Lost and Found: Author of ‘Don Quixote’


Researchers find Cervantes’ tomb in Spain after centuries.

Researchers in Spain claim to have rediscovered the tomb of Miguel de Cervantes, one of Spain’s most famous historical figures and author of “The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha.”

Cervantes was born in 1547 near Madrid. He joined the forces of the Spanish Empire and served as a soldier until 1575, when Algerian pirates attacked his ship.

Cervantes became a prisoner and slave in Algiers for five years before his family and the Trinitarians, a religious order, paid his ransom. After returning, the author held various financial positions while writing. Cervantes moved to Madrid in 1600 and would live there the rest of his life.

In 1605, Cervantes published the first part of “Don Quixote,” one of the most translated and recognized books of all time. The novel follows a low-ranking noble named Alonso Quixano who reads so many chivalric tales that he loses his sanity and believes himself to be a true knight. After renaming himself Don Quixote, the self-styled hero drags along poor farmer Sancho Panza on a series of imagined adventures against monsters and villains, including one well-known episode in which Don Quixote charges a group of “giants” that turn out to be windmills.

“Don Quixote” gave Cervantes international fame but little money. The popularity of the novel, as well as an unauthorized continuation by another writer, prompted Cervantes to write a second part and release it in 1615. Today, “Don Quixote” is widely considered one of the first modern novels, the most influential novel in Spain’s history and one of the most important literary works in the Western world.

Cervantes died in 1616 of Type II diabetes and was buried in a Madrid convent of the Trinitarians. The convent was later rebuilt and Cervantes’ remains were moved to another building, but their exact location was unknown until now.

Researchers used infrared cameras and ground-penetrating radar to locate Cervantes’ tomb over three centuries after its relocation, in a crypt beneath the building that held the bones of other adults with whom Cervantes was buried. Forensic scientists have not been able to individually identify Cervantes’ bones, but they are sure the tomb is his based on historical evidence.

After a new tomb is built, Cervantes will be reburied with full honors. The current crypt will be opened to public view in 2016 in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the author’s death.


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