On 27 July 1680, the city of Seville and the Brothers of Charity, along with numerous Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, monks, laymen, great lords and Masters of the University, introduced into the Court of Rome a request for the canonisation of Brother Don Miguel de Manara, who had died one year earlier in odour of sanctity at the convent of the Caridad. The enquiry undertaken by the eminent Doctors of the Congregation of Rites was long and minutious. It lasted ten years and permitted the discovery that the person proposed for judgement in the Court of Rome had had a particularly edifying life. In faith of which the Pope signed the decree making Don Miguel de Manara a Venerable, the first sanctification grade before beatification.
Immediately, the monks of the Caridad went to work so that the Vatican would take interest in the miracles which were taking place near the tomb of their former Brother and would decide to accord him the title of Blessed.
When Guy Breton wrote this text in the XXth Century, the Congregation of Rites was studying the canonisation dossier of Don Miguel de Manara.
But who is this holy man possessing such remarkable virtues that Rome was considering granting him a halo?
He was a Sevillian who lived in the XVIIth Century and was better known by the name of Don Juan… That’s right: Don Juan, the lover of a thousand and three women, rapist, adventurer, assassin!… However, this very real character must not be confused with the legendary Don Juan created by Tirso de Molina and taken up by Moliere.
Born in Seville in 1627, Don Miguel has the revelation of his vocation of seductor when he is only fourteen years old. Having attended a performance of Burlador by Tirso de Molina, he leaves the theatre declaring with tranquil assurance:
“I will be Don Juan!”,
as another child would say: “I will be a sailor!”
And straight away, he tries to gain some experience. As a member of a noble family, he needs, as a true conquistador, brilliant beginnings. And, for a trial run, it is indeed brilliant: he becomes the lover of the Archbishop of Seville’s mistress. He draws from this first contact some lessons that a long apprenticeship with a commoner lady would not have given him.
Then he turns to the married women whom he charms by his words, marvels by his audacity and sends into ecstasy by a very knowledgeable technique…
When a husband, learning of his misfortune, displays any threatening contrarity, Don Miguel draws his sword and kills the interferer.
Wanting to equal his model by any means, he backs away from no peril. One evening, he arranges to meet a young girl in a hunting pavillion and alerts the lady’s brother. The brother, thinking that it is just boasting, goes to the bedroom door and listens. Recognizing his sister’s voice, he insults Don Miguel, but has to remain on the landing and await the end of the duet, a few characteristic sounds of which permit him to follow the different stages. After which, Don Miguel comes out with raised sword, kills the brother and calmly goes home.
All of these exploits do a lot for his reputation, as can be imagined. Soon, he has the nickname that he wants. The whole of Seville calls him “Don Juan”. It is said of him that he attracts women more than a magnet attracts iron.
But one evening, just like the Don Juan of the legend, while he is in a young girl’s bedchamber – her name is Dona Teresa – the father appears, a torch in his hand. Don Miguel leaps from the bed, seizes his sword and, in the dark corridor, engages in a terrible duel. The elderly man, who has drawn his sword, fights furiously, but Don Miguel kills him with a thrust to the heart and flees.
This time, the business is too serious for the parents of the young man to arrange. Dona Teresa’s father being the head of a powerful Andalusian family, the King himself orders that he be pursued in Justice. Don Miguel has to flee, to leave Spain, to take refuge in Italy, then in the Netherlands where the charm of the beautiful Flemish ladies soon contains no secrets for him.
Engaged in a Spanish regiment which is warring against Holland, he displays exceptional bravery which merits him being mentioned in Army dispatches. His brilliant conduct is quickly known in Seville and, by royal decision, the judiciary pursuits are abandoned. Don Miguel can return home.
He has barely arrived, when he finds a new way to fascinate the beautiful Spanish women: he participates in corridas and displays, there again, extraordinary dexerity.
One day, he falls seriously ill. All the husbands of Andalusia rejoice, but Don Miguel recovers, despite expectations. It is said of him:
“He even beats death!”
It would be wrong to think that this eternally dissatisfied man was a brainless butterfly without method. Don Miguel kept his accounts. He possessed a complete list of his “victims” with, opposite, a list of the husbands or lovers he had fooled according to their professions. All social classes were represented. At the top of the masculine column, the Pope’s name could be read… During his stay in Italy, Don Miguel had in fact seduced a beautiful Florentine to whom, it was said, His Holiness had accorded his favours…
Then came an Emperor. His principal biographer, Mrs Esther Van Loo says:
“The enumeration continued, brutal, direct, precise. It was an astounding pele-mele of Bishops, of reigning Princes and Dukes, of Marquis, of Counts, of Knights, of bourgeois or of modest tradesmen.”
One evening, while reading over his strange “accounting”, he noticed that he had not yet tasted incest. His sisters being nuns in a convent, the severe Rule of which forbade all hope, he was going to resign himself to abusing one of his aunts, when he remembered the existence of a half-sister, the bastard daughter of his father, who lived in Corsica.
The following day, Don Miguel embarked.
To be continued.