Luis de Santángel

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Luis de Santángel
Luis de Santangel.jpg
Luis de Santángel
OccupationFinance Minister

Luis de Santángel (died 1498) was a third generation converso in Spain during the late fifteenth century. Santángel worked as escribano de racion[1] to King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella I of Spain which left him in charge of the Royal finance. Santángel played an instrumental role in Christopher Columbus's voyage in 1492, for he managed to convince the Catholic monarchs to fund Columbus's expedition and provided a large sum of the money himself.[2]

Columbus's voyage[edit]


In 1486, Columbus met up with Ferdinand II and Isabella I to propose his plans of finding a passage to India by sailing West rather than East. While the Spanish monarchs were interested in his plans, they turned it down claiming that they were financially tied up with fighting the Moors.[3] To prevent Columbus from seeking out competing monarchs and nations, Ferdinand II and Isabella provided Columbus with a retainer of 12,000 maravedis (about $840), and in 1489, they provided him with documentation to obtain food and lodging in any Spanish municipality.

Columbus met with the Spanish Monarchs again on January 12, 1492, after Spanish victory against the Moors, to discuss funding for his plans to sail westward. Ferdinand was still not convinced, and Columbus left the meeting upset, confiding in Luis de Santángel that he plans to seek financial funding from France or England– whichever nation agreed first.[3] Using his position as a royal treasurer, Santángel met and convinced Isabella to accept Columbus's proposal by alluding to the fame and glory that would come with Columbus's success in finding a new sea-route to the Indies. Going a step further, Santángel had arranged for the majority of the funding by contributing much from his own pocket and additional money he had borrowed,[4] he did so to keep the queen from having to pawn the crown jewels.

A bust of Luis de Santángel in Alameda de València.

Columbus's first letter[edit]

Columbus's Letter on the First Voyage was addressed to Santangel.

Jewish Ties[edit]

Santángel's grandfather, the Jewish Azarias Chinillo, converted to Christianity during the fifteenth century and changed his name to Luis de Santángel. After this conversion, the Santángel family began to prosper economically and in status seeing that all three Santángels served the Royal crown and owned a large sum of wealth.[1]

Spanish Inquisition[edit]

While the Spanish Inquisition targeted and persecuted conversos– who were believed to be Crypto-Jews practicing Judaism privately– and Jews, Santángel and his immediate family were protected from the persecution. However, one of his relatives was burned at the stake in Saragossa.[3] On May 30, 1497, Ferdinand II issued a royal decree that exempted Santángel, his family, and his future successors, from the Inquisition.[5]

Despite this protection and high status, Santángel was believed to have wanted to help other conversos and Jews by funding Columbus's journey which would potentially offer a safer place for them to reside. Columbus was granted the island of Jamaica after his expeditions which became a place of refuge for many Sephardi Jews once they were expelled from Spain and Portugal.[3]

Inspiration for By Fire, By Water[edit]

In April 2010, author Mitchell James Kaplan published a book titled By Fire, By Water[6] that explored a fictitious retelling of Luis de Santángel's life during the 15th century; the novel, while not necessarily accurate, incorporated prominent events and situations such as Santángel's position in the Royal court, the Spanish Inquisition, and Columbus's journey. It discusses the impact of the Spanish Inquisition on conversos who were often still suspected when it came to religion and explores Santángel's desperate intervention towards Columbus's meetings with the Spanish Monarchs in attempt to discover a place that offers acceptance rather than terror and violence for Jews and conversos at the time.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b J., Sloan, Dolores (2009). The Sephardic Jews of Spain and Portugal : survival of an imperiled culture in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Kirsch, Jonathan. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co. ISBN 9781476615554. OCLC 680432065.
  2. ^ K., M. J. (1902). "LUIS DE SANTANGEL AND COLUMBUS". Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society (10): 159–163. JSTOR 43059671.
  3. ^ a b c d 1941-, Kritzler, Edward (2008). Jewish pirates of the Caribbean : how a generation of swashbuckling Jews carved out an empire in the New World in their quest for treasure, religious freedom--and revenge (First ed.). New York. pp. 13–16. ISBN 9780385513982. OCLC 191922741.
  4. ^ "AMERICA, THE DISCOVERY OF -". Retrieved 2018-11-19.
  5. ^ "This Day in Jewish History / Spain's King Ferdinand Issues Immunity to Luis De Santangel". Haaretz. 2014-05-30. Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  6. ^ James., Kaplan, Mitchell (2010). By fire, by water : a novel. New York: Other Press. ISBN 9781590513521. OCLC 437298699.

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