In 1992, the Universal Exposition was held in Seville, Spain. The chef-d’oeuvre of the fair was an exhibition entitled “1492,” a celebration of the year the Americas were discovered. Masterpieces from every country and culture dating from the era were assembled and presented for the exhibit. The exposition was housed in a wood and plaster structure, built on a flat and deserted island in the middle of the Guadalquivir river.
We were offered a private visit and tour of the exposition. Moving from one marvel to the next, we were awe struck at this magnificent grouping of cultures. We made our way past a portrait I was familiar with, a painting of Savonarola, a man whom I detest for having destroyed so many great works of art, paintings, book, sculptures, and more, all in the name of faith. I didn’t hide this sentiment from the young, charming guide who was escorting us through the exhibition.
“I cannot tolerate this monk,” I said.
“Neither can we,” replied the young guide.
I looked at her, taken aback. “But why,” I asked.
“Because he appears to us each and every night.”
I immediately put a pause to our tour, and offered the young woman a chair as I myself sat down. I gestured for her to go on, which she did without the slighted difficulty. Each and every night, an apparition dressed exactly as Savonarola is in this portrait, only with his face obscured by the hood of his robe, appeared and disturbed the overnight guards.
“Everyone is scared; nobody wants to work here anymore.”
I was intrigued. Ghosts don’t travel. It was out of the question to think that Savonarola would appear on this island in a Spanish river that he never once visited. But who was it? And why was it appearing?
Suddenly a realization came to me.
“Miss, before the pavilion was built, was the island totally deserted? Had there been other buildings?
“Of course, there was the monastery.”
“Do you know which order?”
“The same order as Savonarola.”
“Look no further,” I said, “Your ghost is not that dreadful Florentine, but a simple monk who must have lived in the monastery and who is not at all happy that it was destroyed. He reappears on the grounds as a testament, a witness of what was once there.”