Recently when I was in Sevilla showing journalists the world of Don Juan’s Golden Age Spain, we visited one of the most beautiful and dangerous rooms I have seen. When I was researching the novel, I came across a scholar from the 1800s (the legend of Don Juan has been seducing us for 400 years) who said that Don Juan was an actual man who had lived in Seville, Spain and had been murdered to put an end to his scandalous affairs. As I traveled to the birthplace of the legend—and possibly the man—I felt like a detective exhuming clues that increasingly revealed who Don Juan really might have been and what really may have happened to him. My investigation led me to the Real Alcazar and eventually to the Salón de Embajadores (Hall of the Ambassadors), where the King received visitors.
The walls are tiled and plastered in the knotted geometric designs of the magnificent mudejar style bequeathed to Spain by the Moors. Black marble columns with gold capitals skirted the room, spanned by the horseshoe arches so loved by the Muslims of Al-Andalus. But it was when I gazed upward that I experienced an awe that comes from a beauty that transcends artistry. The gold dome glittered like the star-filled night sky. It was as if the worlds above and below met in that celestial ceiling.
My guide, Antonio Doblas, the man who helped me walk through walls and made the paintings three dimensional, whispered to me a story of how long ago in this very room, King Pedro the Cruel had condemned his own brother to death for falling in love with the princess who he himself was to marry. I knew that Don Juan’s fate would also be sealed in this room in an audience of the King, and as he rushes into the audience late—delayed by the arms of a widow—who wonders whether he also will be sentenced to death in this room