The first circumnavigation of the world started 500 years ago with Christ and cannons.

The discoverer and businessman Ferdinand Magellan (c. 1480-1521) and a replica of his Nao “Victoria”. Source: Getty Images/DeAgostini; picture alliance/dpa/Fundación Nao Victoria

With Magellan as General Captain, five ships set sail from Sanlúcar de Barrameda on 20 September 1519. He and his crew discovered the Strait of Magellan at the end of 1520 and were the first Europeans to cross the Pacific. After reaching today’s Philippines, Magellan fell in battle with Visayan warriors. Under the command of Juan Sebastián Elcano, only one ship from Magellan’s fleet, the Victoria, returned to Sanlúcar on 6 September 1522 via the route around the Cape of Good Hope.

Of the more than 240 men of the original crew, only 35 circumnavigated the earth: 18 on Victoria and 17 others who had been captured by Portugal on the way. Around 55 other men returned on the eastern route, so that a total of around 90 of the original expedition participants came back to Spain alive. The story of the first voyage around the world became known above all through the report of a survivor, the Italian Antonio Pigafetta.

The name “Magellan” is honoured today in space as well (Magellanic Cloud) as on earth (Strait of Magellan, South America) and also in different pieces of music his life is referred to. Ferdinand Magellan – ein verwegenen Ritter und Abenteurer.

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