Friday, February 14, 2014

A Portuguese Love Story

Monastery of Alcobaça
A World Heritage Site

In honor of Valentine's Day, I want to retell one of the most bizarre love stories I have ever come across in my travels.  While touring this beautiful monastery in Portugal, a masterpiece of Gothic Cistercian art and architecture, we came across two elaborately carved coffins containing the remains of Queen Ines de Castro and King Peter I.

Ines was the cousin and maid of the Infanta Constance of Castile who was married to Peter, the son of King Alfonso IV.  Peter fell madly in love with her, much to the chagrin of the king and the entire court.  When his wife died he wanted to marry her, but she was deemed unworthy of such a title.  Alfonso tried to arrange several appropriate marriages for his wayward son, but he turned them all down.  He decided the only way to squelch this infatuation was to have Ines murdered.

Peter became the King of Portugal in 1357 and sought his revenge.  He stated that he and Ines had been secretly married; therefore, she was the rightful queen.  He hunted down her assassins and had them publicly executed and ripped out their hearts, claiming that is what they had done to him.  Not only that, but he had her corpse exhumed and propped up on the throne.  He made the entire court kiss her rotting hand as a sign of allegiance.

The tombs face each other so that on Judgment Day, the two lovers will rise and be reunited forever.  As you can see above, the coffins are exquisitely carved with scenes of their lives and Christian symbolism.

This story was an extra bonus, as we had never heard of it before our arrival here.  Our then 17-year-old son was with us and I'll never forget his reaction to both the macabre story and the church itself.  "I feel like I'm inside a video game!"  It really brought history alive for him.

Happy Valentine's Day!

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