Thomas of Berlanga

A brief biography.

Tomás de Berlanga was born at Berlanga du Duero  in Spain, ca. 1485. He was professed at the priory of San Esteban of Salamanca, 10 March, 1608, in the Dominican Order. He sailed to the Island Hispaniola in 1510 and was elected prior of the priory in Santo Domingo.

The Dominicans of Hispaniola then depended on the province of Andalusia, but Berlanga obtained at Roma, in 1528, the establishment of a separate province under the name of Santa Cruz, of which he was appointed  provincial in 1530.
From Sant
o Domingo he claimed the newly founded province of Santiago de Mexico as being under his jurisdiction, but was successfully opposed by Fray Domingo de Betanzos. After a visit to Spain, he brought with him to Panama some farmer-families and many seeds. After his second travel to Spain, he returned to Panama with twenty farmer-families in 1536.
About the same time
Thomas of Berlanga was proposed for the Bishopric of Panama, and went thither. His diocese embraced everything discovered, and to be discovered, on the South-American west coast, from which but a few years previous had come the news of the discovery of Peru by Pizarro.
When, therefore, the Spanish crown began to notice signs of trouble between Pizarro and Almagro, about their respective territorial limits, it sent Bishop Berlanga to Peru with power to arbitrate between the two on any question at issue.
But the arbitration between Pizarro and Almagro failed.
At the same time the Spanish monarch, the Emperor Charles VI, by a decree (cédula) dated 19 July, 1534, ordered Berlanga to make a report on the condition and prospects of Peru, its geographical and ethnographic peculiarities.

The discovering of the Galapagos Islands

Thomas' inquiry was delayed for nearly two months when his ship began to drift westward near the equator for lack of wind. He and his crew eventually came upon the islands 10th March 1535. Having read accounts of Thomas Berlanga's misadventure, Flemish cartographer Abraham Ortelius named the islands Galapagos, the Spanish word for the giant tortoises discovered there.

After promoting the construction of the priory of Santo Domingo at Lima, Berlanga returned, in 1537, to Spain where he died in his native town Berlanga, 8 August, 1551.


Bishop Thomas of Berlanga, O.P. (ca.1484-08.08.1551)
discoverer of the Galapagos Islands, 10 March, 1535.
In the background the Islands.

Ecuador 1986, Mi 2024, Sc 2111.


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