Today, the Columbus Commemorative Gold Five-Dollar Coin remembers when the royalty bestowed a new escutcheon on the family, May 4, 1493.
From The United States of America, a Pictorial History of the American Nation from the Earliest Discoveries and Settlements to the Present Time, Volume I, edited by William Torrey Harris, Edward Everett Hale, Oscar Phelps Austin, Nelson Appleton Miles, George Cary Eggleston, published in 1909:
The royal court was at Barcelona. Columbus sent forward a letter, making known his arrival, and then proceeded thither.
His journey was an ovation such as is rarely seen in the history of the world. When it was known that the Nina was actually in the harbor, the people thought of nothing else.
All business stopped, the bells were rung, and men, women and children were wild with excitement.
When Columbus landed, he was almost crushed by the shouting throngs, who could not do him enough honor.
With him were six Indians whom he had brought from the newly-discovered country. He persuaded four others to go with him, but one died at sea and three were left ill at Palos.
It was a remarkable coincidence that the Pinta, which had been separated from the Nina for many weeks, entered the river only a few hours behind it.
Reaching Seville, the admiral received a letter from the king and queen, overflowing with gratitude and delight, and asking him to come to the court without delay, to hasten plans for a second and much more extensive expedition.
The fame of the great navigator had preceded him, and the scenes of triumph continued all the way to Barcelona, where his reception was the most magnificent that could be conceived.
When he came in sight of Barcelona, many courtiers and hidalgos rode out to meet him, thousands flocking at their heels, to do homage to the greatest man of the time.
The scene was remarkable, and this fine description of it is given by Washington Irving:
“First were paraded the Indians, painted according to their savage fashion, and decorated with tropical feathers, and with their national ornaments of gold; after these were borne various kinds of live parrots, together with stuffed birds and animals of unknown species, and rare plants supposed to be of precious qualities; while great care was taken to make a conspicuous display of Indian coronets, bracelets and other decorations of gold, which might give an idea of the wealth of the newly-discovered regions.
“After these followed Columbus, on horseback, surrounded by a brilliant cavalcade of Spanish cavalry. The streets were almost impassable from the countless multitude; the windows and balconies were crowded with the fair; the very roofs were covered with spectators.
“It seemed as if the public eye could not be sated with gazing on these trophies of an unknown world; or on the remarkable man by whom it had been discovered.
“There was a sublimity in this event that mingled a solemn feeling with the public joy. It was looked upon as a vast and signal manifestation of Providence in reward for the piety of the monarchs; and the majestic and venerable appearance of the discoverer, so different from the youth and buoyancy that are generally expected from roving enterprise, seemed in harmony with the grandeur and dignity of his achievement.
“To receive him with suitable pomp and distinction, the sovereigns had ordered their throne to be placed in public, under a rich canopy of brocade of gold, in a vast and splendid saloon.
“Here the king and queen awaited his arrival, seated in state, with the Prince Juan beside them, and attended by the dignitaries of their court, and the principal nobility of Castile, Valentia, Catalonia and Arragon, all impatient to behold the man who had conferred so incalculable a benefit upon the nation.
“At length Columbus entered the hall, surrounded by a brilliant crowd of cavaliers, among whom, says Las Casas, he was conspicuous for his stately and commanding person, which, with his countenance, rendered venerable by his gray hairs, gave him the august appearance of a senator of Rome.
“A modest smile lighted up his features, showing that he enjoyed the state and glory in which he came; and certainly nothing could be more deeply moving to a mind inflamed by a noble ambition, and conscious of having greatly deserved, than these testimonials of the admiration and gratitude of a nation, or rather of a world.
“As Columbus approached, the sovereigns rose, as if receiving a person of the highest rank. Bending his knees, he requested to kiss their hands; but there was some hesitation on the part of their majesties to permit this act of vassalage.
“Raising him in the most gracious manner, they ordered him to seat himself in their presence; a rare honor in this proud and punctilious court.
“At the request of their majesties, Columbus now gave an account of the most striking events of his voyage, and a description of the islands which he had discovered.
“He displayed the specimens of unknown birds that he had brought and other animals; of rare plants of medicinal and aromatic virtue; of native gold in dust, in crude masses, or labored into barbaric ornaments; and, above all, the natives of these countries, who were objects of intense and inexhaustible interest, since there is nothing to man so curious as the varieties of his own species.
“All these he pronounced mere harbingers of greater discoveries he had yet to make, which would add realms of incalculable wealth to the dominions of their majesties, and whole nations of proselytes to the true faith.
“The words of Columbus were listened to with profound emotion by the sovereigns. When he had finished they sunk on their knees, and, raising their clasped hands to heaven, their eyes filled with tears of joy and gratitude, they poured forth thanks and praises to God for so great a providence.
“All present followed their example; a deep and solemn enthusiasm pervaded that splendid assembly, and prevented all common acclamations of triumph; the anthem of te deum laudamus, chanted by the choir of the royal chapel, with the melodious responses of the minstrels, rose up in the midst in a full body of sacred harmony, bearing up, as it were, the feelings and thoughts of the auditors to heaven, ‘so that,’ says the venerable Las Casas, ‘it seemed as if in that hour they communicated with celestial delights.’
“Such was the solemn and pious manner in which the brilliant court of Spain celebrated this sublime event; offering up a grateful tribute of melody and praise, and giving glory to God for the discovery of another world.”
Nothing could be added to the completeness and splendor of the triumph of Columbus. All his honors and privileges were confirmed to him; the title of Don was conferred on him and his brothers; he rode at the king’s bridle, and he was acknowledged as a grandee of Spain.
The greatest honor was done on the 4th of May, 1493, when a new and splendid escutcheon was blazoned for him, on which the royal castle and lion of Castile and Leon were combined with the four anchors of his old coat of arms.
Pope Alexander VI. granted bulls confirming to the crowns of Castile and Leon all the lands discovered, or to be discovered, beyond a specified line of demarcation, on similar terms to those by which the Portuguese held their colonies along the African coast.
The excitement caused by the discoveries of Columbus stirred the civilized world as it had never been stirred before.
The Columbus Commemorative Gold Five-Dollar Coin shows with an image of the coat of arms presented to the family on May 4, 1493.