It is set to become a shrine for literary pilgrims worldwide.
Point of view
"We've contributed a little bit to our history today"
For underneath a 17th century convent in Madrid, investigators believe they have found the remains of Miguel de Cervantes, the author of ‘Don Quixote’ and considered the father of the modern novel.
There is no DNA proof yet but the man leading the search is convinced that this is a landmark discovery.
“Having looked at all the historical, archaeological and anthropological evidence, we can consider that some fragments of Miguel de Cervantes were found in the ground of the crypt at the Trinitarians convent,” Francisco Etxeberria told reporters in the Spanish capital.
Cervantes – whose masterpiece about an errant, daydreaming knight and his faithful servant Sancho Panza has delighted readers around the globe -had requested to be buried at the site.
Its religious order helped pay a ransom to release him from slavery after he was captured by pirates. But the exact location of his tomb was lost when the convent was rebuilt.
Historians now hope to establish a burial site to attract literary pilgrims.
Madrid mayor Ana Botella said on Tuesday that authorities were looking into the possibility of opening up the site to visitors.
“We’ve contributed a little bit to our history today,” she said.
Investigators began their search almost a year ago in the cloistered convent, still home to a dozen elderly nuns. They recently found bone fragments as well as a dilapidated piece of a wooden coffin with the letters “M” and “C” on it.
None of the bones showed signs of the injuries Cervantes was known to have sustained during his life, including lesions to his left arm when he fought in the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, the experts said.
The find comes nearly 400 years after Cervantes died in 1616 – in the same week as William Shakespeare.
The Cervantes search takes place after a similar quest in Britain, where investigators found the remains of mediaeval monarch King Richard III in 2012 under a municipal car park. He will be reburied in a ceremony next week.