THE SEARCH for the remains of 16th-century King of Tyrconnell, Red Hugh O’Donnell is set to continue after an agreement has been reached with Santander Bank. The search for the chieftain’s remains hit an obstacle in Valladolid late last year when archaeologists revealed that they believe the main part of the Chapel of Marvels, where Red Hugh is most likely to be buried, lies under a branch of Santander Bank in the centre of the Spanish city.
Speaking to the Donegal News, Director General for Culture and Tourism of the Valladolid City Council, Ana Isabel Mellado Fraile confirmed this week that initial investigations have begun to determine if there are archaeological remains under the bank building.
“The Valladolid City Council is working on the potential remains of Red Hugh O’Donnell and the Saint Francisco convent in two directions. On the one hand, we are checking if there is archaeological remains under Santander Bank building, for that, we have hired a specific geophysics investigation service to study the subsoil using a geographic radar,” she said.
“We have an informal agreement with Santander Bank to do that, and, with the result, we will continue together this line of research signing a formal agreement.”
Ms Mellado Fraile said the City Council will also request an anthropological study of the remains already found. She added that the Council have a “deep interest” in finding the remains of Red Hugh in the city.
Red Hugh fled to Spain after the defeat of the Battle of Kinsale where a joint Irish/Spanish effort failed to beat the English invaders. He made his way to Simancas Castle and was on his way to enlist the help of King Philip III of Spain to try to muster an army to fight the English back home, but died a short time later from a fever on September 10, 1602. He was given a royal funeral and was buried in what was then the largest monastery in Europe, also the initial burial place of Christopher Columbus. For centuries, the exact location of the Chapel of Marvels had remained a mystery.
Local interest in finding it was revived by a visit to Valladolid from Donegal by well-known local man Brendan Rohan, who was trying to find the grave of his national hero. The city hall took advantage of planned roadworks in an area where researchers thought the chapel once stood to start the excavation.
To date archaeologists have unearthed 20 skeletons but all of them pre-date O’Donnell.