Madrid to search for Cervantes

The search for the body of poet, novelist and playwright Miguel de Cervantes could start in March or April now that the Madrid regional government has given its permission.

The project will search the convent Las Trinitarias in the Las Letras area of Madrid using ground radar to find cavities in the structure where the body of Cervantes and his wife may have been buried.

Cervantes was buried in the convent on 23 April 1616, the day after his death, although the remains were removed for safe keeping in 1673 during building at the convent and then returned later. However documents relating to the exact position of his bones were subsequently lost.

The radar technique is being used in the first stage, which will last two months, in order to find the possible location without damaging the convent. If it is proves successful then a second stage may be agreed.

It is thought that the body of Cervantes would be easy to identify because of wounds – two to the chest and one to his left arm – that Cervantes suffering during the battle of Lepanto in 1571 when he was fighting with the Spanish navy marines. Cervantes lived in Rome for a year in 1569 in the service of a Spanish cardinal before he enlisted with the Spanish navy marines in Naples, then under Spanish rule.

Cervantes was probably living in the neighbourhood of the convent in Madrid when he died but his connection with the Trinitarian order went back several decades, to when he was ransomed by the Trinitarians in 1575 after five years in bondage to Algerian corsairs. The founding intention of the order was the ransom of Christians captured by non-Christians. It is also thought that his daughter, Isabella, was a member of the convent at the time.

The first part of Cervantes’ major work Don Quixote was published in 1605 and the second part in 1615 less than a year before his death.