Cervantes has been found…or has he?

Fiona Govan
Fiona Govan - [email protected]
Cervantes has been found…or has he?
A portrait thought to be of Miguel de Cervantes by Juan de Jauregui y Aguilar, The Bridgeman Art Library Photo: Botaurus/Wikipedia

Researchers have cautiously confirmed that they believe they have located the remains of Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes in the crypt of a Madrid convent almost 400 years after his death.


A team of scientists said that after a year-long quest they could report that they discovery of what they believed were "some fragments" of the author of Don Quixote who died in 1616 and was buried according to his wishes at the Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians in Madrid.

But that a lack of DNA made it impossible to say definitively.

"It is possible to say after analyzing all the information that it is considered that amid the fragments of those discovered in the crypt of the church of the Trinitarians there are some fragments belonging to Miguel de Cervantes," said forensic anthropologist Francisco Etxeberria.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday morning at Madrid’s City Hall, the head of the scientific team was at pains to point out however, that there was no scientific proof of the find at this stage.

He said the conclusion had been arrived at "in view of all the information generated in the case of character historical, archaeological and anthropological. There are many coincidences but no discrepancies."


Francisco Etxeberria explaining the team's findings on Tuesday. Photo: Gerard Julien / AFP


The team said that more forensic research was needed. "Phase three of the project would be to see whether it was possible to extract DNA from the damaged fragments and then whether it was possible to test against DNA extracted from the remains of his known relative," said Etxeberria.

If his remains could be isolated then the aim would be to preserve them in a new tomb.

Cervantes would be reburied "with full honours" in the same convent after a new tomb had been built, according to his wishes, Investigator Luis Avial told the news conference.

"Cervantes asked to be buried there and there he should stay," he said.

Thorough examination of the convent that began last April with surveys using 3D scanners and ground-penetrating radar had led to the discovery of a crypt.

In January the team announced the discovery of a casket in the crypt beneath the convent. A fragment of a board of one of the caskets had the letters "M.C." formed
in tacks.

Investigators on Tuesday reported finding bone fragments in an advanced "state of deterioration" belonging to between 15 and 17 people. The remains included at least five children, ten adults of whom were identified as men and four as women.

Among them were believed to be remains of Cervantes and his wife, Catalina de Salazar y Palacios.

When the project was announced almost a year ago it was hoped that the remains of Cervantes could be identified from injuries sustained in his life.

Cervantes was shot twice in the chest and once in his left hand during a1571 naval conflict, the Battle of Lepanto, in which the Holy League led by Spain defeated the Ottoman fleet.

Born near Madrid in 1547, Cervantes has been dubbed the father of themodern novel for "The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha", published in two parts in 1605 and 1615.

The book is thought to be one of the most widely read and translated books in the world.

Cervantes died penniless on April 26 1615, the same date as William Shakespeare.


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