Coinciding with Hispanic Heritage Month, the bell of the Santa Maria, the flagship that led Christopher Columbus’s expedition to the Americas in 1492, is up for sale in Miami. This is the only existing artifact related to the historic voyage to America and will be auctioned privately.
Discovered by the Italian naval officer and diver Roberto Mazzara in 1994 in the shores of North Portugal, the bell is considered to be at the center of an epic story filled with treasure hunting, political intrigue, and historical mystery. “Growing up with documentaries by Jaques Cousteau, I have always loved the mysteries of the seas and being a professional diver, I was able to join these two passions when the hunt for this bell was first presented to me almost 30 years ago. The auction will be a wonderful opportunity to give collectors a chance to own a unique piece of history,” said Mazzara, former officer of the Italian navy and expert in sub aquatic rescues.
The chemical and metallographic analysis of the University of Zaragoza, the archives of Indias in Seville and Simancas, and the documents that point to the Casa de la Contratación del Rey (a state entity that controlled and recorded from 1503 through the 18th century all maritime traffic between Spain and the Indies) all coincide on the origin of the bell. There is no doubt as to the authenticity of this historic gem weighing just under 31 pounds and just under 10 inches in diameter.
After the kidnapping of the bell and several legal battles, a Spanish court restored the bell to its rightful owner, Mazzara. Although the bell is considered to be «priceless», as there is no comparable historical artifact available, it is estimated to be worth at least 100 million dollars by appraisers at Sotheby’s and Christie’s.
The bell is making its debut after being kept safe in an undisclosed location in Miami since 2006. Mazzara is making this historical object, the heart and soul of the Santa Maria, available to the collectors in a private auction.