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Legendary Portuguese Lovers in Coimbra and Alcobaça

Legendary Portuguese Lovers in Coimbra and Alcobaça

by Julie Dawn Fox

My first encounter with Pedro and Inês’ heart-rending romance was on a guided walk through the grounds of Quinta das Lágrimas in Coimbra. Back in the 14th century, this was a royal palace and Portugal’s real-life Romeo and Juliet conducted their passionate but illicit affair there. The palace is now a hotel but you don’t need to be staying there to learn about the star-crossed lovers.

Pedro and Inês’s story

Legend has it that Prince Pedro, heir to the Portuguese throne, was married off to Constança of Castille in a bid to strengthen the alliance between Portugal and Spain. He promptly fell hopelessly in love with his wife’s lady-in-waiting, Inês de Castro. She was equally captivated and their passionate affair ensued.

Despite all efforts to keep them apart, they had four children and, according to the legend, were secretly married in Bragança after Pedro’s first wife died. Pedro’s father, King Afonso IV, abhorred their relationship and expressly forbade it as it was damaging Portugal’s relationship with Spain. Pedro and Inês took no notice of him so the king plotted to have her assassinated.

After that, things got quite grisly. Wrathful Pedro waged war on his father, captured the assassins and ripped out their hearts with his bare hands. When he became king, Pedro exhumed Inês’ body and posthumously crowned her as his queen.

He also ordered exquisitely carved ‘his and hers’ tombs to be installed, feet facing, in the monastery in Alcobaça. The idea was to ensure that the first thing each of them saw in the afterlife was their beloved and that they would be together for all eternity. Now that’s what I call devotion.

Quinta das Lágrimas

One of the places where they were happiest in real life is now called Quinta das Lágrimas, which means Farm of Tears. Branca, our guide, led us through the grounds and shared the stories behind the Gothic follies, secret passageways and even poems inspired by this tragic love story, like the one by the Fountain of Tears.

This small natural spring feeds the water channels that have irrigated the estate since the 14th century. It’s also thought to be the place where Inês was murdered. The stones under the water have a reddish tinge that could be interpreted as Inês’ spilt blood and the grassy weeds that sway in the flowing water look like hair. 

Water from the Fountain of Tears flows along channels to the Pipe of Love. Apparently, if a couple manage to drink water from this channel simultaneously, their love will last for eternity. Given how low down it is and the fact that the pipe is surrounded by a stone wall, it looks nigh on impossible for even one person to drink from it so if you and your beloved actually achieve it, you truly deserve your reward!

Pedro and Inês bridge

The legend has been embellished over the centuries and is deeply ingrained in Portuguese culture. As well as poems, there are books, films, television series, travel itineraries, sculptures, paintings and songs dedicated to Pedro and Inês.

Once I became aware of their story, I started noticing references to them all over the place, in biscuits, wine and even bridges. The colourful glass, metal and wood pedestrian bridge over the River Mondego in Coimbra is the Pedro and Inês bridge and perfect for strolling hand-in-hand with someone special.



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