de Fonseca. The king made an agreement with Magellan which settled the different shares of ownership in the new discoveries, and the rewards to be granted the discoverer, and appointed him commander of the fleet. This fleet consisted of five vessels granted by the government; two 130 tons each, two of 90 tons each and one of 60 tons. They were provisioned for 234 persons for two years. Magellan commanded the chief ship, the Trinidad; Juan de Cartagena, the San Antonio; Gaspar de Quesada, the Conception; Luis de Mendoza, the Victoria; Juan Serrano, the Santiago. The expedition also included Duarte Barbosa, Barbosa’s nephew, the cosmographer Andrés de San Martín, and the Italian Antonio Pigafetta of Vicenza, to whom the account of the voyage is due.

Magellan took the oath of allegiance in the church of Santa María de la Victoria de Triana in Seville, and received the imperial standard. He also gave a large sum of money to the monks of the monastery in order that they might pray for the success of the expedition. The fleet sailed 20 September, 1519, from San Lucar de Barameda. They steered by way of the Cape Verde Islands to Cape St. Augustine in Brazil, then along the coast to the Bay of Rio Janerio (13 December), thence to the mouth of the Plata (10 January, 1520). In both these bodies of water a vain search was made for a passage to the western ocean. On 31 March Magellan decided to spend the winter below 49°15′ south latitude, and remained nearly five months in the harbour of San Julian. While in winter quarters here a mutiny broke out, so that Magellan was forced to execute Quesada and Mendoza, and put Cartagena ashore.

The voyage was resumed on 24 August, and on 21 October the fleet reached Cape Virgenes and, with it, the entrance to the long-sought straits. Those straits, which are 373 miles long, now bear the name of the daring discoverer, though he himself called them Canal de Todos los Santos (All Saints’ Channel). The San Antonio with the pilot Gomez on board secretly deserted and returned to Spain, while Magellan went on with the other ships. He entered the straits on 21 November and at the end of three weeks reached the open sea on the other side. As he found a very favourable wind, he gave the name of Mar Pacifico to the vast ocean upon which he now sailed for more than three months, suffering great privation during that time from lack of provisions. Keeping steadily to a northwesterly course, he reached the equator 13 February, 1521, and the Ladrones 6 March.

Magellan’s Cross is the cross planted by Portuguese and Spanish explorers as ordered by Ferdinand Magellan upon arriving in Cebu in the Philippines on 16( American Date)17( Philippines Date) March 1521. This cross is housed in a chapel next to the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño on Magallanes Street just in front of the city center of Cebu City. Photo by shankar s.

On 16 March Magellan discovered the Archipelago of San Lazaro, afterwards called the Philippines. He thought to stay here for a time, safe from the Portuguese, and rest his men and repair his ships, so as to arrive in good condition at the now not distant Moluccas. He was received in a friendly manner by the chief of the island of Cebú, who, after eight days, was baptized along with several hundred other natives. Magellan wished to subdue the neighbouring Island of Mactan and was killed there, 27 April, by the poisoned arrows of the natives. After both Duarte Barbosa and Serrano had also lost their lives on the island of Cebú, the ships Trinidad and Victoria set sail under the guidance of Carvalho and Gonzalo Vaz d’Espinosa and reached the Moluccas 8 November, 1521. Only the Victoria, with Sebastian del Cano as captain, and a crew of eighteen men, reached Spain (8 September, 1522). The ship brought back 533 hundredweight of cloves, which amply repaid the expenses of the voyage.

The death of Magellan

Magellan himself did not reach his goal, the Spice Islands; yet he had accomplished the most difficult part of his task. He had been the first to undertake the circumnavigation of the world, had carried out his project completely, and had thus achieved the most difficult nautical feat of all the centuries. The voyage proved most fruitful for science. It gave the first positive proof of the earth’s rotundity and the first true idea of the distribution of land and water.

Amoretti, Primo viaggio intorno al globo terracqueo (Milan, 1800) (a publication of the original MSS. of Pigafetta’s account, preserved in the Ambrosian Library, Milan, the Bibl. Nationale, Paris, and T. Fitzroy-Fenwick’s — formerly Sir T. Philipps’s — library, Cheltenham); Pigafetta, tr. and ed. Robertson, Magellan’s Voyage around the World, Original and Complete Text of the Oldest and Best MS. (the Ambrosian MS. of Milan of the early sixteenth century. Italian text with page for page of English and notes) (Cleveland, Ohio, 1905); Nunhez de Carvalho in Noticias para la historia e geographia das nacoes ultramarinas (6 vols., Lisbon, 1831), gives an extract from the diary of another member of the expedition, Mestro Bautista; Burck, Magellan oder erste Reise um die Erde (Leipzig, 1844); Barras Arama, Vida y viajes de Magellanes (Santiago, 1864); Stanley, The First Voyage Round the World (London, 1874); Wieser, Magalhaesstrasse u. austral-Continent (Innsbruck, 1881); Guillemard, Life of Ferdinand Magellan (London, 1890); Butterworth, The Story of Magellan and the Discovery of the Philippines (New Your, 1988); Kolliker, Die erste Umsegelung der Erde durch Fernando de Magellanes und Juan Sebastian del Cano, 1519-1522 Munich, 1908).

OTTO HARTIG (Catholic Encyclopedia)

Thanks to Magellan, the King and Queen of Cebu are baptized as Christians


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