Columbus Monument

  • Sculptor: Gaetano Russo
  • Dedicated: 1892
  • Medium and size: Overall 77 feet. At the top, marble statue of Columbus (13 feet); south side, marble Genius (9 feet); north side, bronze eagle (6 feet); south and north sides, bronze reliefs (each 2 x 6 feet)
  • Location: Columbus Circle, intersection of Eighth Avenue, Central Park South and 59th Street. Great view from the third floor of the Time Warner Building.
  • Subway: A, B, C, D, 1 to 59th Street - Columbus Circle

Columbus Monument

Columbus Monument Genius

"To the World He Gave a World"

Ptolemy 1467

Above: Ptolemy's map of the world, from a manuscript of 1467. Africa is at the lower left, Asia at the far right.

Cantino Planisphere

Above: The world in 1502, a decade after Columbus’s first voyage. To the creator of the “Cantino Planisphere," the western boundaries of the Americas were still unknown.

Ortelius map 1570

Above: In the Ortelius map of 1570, created less than a century after Columbus’s first voyage, the outlines of the Americas were substantially known.

Italian-American Monuments

The driving force behind the Columbus Monument was Carlo Barsotti, editor of Il Progresso Italo-Americano, New York’s leading Italian newspaper in the late 19th century. Barsotti’s efforts also brought us the Verdi Monument, VerrazzanoGaribaldi in Washington Square, and Dante near Lincoln Center. 

“Discovering Columbus”

In 2012 Tatzu Nishi constructed an “artwork” that consisted of a living room (complete with sofa, TV, and bookshelves) built six stories above the ground, surrounding the figure of Columbus. While it was academically interesting to see Columbus up close, it was also disappointing: Russo didn’t design the sculpture to be viewed from that angle, and it didn’t look good.

Columbus close-up 

“Columbus,” by Joaquin Miller

(It’s poetry: read it aloud!)

Behind him lay the gray Azores,
Behind the Gates of Hercules;
Before him not the ghost of shores,
Before him only shoreless seas.
The good mate said: "Now we must pray,
For lo! the very stars are gone.
Brave Admiral, speak, what shall I say?"
"Why, say, 'Sail on! sail on! and on!' "

"My men grow mutinous day by day;
My men grow ghastly wan and weak."
The stout mate thought of home; a spray
Of salt wave washed his swarthy cheek.
"What shall I say, brave Admiral, say,
If we sight naught but seas at dawn?"
"Why, you shall say at break of day,
'Sail on! sail on! and on!' "

They sailed and sailed, as winds might blow,
Until at last the blanched mate said:
"Why, now not even God would know
Should I and all my men fall dead.
These very winds forget their way,
For God from these dead seas is gone.
Now speak, brave Admiral, speak and say" --
He said, "Sail on! sail on! and on!"

They sailed. They sailed. Then spake the mate:
"This mad sea shows his teeth tonight.
He curls his lip, he lies in wait,
With lifted teeth, as if to bite!
Brave Admiral, say but one good word:
What shall we do when hope is gone?"
The words leapt like a leaping sword:
"Sail on! sail on! sail on! and on!"

Then pale and worn, he kept his deck,
And peered through darkness. Ah, that night
Of all dark nights! And then a speck --
A light! a light! at last a light!
It grew, a starlit flag unfurled!
It grew to be Time's burst of dawn.
He gained a world; he gave that world
Its grandest lesson: "On! sail on!"

Cross References

Copyright (c) 2013 Dianne L. Durante