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Posted by portugalpress on February 15, 2018
Photo by Dave Sheldrake
Tomb of Inês de Castro at the Monastery of Alcobaça Isobel Costa / Photo by Isobel Costa

Love is a powerful emotion which comes in various forms. There is the love we have for family, for pets or of something (like chocolate!) and there is passionate love.

The ancient Greeks called passionate love “the madness of the gods” and being in love can certainly lead to some rather mad behaviour!

Shakespeare said: “Love is blind and lovers cannot see” - which is true as lovers often appear to live in an exclusive bubble, oblivious to the world around them.

Aristotle alleged: “Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies” – a beautiful description for when two people are soulmates.

But how do people know who is the ‘one’ and what causes them to feel ‘in love’?

Scientists have found that different neurochemical processes occur when a person is attracted to another and experiences feelings of love. Serotonin is triggered, which increases mood. The hormones vasopressin and oxytocin give the feeling of attachment, and the neurotransmitter dopamine is responsible for pleasure, desire and fulfillment. Norepinephrine is released giving the physical sensations of love such as a racing heart!

Whilst physical attraction may play a significant part in falling in love, often lovers are attracted to each other’s personality and it is not possible to control who they are attracted to or fall for. Many couples claim that in meeting the one, they just knew! There is a connection that seems to exclude all others. The feelings and behaviour exhibited by those in love are magical no matter how old the lovers are, intense and urgent in youth and more controlled but equally passionate in later years.

Love can be obsessive, passionate, fulfilling, romantic and comforting. It can, of course, also lead to feelings of disappointment, fear of loss, insecurity and despair. But falling in love is easy, maintaining the love and ensuring it is long lasting takes time, effort and commitment.

Buddhists believe that there are four elements that make up true love, behaviours which couples should adopt to make their love last.

Maitri – meaning kindness. Each partner should have a deep understanding of the other and the way they are as a person in order to learn how to love them in a way that makes them happy. The love should be fulfilling and meaningful.

Karuna – meaning compassion. The ability and the desire to ease the pain of others are essential. By truly understanding each other, lovers can understand each other’s suffering and, therefore, help to ease it and be supportive.

Mudita – meaning joy or happiness. These two must exist in love for it to be true love. If love is distressing or upsetting in any way then the love is lost. Love should be joyful otherwise there can no longer be love. Partners should do things together that both enjoy and should both share in that enjoyment.

Upeksha – meaning equanimity. A relationship should allow both partners freedom within the relationship to grow individually as well as being part of a couple without the fear and insecurity of losing the love. There should be equality, balance, tolerance and care. Thoughts and actions should be shared without judgment or discrimination to bring joy to the relationship.

But not all true love has a happy ending. In real life and in literature, there are many tales of tragic lovers. Romeo and Juliet, Paris and Helen of Troy, Cleopatra and Mark Antony to name a few.

But did you know Portugal has its own tragic love story that has fascinated me since learning about it in school and which has inspired the writing of many books, poems, paintings, operas, and even music. The sad story of King D. Pedro I and Inês de Castro depicts the strength of unconditional love one person can have for another.

Inês de Castro descended from Galician and Portuguese nobility during the reign of King Afonso XI. When the king’s heir D. Pedro married D. Constança Manuel in 1338, Inês was one of her ladies in waiting. Soon D. Pedro fell in love with Inês, subsequently neglecting his wife and causing concern to the King and court over the influence Inês’ Castilian family was having over D. Pedro when her brothers became his closest advisors. It was feared that civil war would begin or that the throne would fall into Castilian hands.

When D. Constança died in 1345, the King attempted to organise a second marriage for his son and banned Inês from court. However, the love between the two was too strong and the lovers continued their relationship, going on to have four children.

Eventually, the King was convinced to order Inês’ execution and she was accosted and decapitated in front of her children in the Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha in Coimbra. Upon hearing of her death and knowing his father was to blame, D. Pedro revolted against the King with their troops fighting each other until the Queen was forced to intervene to bring about peace.

D. Pedro was crowned 8th King of Portugal in 1357 and subsequently went after Inês’ killers who he had previously claimed to have forgiven. Catching two of the three, these were publically tortured and executed, their hearts torn out as a symbol of the destruction of D. Pedro’s heart when Inês died.

In 1360, D. Pedro I announced that he had secretively married Inês in 1354. He ordered the exhumation of her body and in a grand ceremony she was adorned with royal gowns and jewels and crowned Queen. Legend says that the courtiers had to kiss her decayed hand as a mark of respect and acceptance of her title, giving her the homage in death that she was denied in life.

D. Pedro I ordered two marble tombs to be made. Beautiful works of art intrinsically carved with images and sculptures depicting the lovers’ life. Inês was buried at the Monastery of Alcobaça in a grand ceremony in April 1361 and D. Pedro I was laid to rest six years later. The two tombs inscribed with the words ‘until the end of the world’ are facing each other so that on ‘Judgement day’, when the lovers rise again, they can immediately look at each other.

I have visited the tombs and the whole monastery is magnificent in its grandeur and simplicity. The tombs are breathtaking and I felt in awe of these two lovers and their story, which shows that, even in death, true love conquers all.
So now you know!

By Isobel Costa

Isobel Costa works full time and lives on a farm with a variety of pet animals! In her spare time, she enjoys photography, researching and writing.