Giovanni da Verrazzano
gigatos | May 24, 2022
Jean de Verrazane (or Jehan, rarely Jean Verazani…), in French, Giovanni da Verrazzano, or Verrazano, in Italian, and who signed in Latin Janus Verrazanus, is an explorer of Florentine origin, long in the service of François I, born around 1485 in Lyon, or in Florence, or in Greve in Chianti, and died in 1528 in the Antilles. Verrazane was the first European to explore a large part of the Atlantic coast of the North American continent, the first steps towards the French colonization of the Americas. He named these new territories “Nova-Gallia” (New France).
Two credible hypotheses about his birth are known:
In Giovanni”s autograph, which appears in the “document of Rouen”, as well as on the map drawn by his brother Hieronimo da Verrazano, the name is written with a single “z”.
“Verrazano” is spelled with two “z “s in some copies of documents, but according to Benjamin Franklin DeCosta, these are errors introduced by copyists.
The controversy continues to this day and New York”s Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge was added a “z” by executive order in 2018.
The Spanish and Portuguese write Verazano, Verrazano, Verozan or Veramsan. It is also written in Portuguese Joâo Verezano.
In France several French forms exist: Verrazan, Varacenne, Varrasenne, Varassane, Varrasonne, Varezam, Verrassane, Verrazzane, Verassane. The first name of Giovanni is francized into Jehan. The particle da becomes de or is omitted.
He lives mainly in Lyon and Paris, where he is presented to the Court.
In 1522, after the publication of the accounts of Antonio Pigafetta and his companion Maximilianus Transylvanus, travel companions of Magellan, Europe is fascinated by the great Spanish circumnavigation (the mother of King Francis I, Louise de Savoie, for example, translates into French the journal of Antonio Pigafetta). The Verrazane expedition is placed in this context of great transoceanic voyages.
In September 1522, he gathered in Lyon funds coming from Italy and destined for the fleet for India “of which he was the captain”.
In Rouen, he joined forces with eight merchants:
But it was probably in Lyon that the 1524 expedition was decided upon, during which the entire eastern coast of the North American continent, and particularly the sites of New York and Newport, were recognized.
At the end of 1523, Verrazane was sent by the shipowner Jean Ango to explore the area between Spanish Florida and Newfoundland, in order to discover an access to the Pacific Ocean and Asia.
His ship La Dauphine was fitted out in Le Havre. He set sail from Dieppe in June 1523, at the head of a crew of about fifty sailors. He sailed past Ushant, then south to the north coast of Spain, crossing the Bay of Biscay. It then skirted Portugal in the direction of Madeira, where it stopped to refuel. After postponing his departure twice, he left on January 17, 1524 for the Atlantic crossing. He arrived near Cape Fear, in the center of the North American coast, on March 7, 1524.
After a brief anchorage, he headed north along the coast of what is now North Carolina. During this reconnaissance, he thought he saw the Pacific Ocean behind a narrow strip of land. But in reality, it was only the Pamlico Bay lagoon, 130 kilometers long and 48 kilometers wide in places, separated from the Atlantic by the Outer Banks, a barrier of sandy islands. This error led the map makers of the time, starting with Vesconte Maggiolo, in 1527, and Giovanni”s brother, Girolamo da Verrazzano, in 1529, to represent North America as almost cut in two parts connected by an isthmus. This misinterpretation took a century to be corrected.
As it continued northeastward, it probed every major opening in the coastline, such as Chesapeake Bay and the mouths of the Delaware and Hudson Rivers.
On April 17, 1524, Verrazzane discovered the bay of New York, which he named “La Nouvelle-Angoulême”, in homage to François I, Count of Angouleme. The Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge in New York is a reminder of this first European exploration of the bay.
He continued towards Maine, Nova Scotia, then Newfoundland, and on to Labrador. He finally returned to France without having found the hoped-for passage to the Pacific Ocean.
Verrazzane gave these new lands French toponyms that he translated into Italian. The map of 1525, drawn by his brother, claims by its toponymy a continental empire for France.
The report of Verrazane is dated the day of his return and it is sent to the king who is in Lyon. The report gives an account of a vast territory claimed as Francescane or Nova-Gallia (New France), in defiance with the treaty of Tordesillas which attributed to Spain and Portugal the new lands discovered on the other side of the ocean.
Soon Verrazane prepares a new journey to find a passage to Asia. But his ships were requisitioned for war. The capture of François I at the battle of Pavia in 1525 put a definitive end to this project.
That same year, his brother Girolamo drew a nautical chart of the Mediterranean in Lyon.
During the captivity of the king of France, Verrazane frequented the courts of kings John III of Portugal and Henri VIII of England. While Europe learns about Magellan”s circumnavigation and the discovery of the Moluccas, Spain sends, in April 1526, Sébastien Cabot to find a way to the Pacific. In the spring of 1526, Verrazane was back in France where a new project took shape with the admiral Philippe Chabot and the shipowner Jean Ango.
“We have this day deliberated that, for the good, proffit and utility of the public thing of the kingdom of France, to put on top of two of our gallyons being at present in the Havre de Grace with a nef belonging to Jehan Ango, of Dieppe, of the port seventy tonaulx or approximately, for these three vesseaulx, to esquipper , And for this purpose we have concluded and deliberated, with these men, to pay and use up to the sum of twenty thousand livres tournoys, that is to say, for us Admiral four thousand livres tournoys, maistre Guillaume Preudhomme, general of Normandy, two thousand livres tournoy ; Pierre Despinolles, one thousand pounds tour; Jehan Ango, two thousand pounds tour; Jacques Boursier, same sum of two thousand pounds tournoys, messire Jehan de Varesam, principal pilot, similar sum of two thousand pounds tournoys. “
– Philippe Chabot
In June 1526, Verrazane left Europe with his brother Girolamo and three ships to attempt to round the Cape of Good Hope. A storm and a mutiny prevented the Verrazane brothers from progressing, but the third ship reached the Indian Ocean. Going too far south, the ship passed Madagascar without seeing it and crossed the entire Indian Ocean to arrive in Sumatra. From there, it headed back to the Maldives, then south to Madagascar where the crew was finally shipwrecked. Only a few survivors made it to Mozambique. Meanwhile, the Verrazane brothers headed west and reached Brazil where they loaded up with pernambuco. In September 1527 they returned to France.
A last trip in 1528, recounted by Girolamo da Verrazano, took them to the West Indies (possibly Guadeloupe) where Giovanni was allegedly killed by anthropophagous natives (and possibly eaten).
Also read, history – Ionian Revolt
A continent in the Atlantic
The explorations made by Jean de Verrazane in 1524 lead to the famous map of 1529 produced by his brother Jerome:
“Verrazano”s map forms one of those indefinite, but effective, demonstrations made against Ptolemy”s system in the mid-sixteenth century, when the shape of the American continent was developed. Ptolemy”s system assumed that no continent existed in the Atlantic, and that it was possible to sail from Western Europe to India. This was the view of Columbus, who had no original ideas, being a mere copyist, and who died believing that he had actually demonstrated the truth of the old theory.”
– De Costa, 1880 (translation)
This map names for the first time places along the North American coast, north of Florida.
Also read, biographies – John Hunyadi
Nova Gallia, New France
On a map produced in 1529, Verrazane depicts the mouth of the St. Lawrence River and names the territory Nova Gallia. This is the first known mention of New France, several years before Jacques Cartier and Samuel de Champlain.
Verrazane is sometimes credited with the death of Jean Fleury (or Florin), a privateer from Dieppe who was hanged by Spain in 1527. This version of events was refuted by Luigi Prospero Peragallo (ca) in 1897-1900, but still appears in some books.
Also read, biographies – Filippo Brunelleschi