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Vandino (sometimes Vadino or Guido) and Ugolino Vivaldi (sometimes Ugolino de Vivaldo) (fl. 1291) were two brothers and Italian explorers and merchants from Genoa.

In the spring of 1291 they sailed from Genoa with the intention of reaching India by sea in ten years. The expedition was financed by Teodisio D'Oria (Doria) and piloted by Majorcan sailors. In two galleys, they sailed along the coast of present-day Morocco after passing through the Straits of Gibraltar. They may have followed the African coast as far as Cape Non. Their subsequent fate is unknown. Whether they attempted to sail west across the Atlantic or circumnavigate the African continent is also unknown.

Jean Gimpel suggests[1] that the two Franciscan monks who accompanied the Vivaldi Brothers may have read the Opus majus written by their fellow Franciscan, Roger Bacon. Bacon suggests in this work that the distance separating Spain and India was not great, a theory that was later repeated by Pierre d'Ailly and tested by Christopher Columbus.

They may have seen or landed on the Canary Islands, which in subsequent decades became firmly established on maps as an actual geographical location rather than as a mythological place. The expedition of the Vivaldi Brothers was certainly one of the first recorded voyages that sailed out from the Mediterranean into the Atlantic since the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD.

It is believed that when Lancelotto Malocello set sail from Genoa in 1312, he did so in order to search for Vandino and Ugolino Vivaldi. Malocello ended up remaining on the island that is named for him, Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands, for more than two decades.

The historian José de Viera y Clavijo writes that Father Agustín Justiniani, in the Anales de Génova, includes the information that two Franciscans also joined the Vivaldi expedition. Viera y Clavijo also mentions the fact that Petrarch states that it was a local tradition that the Vivaldis did indeed reach the Canary Islands. Neither Justiniani nor Petrarch knew of the expedition's fate. Papiro Masson in his Anales writes that the brothers were the first modern discoverers of the islands.

The Vivaldi brothers subsequently became the subjects of legends that featured them circumnavigating Africa before being captured by the mythical Christian king Prester John.[2] The Vivaldis’ voyage may have inspired Dante’s Canto 26 (Inferno) about Ulysses’ last voyage, which ends in failure in the Southern Hemisphere.[3] According to one scholar, Ulysses' fate was inspired "...partly from the fate which there was reason to suppose had befallen some adventurous explorers of the Atlantic ocean."[4]

Notes

  1. ^ Gimpel, Jean (1976). The Medieval Machine: The Industrial Revolution of the Middle Ages. New York: Penguin. p. 196.  
  2. ^ Ugolino and Vadino Vivaldi Biography | scit_021_package.xml
  3. ^ Peter d’Epiro; Mary Desmond Pinkowish; Sprezzatura: 50 Ways Italian Genius Shaped the World (Anchor, 2001), 105.
  4. ^ Dante, Inferno, Canto 26

Sources

  • José Juan Acosta; Félix Rodríguez Lorenzo; Carmelo L. Quintero Padrón, Conquista y Colonización (Santa Cruz de Tenerife: Centro de la Cultura Popular Canaria, 1988), p. 23.
  • José de Viera y Clavijo, Historia de Canarias: Tomo I (Madrid: Biblioteca Básica Canaria, 1991), p. 107 (XX. Los Genoveses).
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