The Search for Cervantes's Remains

May 1, 2014

CervantesAt the time of his death in 1616, Miguel De Cervantes was not the writer of fame to which the novel The Adventures of the Ingenious Nobleman Don Quixote of La Mancha would later propel him. It is for this reason that the site of his grave is shrouded in mystery. While historians are fairly sure his remains are in a tiny convent in Madrid, their exact location has yet to be discovered. Spain has decided to launch a three-phase search (at a cost of approximately $138,000) to take place over some 200 square meters at the Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians in Madrid’s Barrio de las Letras, also known as the Literary Quarter. Fernando Prado, the historian in charge of the project, says that there are just five people, including a child and Cervantes, buried at the convent.

“We know he is buried there,” says Prado. “History teaches us that churches never throw bones away. They might relocate them under roofs and vaults if necessary, but no one would dare throw them into a common ossuary.”

Phase one of the project involves hunting for bones with the use of radar. During phase two, excavation will begin if bones are detected. Once radar operator Luis Avail’s report is finished, and if bones are found, they will be handed over to Spanish forensic anthropologist Francisco Etxeberria for forensic identification. Given that Cervantes has no living relatives, DNA analysis will likely not be helpful in identifying his remains. The author’s self portraits and historical documentation now offer the most reliable tools. Whether it be via the reference he makes to only having six teeth shortly before his death, or written accounts of the wounds he sustained in the Battle of Lepanto during which he was hit with three musket shots in the chest and hand, should the bones of Miguel De Cervantes be found, they will be returned to the church. According to Prado, “He will be re-buried there, but with a plaque to remember his name and who he is.”

 

Source: Associated Press

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