When “Escapist” Fiction Becomes Real

As you are reading this, I’ve run away!

I’m in Barcelona, Spain right now (assuming all has gone according to plan). My husband is heading up a conference in Girona, which is about an hour north of Barcelona, and I get to be the ride-along spouse.

Today, we’re heading out to the Barcelona Art Museum (which is right next-door to the Miró art museum. Because museums EVERYWHERE!)

I have a particular goal: I’m looking for a painting of the Virgin Mary holding the Holy Grail, which has flames shooting out of it. This medieval painting came out of a tiny church in the Pyrenees mountains, and supposedly hid the actual Grail. The Grail has been moved to Valencia, Spain, but the painting is right here.

How did I hear about this painting? While doing research on Girona, I ran across a mystery series by Caroline Roe—the stories of Isaac of Girona, a healer in the Jewish Quarter of Girona, Spain, in the 1300s. If you like Cadfael mysteries, this eight-book series is right up your alley. This blind Jewish healer routinely solves mysteries on behalf of the bishop of the Girona Cathedral—including one that involved murders surrounding the theft of the Grail from its mountain hideaway.

Well, I got curious. To the Google! To the Wiki! Turns out Caroline Roe is a medievalist who researched and wrote about real people and places. The cathedral is real. The Grail legend (and this painting she mentioned in the book) is real. The bishop was an historical figure, although our sleuth was made up.

As a result of indulging in great fiction, we now have new plans on our itinerary. And one more bonus? The Girona cathedral (and other places around town) are the new set pieces for the filming of Game of Thrones. I’m trying to see if I can get my husband to ride up the 91 stairs to the cathedral on horse, a la Jaime Lannister. I’m going to sit in narrow alleyways and tell the world, “A romance writer has no name.”

What about you? Has fiction ever shaped your reality?