Searching for Cervantes in a Spanish convent

Mon Mar 10, 2014 1:09pm EDT
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By Teresa Larraz Mora

MADRID (Reuters) - Historian Fernando Prado says he is not just tilting at windmills in his quest to find the remains of Spanish novelist Miguel de Cervantes, the creator of "Don Quixote".

Almost 400 years after Cervantes's death, Prado is set to use ground-penetrating radar to peer into the sub-soil beneath an old convent in the heart of Madrid to look for his remains.

A dozen elderly nuns cloistered in the 17th Century walled convent have agreed to the search, which will start next month.

Born in 1547, Cervantes was buried in Madrid after his death in 1616 - the same week in which William Shakespeare died.

He requested to be buried in the convent as the Trinitarian religious order had helped to pay a ransom to release him from slavery after he was captured by Moorish pirates. But the exact site of his grave was lost in subsequent rebuilding.

In Cervantes's novel, which has delighted readers around the world and is considered a precursor of the modern novel, the delusional Quixote, his mind addled by his obsession with fantasy stories about knights - sets out to perform acts of chivalry in honor of his imaginary ideal love, Dulcinea.

Prado said Spain should have a fitting honor for the author of "Don Quixote", one of history's greatest literary works and an iconic fictional character.

"We have a moral obligation to Cervantes, we have been benefitting from his work and glory for a very long time," he said.   Continued...

People have their photo taken around the statue of Don Quxjote and Sancho Panza at a monument that honors Miguel de Cervantes, one of Spain's most important literary figures and author of the famous novel 'Don Quixote' at Madrid's Plaza de Espana square in central Madrid March 7, 2014. REUTERS/Susana Vera