When the earth was flat

500 years ago, it was still clear in many Christian minds that the earth is a disc and that the sun, indeed the entire universe, revolves around the earth. However, some people still believe that we live on a disc. This report, however, is not about whether it is a round disc or a sphere, but about the man who was the first to circumnavigate the world in a sailing ship: Fernando Magellan.

Magellan was born around 1480 in the north of Portugal. His family belonged to the lower nobility. As a convinced Catholic, he was shaped by the narrow religious worldview of the late Middle Ages and the idea of subjecting the world to Christianity. Ferdinand is part of an epochal turning point – from the Middle Ages to the modern age. For example, Christopher Columbus had discovered America in 1492, spurring other seafarers to embark on ever more daring voyages of discovery to discover new lands and fabulous riches.

With Magellan as captain general, 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 subsequently became the first Europeans to cross the Pacific. After reaching what is now the Philippines on 21 March 1521, Magellan “put on such a mad show there that natives converted to Christianity in large numbers and submitted to Spain”, historian Jostmann recounts.  But not all of them. When Magellan tried to militarily subjugate a village, he was fatally shot by a poisoned arrow and lance thrusts on 21 April 1521. 

Under the command of Juan Sebastián Elcano, only one ship from Magellan’s fleet, the Victoria, returned to Sanlúcar via the route around the Cape of Good Hope on 6 September 1522. Of the more than 240 men in the original crew, only 35 circumnavigated: 18 on the Victoria and 17 others who had fallen into Portuguese captivity en route. Around 55 more men returned by an easterly route, so that in total around 90 of the original expedition members made it back to Spain alive. The story of the first voyage around the world became known mainly through the account of one survivor, the Italian Antonio Pigafetta.

In 2021, it will be 500 years since Magellan lost his earthly existence. The conquistador is not only remembered by numerous statues and monuments, but also musically he appears in compositions by Arie Malando, Ferrer Ferran, Jay Chattaway, Sean O’Loughlin, Masanori Taruya and Larry Neeck. Magellan is also remembered in the universe with the two “Magenall’s Clouds” that can even be seen with the naked eye. Louis Kroni and David Gillingham have musically portrayed these celestial phenomena.

(Sources: Wikipedia; dw.com)

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