“Till the end of the world”. A sensational love story from 14th-century Portugal
“Ate Ao Fim Do Mundo”.
Till the end of the world.
A phrase that encapsulates one of the most sensational love stories of all time.
You’ll read it in the church of the Virgin Mary in the monastery of Alcobaça in Portugal.
The largest church in Portugal
The town of Alcobaça became famous after the first king of Portugal Afonso Henriques decided to build a church to commemorate the conquest of Santarém from the Arabs in 1147.
The church later evolved into the Cistercian monastery of Alcobaça, the first and one of the most important Gothic monuments of Portugal.
Not just another royal tomb
In the church, the largest of Portugal, are the sarcophagi of King Pedro I and his mistress Inês de Castro.
Inês was the illegitimate daughter of a Spanish nobleman and a Portuguese noblewoman. She came to Portugal in 1340 as maid of Constance of Castile, who had recently married Pedro, heir to the throne.
The prince fell in love with her and began to neglect his lawful wife, endangering the already feeble relations with Castile.
Moreover, the love of Pedro for Inês brought the exiled Castilian nobility very close to power, the brothers of Inês becoming friends and counsellors of the prince.
King Afonso IV of Portugal, father of Pedro, loathed the influence of Inês on his son and waited for their mutual infatuation to deflate.
But he was wrong.
True love doesn’t succumb
Constance of Castile died in 1345. Afonso tried several times to remarry his son. But Pedro refused to marry a woman other than Inês, who, however, was not deemed eligible to be queen.
The legitimate son of Pedro, the future King Ferdinand I of Portugal, was a fragile child, while the illegitimate children of Pedro and Inês were full of health.
This created even more discomfort among the Portuguese, who feared the increasing Castilian influence on Pedro.
Afonso banished Inês from the court after the death of Constance. But Pedro remained with her declaring that she was his true love.
After several attempts to keep the lovers away, Afonso ordered the murder of Inês.
Three men went to the convent of Santa Clara-a-Velha in Coimbra, where Inês was detained. There they killed her, decapitating her in front of her small child.
When Pedro found out, he chased the killers and managed to capture two of them in 1361. He executed them publicly, ripping their hearts out, saying that they had no heart after having pulverised his own.
Pedro became King of Portugal in 1357. He then stated that he had secretly married Inês, who was consequently the lawful queen. But his word was, and still is, the only proof of the marriage.
An incredible epilogue
Some sources say that after Pedro became King of Portugal, he had the body of Inês exhumed from her grave and forced the entire court to swear allegiance to their new queen.
“The King dug up the body of his beloved Inês and put it on a throne, adorned with a diadem and royal clothes and forced all the nobility of the kingdom to approach and kiss the hem of her garment, rendering her when dead the homage she had not received in her life … “
Some modern sources characterise the story of the posthumous coronation of Inês as a legend. Even so, it is indicative of the sensation created by their story.
Later she was buried in the monastery of Alcobaça, where her sarcophagus can still be seen, opposite Pedro’s. Thus, according to the legend, at the Last Judgment Pedro and Inês will face each other as they rise from their graves.
Both sarcophagi are exquisitely sculpted with scenes from their lives and with the promise of Pedro that they’ll be together até ao fim do mundo (till the end of the world).
The sarcophagi of Pedro and Inês
(photographer Mário Novais, 1954. Source: Biblioteca de Arte / Art Library Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons)
The sarcophagus of Inês
(Source: Schwarze Engel (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)
The sarcophagus of Pedro
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Hello! I am Denis, an architect based in Athens, Greece. I teach history of art and architecture in higher education. That’s one passion of mine. The other one is hiking, in and out of town. If you follow me, I’ll share my discoveries with you.
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