Templar Chronicles – Alcobaça
[Originally published in the Templar Globe in 2007]
I’m the Chancellor of the OSMTHU, editor of these pages.
For a long time I have been researching the net to bring you the latest about Templar news, research, debates and activities from a wide range of sources. I have had great encouragement from most of our readers and a few interesting suggestions have been taken on board and will be incorporated in the Templar Globe in the future.
It has been my wish since the beginning to help our readers access information about the Order – past and present – that is not readily available in a systematic way from other sources. I always thought that the readers should benefit from the fact that I was born in Portugal and that – as many of you know – in my country we hold some of the most interesting and unexplored Templar sources, stories, traditions, documents, sites and treasures that have been left from ancient times and sometimes defy our understanding.
After you have dwelled a bit into the Templar legacy, it is clear that, while France was the political, financial centre of the historical Templar Order, Portugal became, alongside Scotland and provinces of Spain, their refuge and harbour of retreat. The sea power that the Templars were in 1307 – then vanishing from sight – reappeared in the visionary work of Prince Henry the Navigator, head of the Order of Christ, a few decades later.
However, there are many details that are not available to the researcher because only Portuguese historians, publishing in Portuguese, have written about them, and although many of these are extremely significant and provide explanations to many of the questions remaining about the Order of the Temple, there is no trace of them in most of the reference books about the subject.
With this series of postings generally titled Templar Chronicles, I want to take our readers in a few voyages around Portugal, to sites of great interest and portions of history that are – except for locals – partially unknown. We had a poet called Fernando Pessoa who said that we are born in Portugal either with a mission or as a punishment. The mission is closely tied with the Templars. The punishment is to fail the mission.
First let me present Portugal during the XII century (edited from wikipedia articles for convenience):
Portugal is a European nation whose origins go back to the Early Middle Ages. In the 15th and 16th centuries, it ascended to the status of a world power during Europe’s “Age of Discovery” as it built up a vast empire including possessions in South America, Africa, and Asia.
At the end of the 11th century, after having taken part in the conquest of Jerusalem alongside Geofrey de Bullion, the Burgundian knight Henry became count of Portugal, a small territory in the west, under the kingdom of Leon. Henry wanted it to become independent, but died without achieving his aims. His son, Afonso Henriques, took control of the county. In 1126, before the Council of Troyes or Saint Bernard’s proclamation, the Templars are granted the first possessions in Portugal.
On June 24, 1128, Afonso Henriques, Count of Portugal, fearing that the pending marriage of his widow mother with a nobleman from Leon would pose a threat to his ambitions, fought and defeated his mother, Countess Teresa, and her lover, Fernão Peres de Trava, in battle – thereby establishing himself as sole leader and Prince of Portugal. His claim wasn’t recognized by neighboring nations or the Pope for a long time. However Afonso Henriques forged close alliances with military Orders – the strongest of which the recently formed Templars -, pushing southward conquering territory to the Moors, during the Reconquista. At a certain stage, the Templars were granted 2/3 of all conquered land. They built a defensive line of castles along the Tagus river – which included Tomar and Almourol – that was strategic and crucial for the Kings success.
Afonso Henriques proclaimed himself king of Portugal on July 25, 1139, after the Battle of Ourique where he defeated 5 Moorish rulers after the legendary vision of Christ crucified assured him victory despite numeric disadvantage. He was recognized as such in 1143 by Alfonso VII, king of Leon and Castile, and in 1179 by Pope Alexander III.
The independence of Portugal as a Kingdom and rise of his first – and for many reasons – legendary King Afonso Henriques, parallels the growth of the Templar Order in Europe. It’s not the same project, but one is the visible fruits of the other. If the Templars wouldn’t have been established in 1118, it’s very likely that there had never been a Portugal in 1128. If Bernard of Clairvaux wouldn’t have moved his personal influence near the Pope on behalf of Portugal (as he did on behalf of the Templars), Prince Afonso would have been excommunicated by the Pope. Indeed there is a letter from Bernard to Afonso in which he acknowledges that influence, written when, after the conquest of Santarém (1147), King Afonso donates the surrounding lands to the Cistercian Order, where they will establish the magnificent Alcobaça Monastery, that we will visit in the second of our chronicles.
Count Henrique, King Alfonso’s father, was a cousin of Bernard. And Bernard was, according to many accounts, a cousin of Hugh de Payens. The influence of both Bernard and the Templars in the upbringing of young Alfonso Henriques, tutored by Egas Moniz, one of the noblest families of the county, a mysterious character himself, is incontrovertible.
Most of the chronicles I will be illustrating with a few photos will reflect places, events and stories that took place between 1118 and 1314 or the transition between the end of the historical Order, the creation of the Order of Christ (1319) and up until the Discoveries age (that we will conclude in 1500 with the discovery of Brazil by Pedro Alvarez Cabral).
Two weeks ago I took the family for a drive. We went north from Lisbon, along the western Portuguese highway, past Óbidos (I will post about this medieval village, its beautiful castle and its connections with King Dinis and the Templars in a dedicated chronicle). A few miles north lay the small town of Alcobaça that has been the quiet witness of many important events in the Portuguese history.
Alcobaça (alco-bass-ah) has been a settlement since Roman times. Two small rivers cross the city, Alcoa and Baça, which are said to have been the source of the name for the place. However this is not clear. The main focus of interest nowadays is the Cistercian Convent, built in a confluence of vast lands donated by King Afonso Henriques (first King of Portugal) to Saint Bernard of Clairvaux after the conquest of Santarém.
The present day frontal of the monument is a late XVIII century addition, but both the rose window and the arches of the portal remain the medieval ones. It’s still a very well preserved jewel of Cistercian Gothic art, with its very pure lines and beauty. It was one of the earliest Gothic buildings in Portugal and its medieval structure follows closely the one of the original monastery of Clairvaux.
The foundation of the monastery was part of the strategy by Afonso Henriques to consolidate his authority in the new kingdom and promote the colonisation of areas recently taken from Moorish hands during the Reconquista. In fact Alcobaça is well protected by the ream of Templar castles and Commanderies, with Leiria in the north, Tomar and Almourol in the west and Santarém and Alenquer in the south. One has to wonder if this well matched integration between defence by Templars and land owned by Saint Bernard’s monks isn’t a well crafted one, or just historical coincidence!
The connection between Bernard and the Templars is well known. The protection the Templars granted to King Afonso Henriques, which was returned as ownership of conquered land and castles, is also well known. What is not usually cited is the connection between Bernard and King Afonso Henriques.
In 1147 the Reconquista was well under way in the realms of Portugal. The court had its seat in Coimbra (about halfway between the north and south). From there, frequent military expeditions were sent to Moorish settlements and fortifications. The Templars were one of the King’s most important forces. Just three years before, in 1144, Pope Celestine II had granted them the right to collect their own funds, so this alliance with Henriques was strategically important. While fighting the Moors in Palestine was a primary mission for the Templars, although a very dangerous one carried on a politically complex environment, with many other European Lords and hordes fighting to advance their personal agendas of power an domination, conquering land in the West was significantly less dangerous and once the Order had land granted it was easier to keep it and administrate it, collecting rent and developing agriculture and commerce. One of the reasons for this is the way Henriques conducted his conquests. A fearsome soldier, with a fantastic reputation preceding him, in fact he tried to pact with the conquered population instead of going for the simple annihilation (as it was the case in Palestine and elsewhere). More often than not, this granted him the respect of submitted leaders, who became rapidly used to a relatively normal life under his ruling. We can still visit the Mouraria neighbourhood in Lisbon (literally translated as “Moorish quarter”), a testimony of how the integration was linear as it could be in medieval times. That might be the reason why Portugal finished its Reconquista and has relatively the same borders since 1249 while it took the Spanish kingdoms almost 250 years more, until 1492 to conquer their side of the peninsula.
So, in 1147 conquering Santarém, on the margins of Tagus river, was a very important achievement that would advance Henriques plans a lot. Just before the battle was fought, D. Pedro, half-brother to Henriques, who had visited Bernard in Clairvaux, told him about how Bernard could help them attract people to populate the conquered lands, developing agriculture and establishing medical care, which in turn would help in the advancement of the Reconquista. Since Henriques forces were fewer than the ones defending Santarém legend says he made a pledge to donate all the lands from the fortress westward to the sea, to the Cistercians and the Castle to the Templars if he won the battle.
The Christian troops came close to the castle in the night. It was well defended as expected. They attacked in the dark, mercilessly led by the King. As morning rose a new standard was flying over Santarém. King Afonso Henriques did has he had promised. The castle and all churches were given to the Templars. They governed Santarém for over a decade until they decided to trade it in favour of the newly conquered Tomar in 1160, although keeping a Commandery in Santarém. This kind of trade was made in other places in Iberia. Many times the Templars were given military strategic fortifications and land, only to give them back to the King years later when other, smilingly less important locations – certainly military less important – had been conquered and found favour with Templar leaders. It must have seemed odd to trade Santarém for Tomar. Santarém overlooks and guards the all important Tagus river, the single most important waterway in medieval Portugal. It guards (collecting tolls) the major roads from Lisbon to Coimbra and from the Alentejo to the north. Very, odd. A very coveted prize, given away for Tomar, in the margins of a very unimportant river, an affluent of the Tagus…
King Afonso Henriques also did as promised and a vast set of lands between Santarém and the sea were given to the Cistercians. Now, Bernard was also a very odd character! He could have chosen a number of strategic locations for his soon to be built monastery (indeed one of the largest of the Order). Several harboured ports are within their properties, providing good communication with the rest Christianity, for instance. However, his emissaries were instructed to pick a particular place, well inland, that Bernard described from a dream he had. He had never been to Portugal, or indeed Alcobaça, but he knew exactly where he wanted it. This has sparked people’s imagination and several legends grew in the middle ages about how the location was determined by divine intervention. We can still see in the Room of Kings several tiled representations of these legends in which we see Bernard in France with his monks predicting the King’s victory, alongside others where Afonso Henriques watches the monks draw the lines on the floor that will be used to erect the church, while, on the side, angles do the same, as if saying the place had been chosen by divine intervention and that Bernard’s monks were simply being guided by a superior force. Very original. I have never seen a similar type of iconography anywhere in the world. And for those who say ley lines were used to determine the location of certain special monuments, well Alcobaça seems to have been one such case. Indeed a river passes right under the monastery.
The building began in 1153, just before Bernard died. Nothing is left from these early works. Only in 1178 new, more extensive building started, probably under the guidance of a French architect and French builders. The vertical emphasis observed in the church is a typical gothic feature. Columns and walls are devoid of decoration, as required in Cistercian churches, and the interior is very brightly illuminated by rows of windows on the walls and rose windows on the main façade and transept arms. The main chapel, like in Clairvaux, is surrounded by a gallery (ambulatory) and has a series of radiating chapels. The aisles are covered by simple Gothic vaulting.
Alcobaça is one of the many medieval constructions in Portugal where the characteristic marks of stonemasons can be seen everywhere. It’s clear that operative masons working on the site used the marks system. It’s likely that Masonic operative lodges were active during this period. The church was completed in 1252. The finished church and monastery were the first truly Gothic buildings in Portugal, and the church was the largest in the country.
The last touch in the medieval ensemble was given in the late 13th century, when King Dinis (the one that “turned” the Order of the Temple in Order of Christ – more on this later) commissioned the construction of the Gothic cloister, the Cloister of Silence. Its columns are decorated by capitals with animal and vegetal motifs. The builders were Portuguese architects Domingo Domingues and Master Diogo. The gothic Fountain Hall has an elegant early renaissance water basin inside, decorated with renaissance motifs including coats-of-arms and reliefs of gryphs.
The monks in Alcobaça dedicated their lives to religious meditation, creating illuminated manuscripts in a scriptorium. The monks from the monastery produced an early authoritative history on Portugal, still highly regarded and a good source of historical information about the Order of the Temple. The library at Alcobaça was one of the largest Portuguese medieval libraries.
We will leave for the next chronicle the description of one of the most interesting features of Alcobaça. In the transept of the church are located the tombs of King Pedro I and Ines de Castro. Their love story deserves a chronicle of its own.
It is set in the middle of a XIV century Portugal, afraid of losing its independence to the Spanish crown. The Order of Christ had been founded in 1319 by King Dinis (grandfather of Pedro I), to take charge of the Portuguese Templar sites and knights and it had taken Castro Marin as its seat (Tomar would have been too obvious?). Several Templars were incorporated in the Order of Aviz (founded by King Afonso Henriques), an Order that will have an important presence throughout the Portuguese history, in close relation with the Templars and Order of Christ (allies, in great contrast with local relationship with Saint John/Hospital…). Indeed, the first Master of the newly formed Order of Christ was the Master of the Order of Aviz. To complete the moves that would make the Pope accept that the Templars would not be bothered in Portugal after 1314, King Dinis made the Order of Christ adopt the Cistercian rule and placed them under the spiritual guidance of none other than the Abbot of Alcobaça. I think this wouldn’t pass a close audit if it were done today! But it was effective, and the Order of Christ was established and approved by Rome. The seat was taken back to Tomar exactly as the young Pedro became King D. Pedro I of Portugal, in 1157 playing the lead role on one of the strangest episodes in Portuguese (maybe even medieval European) history.
The story that deserves to be told involves the forbidden love of Prince Pedro I and Maid Inês de Castro. Prince Pedro I was born in 1320, while his grandfather King Dinis (the one who harboured fleeing Templars in the newly created Order of Christ) was still ruling Portugal. Pedro was born in the city of Coimbra, the first born son of the future King Afonso IV and Queen Beatriz of Castille.
King Dinis had been a man of intellect and culture. Poet and Troubadour, he married Isabel – later canonized as Saint Isabel for her Miracle of the Roses -, a Princess from the Languedoc who introduced the cult of the Holy Spirit in Portugal, still present in several forms in Tomar, Sintra and the Azores. King Dinis called all sorts of wise man and artists to the kingdom coming from all parts of Europe, including some from the Arab kingdom of Al-Aldaluz (today Cordoba and Granada). He founded the University of Coimbra in 1290 and sponsored sea explorations, medical research and other sciences while maintaining a good friendship with the heads of the two main chivalric Orders in Portugal, the Order of the Temple which enjoyed total freedom of movement in the country and owned extensive land along the Tagus river, and the Order of Aviz, that had been founded by the founder of Portugal, King Afonso Henriques, over 100 years earlier.
The drama of Pedro and Inês takes place during that hiatus of time (1314 to 1385) between the moment the Templars had been suppressed and were reforming in special places in Europe (of which Scotland is the better known example and Portugal the lesser explored mystery), and the moment both the Order of Christ and the Order of Aviz were ready to be called to a higher duty in 1385 when its Master and son of Pedro I became King John I of Portugal, starting the second Dynasty and marrying Filipa of Lancaster, whose offspring are still remembered as the great explorers of the seas under the white flag with RED cross of the Order of Christ, which had as a great luminary the unavoidable Prince Henry the Navigator (or Infante Henrique de Sagres). King John I, illegitimate son of King Pedro I, was placed under the care of the Order of Christ, under Master D. Nuno Freyre de Andrade after he was born, having later been raised to Master of the Order of Aviz before the crisis in succession catapulted him to kingship as John I. In fact, it was the same Peter I that re-established Tomar as the seat of the Order of Christ – as it had been the seat for the Templars in Portugal – transferring it from Castro Marim where it had been placed temporarily by King Dinis.
Cross of Aviz
I – From the Templars to the Order of Christ
1307 Templars arrested in France. Many escape to Scotland. Many escape to Portugal where they are protected by King Dinis
1309 All Templar possessions and knights in Portugal are declared under the personal protection of King Dinis.
1312 After the Council of Vienna, the Order is dissolved by the Pope
1314 Jacques de Molay is burned at the stake in Paris. Pope Clement V dies.
1314 / 16 Vacancy in St. Peters throne, with the Cardinals resisting to elect a successor to Clement V.
1316 Pope John XXII is finally elected, choosing Avignon as his seat.
1317 King Dinis applies near the newly elected Pope in Avignon for the recognition of the Order of Christ, formed with the former Templar Knights and owner of all Templar possessions in the realm of Portugal.
1319 The Order of Christ is approved by Pope John XXII. D. Gil Martins, Master of the Order of Aviz is the first Master of the Order of Christ and the new Order is put under the spiritual guidance of… the Cistercian Monastery of Alcobaça. The seat is Castro Marim.
II – Order of Christ and Order of Aviz time of preparation for taking power
1320 Prince Pedro I is born
1325 King Dinis dies. King Afonso IV comes to the throne.
1336 Prince Pedro marries Constança, forced by his father
1336/55 Pedro and Inês love story and tragedy.
1357 King Afonso IV dies. Pedro I becomes King of Portugal. John, illegitimate son of King Pedro I, is born and taken under the care of the Order of Christ. The Order of Christ returns to Tomar and takes the former Templar castle and convent as its seat. This concludes the passage from the Templars to the Order of Christ, both in temporal and spiritual terms. Its now time to strengthen the Order of Aviz.
1364 When D. Martin de Avelar, Master of Aviz, dies, D. Nuno Frey de Andrade, Master of the Order of Christ and tutor of the young illegitimate Prince John, travels to Chamusca to meet King Pedro and request from him that he appoints his own son Master of Aviz. So, by appointment of King Pedro I, and the intervention of the Master of the Order of Christ, Prince John (of only 7 years of age) is designated Master of the Order of Aviz. This act consummates the move to take power on the part of the survivals of the Templars. Prince John’s tutorship is still held by the Master of Christ until he becomes of age, although the education in arms was undertaken in Aviz.
1367 King Pedro I dies. His son D. Fernando comes to the throne.
1383 King Fernando dies, leaving no male heir to the throne. For two years Portugal is in turmoil as the menace of losing independence is imminent with the King of Castille plotting to acquire the throne by marriage. A growing wave of support claims that John, Master of Aviz, should become the new King. This movement is supported and encouraged by the Order of Christ.
1385 John, son of Peter I, Master of the Order of Aviz, becomes king by popular acclamation, supported by the majority of the Portuguese noble houses and foreign kings, such as Richard II from England. This inaugurated the Dynasty called of Aviz. Under the leadership of Nuno Álvares Pereira, with the Order of Aviz and the Order of Christ on each side, the Portuguese King John I, Master of Aviz, defeats a far stronger army sent by King John I of Castille in a deadly battle in Aljubarrota, just a few miles off Alcobaça. In effect the Order of Aviz takes the throne.
1387 Forging an even stronger relationship with England, King John I of Portugal marries Filipa of Lancaster, sister of the soon to be King Henry the IV of England.
Part III – The Outcome
1400’s Led by Henry the Navigator, first from Sagres and then from the Convent of Christ in Tomar, the Portuguese start the great era of Discoveries.
This has been a short account of the influence of the Order of Christ and the Order of Aviz during the preparatory post-Templar 14th century in Portugal.
Both orders, Templars / Aviz, were the true backbone of the nation in Medieval times. That work was reinforced, as we have seen, after the Templars gave way to the Order of Christ. The fact that John, long before he would be in a position to be acclaimed as king, was placed under the care of the Order of Christ and later appointed Master of Aviz, openly protected by the Master of Christ and by another Order of Aviz hero, Nuno Alvares Pereira, clearly shows the importance of both Orders in Portuguese historical events. The protection of both Orders given to the rise of a new dynasty, the Dynasty of Aviz with King John I, is in many ways similar to the protection given by the Templars at least after 1126 to the first dynasty, the Dynasty of Bourgogne with Afonso Henriques. Different players, but the same pattern altogether.
Nuno Alvares Pereira, companion of John I, with the Cross of the Order of Aviz
However, there are reasons to believe that deeper secrets are hidden under the political relevance of the Order of Aviz and the Order of Christ / Templars along Portuguese and hidden European history. In an article published in 1982 Portuguese researcher and author Olimpio Gonçalves, a leading authority on this subject, makes a few valuable points. Those who look deeper into history and look for the signs of what lies beneath – the reasons for the apparent reason – understand that the Soul of the Lusitan nation, later embodied in Portugal, is “tutored” – so to speak – by 3 Orders, of which the red cross of the Order of the Temple (reformed by King Dinis into Order of Christ, maintaining the distinctive red colour and initiatic mandate…) and the green cross of the Order of Aviz, form the two visible pillars that stand vigilant guard to the orb inside, so beautifully expressed in the national flag adopted in 1910.
To the latter observation of Olimpio, we add that the same colours are also associated with the Masonic degrees of Scottish Master of Saint Andrew (of the Scottish Rectified Rite – survival rite of the Strict Observance) and Scottish Knight of Saint Andrew (29th degree of the Scottish Rite of 33 degrees). The cross of Saint Andrew ( X ), patron of Scotland, is a particularly important symbol to meditate upon here, since in the Templar context it is indissolubly connected with the greek cross of Christ ( + ), both valuable keys to understand the octagon and the eight sided Templar buildings (Tomar, Segovia, London, Paris, etc. – Mosque of Omar) and the so called occult Orders (such as the Priory of Sion or whatever real Order could have existed instead, playing the real role supposed for this 20th century fabrication). In this context, studying the Scottish survival of the Temple – with Skye, Rosslyn and Henry Sinclair, and ignoring Portugal with Sintra, Tomar and Henry the Navigator, is to simply look at the reflex of a broader light. Both lines are complementary and one would not survive without the other. I hope to be able to elaborate a bit more on this later.
Apron and Jewel of Scottish Master of Saint Andrew (Rectified Rite)
Apron, Sash and Jewel of Scottish Knight of Saint Andrew, 29th degree AASR
The period between 1307 and 1385 is then characterized by preparatory work by the Order of Aviz and the Order of Christ which would both take centre stage in the political and scientific events that would follow soon. This preparatory work was undertaken in total discretion and very few documents prepare us for the flourishing years to come. The total eclipse of the Templar fleet and maps would give way to the Portuguese Discoveries, started early in the 1400’s, with vessels carrying the Cross of Christ to far away lands.
By 1307 Portugal – with extensive help of the Templars – had already a stable territory, most of which conquered to the Moors in the course of the Iberian Crusades. The south and west were nothing but a great opening to the vast and unknown Atlantic Ocean, full of legends and promises of hidden treasures. To the north it was divided from Galicia (a province of the Kingdom of Leon) by the Minho river and the border with the kings of Castille to the east was well defined since the times of the first Portuguese kings down to the south, where in the Algarve the fortress of Castro Marim (first seat of the Order of Christ) on the west bank of the Guadiana river, guarded the country from any foolish attempts that could have been made by the taifas (kingdoms) of the Moors of the Al-Andaluz. It would take the united Spanish kingdoms, under Isabel la Católica, almost 200 years more to conquer Granada in 1492 and close their side of the story as far as war with the Arabs was concerned.
Marriage between heirs to the throne of Aragon, Castille, Leon and Portugal were a common way to forge alliances and keep peace between Christian kings. However, there was always the danger that a king might die without male descent and another nation, by marriage, unite under a foreign country two territories. That had been the primary source of concern for the Portuguese crown since the early days. Falling under the crown of Castille would bring open war with the Moors again to a country that had been in relative peace for decades, in a favourable environment to see the flourishing of sciences, teaching, arts and commerce. Even Rome was far away on the horizon, many times neglecting this remote kingdom. The Portuguese kings had helped Castille in some battles against the Moors, especially when national borders might be at peril (Badajoz, Seville, Salado, etc.), but for the most part the time of the Reconquista was a thing from the past and smaller scale military warfare was only used in squabbles against neighbouring Christian Kingdoms. There were Arabs, Christians and Jews living side by side in the major Portuguese cities. Indeed some of the funding for the early Discoveries came from Jewish hands, showing how close the Order of Christ had come to that community. Unity with Castille would shake the Lusitan project from top to bottom and would throw a blanket of darkness and inquisitorial perusal into the practices, livelihood and teachings of a vast segment of the population. That “catastrophe” (interpreted by philosophers and poets as “catharsis”) only befell the nation centuries later, within a set of circumstances that are also of great interest for the students of Templar/Order of Christ history.
King Afonso IV
Amidst this prevailing fear, it was King Afonso IV’s primary concern to find a suitable bride for Prince Pedro I, future king. The choice fell on Princess D. Branca, granddaughter of King Sancho IV of Castille. However, by the age of 14 the Princess was very feeble and Prince Pedro absolutely refused to go ahead with this political marriage. His father then selected another suitable bride, D. Constança Manoel, daughter of one of the most noble lords of Castille, Leon and Aragon. However, Pedro rejected the bride as well, furious for not having been consulted on such a personal matter and not happy that she had already been rejected by King Alfonso XI of Castille before him. This choice wasn’t approved by Alfonso XI either. The intervention of the Master of the Order of Aviz was fundamental and, although Alfonso eventually accepted to have his former bride marry the Portuguese prince by means of a power of delegation, he held her prisoner in a tower in the city of Toro, preventing her from attending her own wedding. After a couple of years of active animosity, peace was finally signed in Seville and Constança travelled to join her husband in Coimbra. However Pedro was full of energy and passion for life, a great lover of hunting and not a very devoted husband. For a long time he didn’t pay attention to his duties as heir to the throne and led a life of pleasure, neglecting his wife that his heart never accepted.
One day his attention was captured by the fairest of the maids of his wife Constança. The ravishing beautiful Inês de Castro became the centre of his obsessive attention, causing scandal in the kingdom and severe misunderstandings with his father, King Afonso IV. It became such an important problem that Afonso IV was forced to retire Inês de Castro to a lonely and distant castle in the far away inaccessible lands of the Portuguese border. But if he thought that this would be enough to turn off his son’s love flame, he was in for a surprise. Pedro and Inês started to correspond with the help of intermediaries that would bring back and forth their love pledges and passionate writings. Pedro, like his grandfather King Dinis was a bit of a poet himself. It became a case of an impossible love. And the more impossible and distant, the more maddening and absorbing it got to restless Pedro. His duty to the nation – to have offspring – was being fulfilled with Constança, but his heart was fully united with Inês and the physical separation was unbearable.
In 1354 Constança died after having given birth to Prince Fernando (later to become King after his father, closing the Bourgogne Dynasty with his early death with no male heir). To great astonishment of the nation and repudiation of King Afonso IV, Pedro sees himself as a free man now and releases Inês from her exile, bringing her to openly live with him in an adulterous relationship, without marriage, establishing themselves first away from the agitated life of the court, but shortly after in the very city of Coimbra.
Pedro and Inês de Castro
The majority of Portuguese lords are not happy with the situation. Inês has two Spanish brothers that Pedro, to spite his enemies and his father, supports and advances politically. One of them even makes it as Constable of the Kingdom and Alcaide-Mor of Lisbon. As their love develops and the influence of the Spanish entourage of Inês grows, so their enemies become more and more suspicious and decide to warn King Afonso IV that the independence of the nation is at peril if nothing is done, since being followed in throne by his son Pedro, he could marry Inês, have offspring and then there would be little to prevent a full scale invasion from the Spanish kingdoms. To complicate matters even further, the Black Plague enters in Portugal and causes a wave of death of an unprecedented scale, causing famine and economical and political crisis. Many rush to condemn adulterous Inês as the cause of such misfortune and see the stubbornness of the Prince that didn’t want to lead the life of a heir to the throne with the nation’s best interests in mind, following instead his foolish passion, punished by Providence with the Plague.
Early in 1355 King Afonso IV is a divided man. He’s torn between reasons of state and his love as a father. Pedro declines all of his father’s suggestions of suitable brides to marry. Advisers of the King say that the reason might be that Pedro married Inês in secret. The only way out of the problem, they say, is to suppress Inês de Castro. His advisers eventually win and the King gives permission that the crime be carried out. Taking advantage of the fact that Pedro was an avid hunter, they prepare a trap to kill Inês while Pedro is away. It is said that the day Pedro was leaving for his hunting trip a great black dog leapt from amidst his dog pack and viciously run to attack Inês with fearful eyes of fire. The prince’s men were petrified and could not react, but Pedro, with one stroke of his sword decapitated the horrible dog whose blood stained fair Inês’s dress. Everyone became gloomy and the sense that grave things were close by was unmistakable. However Pedro decided to hold his departure no longer and bids a last goodbye to Inês.
Soon after Pedro leaves, King Afonso’s arrives with his men. Inês feels the danger and gathers her daughter and two sons and runs to the gardens. It’s in front of the Fonte das Lágrimas (Teardrop Fountain) that Inês pleads for the life of her children and says in her defence that her only sin is the undying love for Pedro. The King is inclined to use clemency, but three lords that were with him persuade the monarch that they should not back away from the mission. Shaken in his heart, Afonso spares the children, but allows for the lords to mercilessly behead Inês de Castro. To this day the Fountain spring is tainted in red.
Pedro was far away, hunting in the woods, in blissful ignorance of the tragedy.
Fernão Lopes, royal registrar, says about D. Pedro: “The hand of one that harms writes in sand, but the one who is harmed carves in marble and such was the case with D. Pedro.”
In Templar Chronicles IV – Alcobaça Part 3 we will finish the Pedro and Inês tragedy, we will understand why Pedro was known as “The Justice Bearer”, we will tell you about his relentless revenge and will look closely to their tombs since then in the Monastery of Alcobaça, face to face, each in one arm of the transept of the beautiful Cistercian church, so that when the Final Judgement comes and they are resurrected, each other will be the first person that each lover will see. To the end of the world…
To finalize for today, here is a chart detailing how the Order of the Temple survived as Order of Christ in Portugal under the protection of the Royal House and of the Order of Aviz, and how both Orders stood as two of the three secret pillars acting behind the courtains of history that lead to the Age of Discoveries with Prince Henry the Navigator, stepping in, in key moments.
Gonçalves, Olímpio, Revista Graal, Comunidade Portuguesa de Eubiose, 1982
Lopes, Fernão, “Chronica Delrey Dom Pedro deste nome o primeiro e dos Reys de Portugal o oytavo”, edição do Padre José Pereira Bayam, Lisboa 1735
Monteverde, Amilio Achiles, “Resumo da Historia de Portugal”, Lisboa 1844
Pina, Ruy de; “Chronica de Elrey Dom Afonso o Quarto”, Lisbon 1653
Text and Photos by Luís de Matos (c) 2007. Chart (c) Luis de Matos 2007