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Lovers of Teruel: The Story of Real-life Romeo and Juliet
Lovers of Teruel: The Story of Real-life Romeo and Juliet

The story of Romeo and Juliet - young lovers separated by their families and tragically killed - did not arise out of the blue. It is possible that William Shakespeare was inspired by the romantic legend of lovers from Teruel - or rather, not even a legend, but a part of the history of this small Spanish town, because everything indicates that these events actually happened.

Spanish Romeo and Juliet?

Lovers of Teruel. 19th century engraving

It was in the 13th century - too long ago for the story to be retold in a single presentation and without variations. Even in the names there is ambiguity - if everything is more or less unambiguous with the girl's name, then the young man is sometimes called Juan, then Diego, and sometimes both of these names are used at the same time: Juan Diego. There are different versions about the reasons and details of what happened in Teruel, which do not contradict, however, the essence - they simply cause either bewilderment, or, conversely, a feeling of understanding and belonging. Teruel, one of the cities of the Kingdom of Aragon in Spain, was home to two noble families - Don Segura, who had a daughter, Isabel, and Don Marsilla, one of whose sons was Diego. The young man and the girl were attached to each other from childhood, and as adults, they fell in love, and Diego invited Isabel to become his wife. She agreed - on condition of receiving the parental blessing.

H.G. Martinez. Lovers of Teruel

But the groom, who was not the eldest of the brothers, and therefore could not inherit the family fortune, was in the eyes of the bride's father a disadvantageous party for his daughter, and therefore permission for marriage was not received. According to another version, the family of Diego de Marsigli was poor in itself, despite its nobility, and therefore it seemed impossible for Don Segura to intermarry with them. Then Diego decided to go to other lands in search of fame and wealth, he asked the girl's father only to give his time is five years, the period during which Isabel had to remain his bride and not marry another. Don Segura agreed.

A.M. Degrain. Lovers from Teruel

Diego de Marsilla went to war with the Moors - since the VIII century on the Iberian Peninsula there was a struggle for the return of the Spanish lands - the Reconquista. The young man managed to achieve both wealth and fame - once he even saved the life of the king himself. By the end of the agreed period, Diego returned to his native Teruel to his beloved girl, in order to finally unite his fate with her. But either the young man made a mistake in his calculations, or, according to one of the interpretations of history, he was prevented by a certain fatal beauty from distant lands who fell in love with him, She tried with all her might to keep Diego by her side, but he arrived in Teruel on the day when his beloved Isabel was getting married. The father married his daughter to a wealthy Don Rodrigo from the neighboring town of Albarassina. Isabel herself, not receiving news from the groom, was sure that he was dead, and therefore, after the agreed period, she gave in to her father's will and agreed to become a wife to a rich neighbor.

The wedding, like the whole story, is played out annually during an open-air performance

On the same night, Diego made his way to Isabel's house and began to ask her for a single kiss, but was refused - because from now on she belonged to another. Everything was destroyed. The heart of the young man could not stand the grief, and he fell dead at the feet of his beloved. Diego Isabel came to the funeral in a wedding dress. She approached the body, bent over it and kissed Diego on the lips - fulfilling his request, but too late. A moment later, the unfortunate girl died.

After kissing Diego, Isabel died instantly

The townspeople, with the consent of the church, buried the lovers together to give them the opportunity to be reunited in death, since they had failed in life.

Legend or fact?

This story was told in a slightly modified version by Giovanni Boccaccio - in his famous "Decameron", written in the years 1352-1354. In this work, the young people were called Girolamo and Salvestra, and the plot itself was supplemented with numerous details of an erotic nature. There is evidence that the city archives contain a judicial record confirming the reality of what happened to Diego and Isabel. And in the middle of the 16th century, on the territory of the Church of San Pedro, the mummified remains of two young people were found buried together. They were reburied at one of the city's chapels.

High relief by A. Marinas decorating the staircase in the center of Teruel

Later, in the 17th century, the bodies were again disturbed by placing them in the church of San Pedro and from time to time on display in public. This tradition existed until the 20th century.

Until recently, the remains, presumably belonging to Diego and Isabel, were exhibited for display

And in 1955, the Mausoleum of Lovers was built at the Church of San Pedro, and the sculptor Juan de Avalos built marble sarcophagi in which the remains were laid to rest. The lying figures of a girl and a boy are carved on the lids of white stone, they stretch out their hands to each other, but do not touch - after all, in her earthly life, Isabel was the wife of another man.

Marble sarcophagi The marble hands of the figures do not touch

Lovers' holiday in Teruel

Now the Mausoleum of Lovers attracts tourists from all over the world, and in addition, every year the city hosts a holiday dedicated to the love and death of Diego and Isabel. The tradition dates back to 1996, and it appeared thanks to the initiative of one of the residents, Raquel Esteban, who spent many years away from her native Teruel, and when she returned, wanted to organize a holiday in her city that would tell the world a beautiful love story and glorify Teruel all over the world. …

Presentation during the holiday of lovers

Every year, for several days in February, the city becomes the site of a grandiose performance, when on the medieval streets among people in old clothes, first a wedding, and then a funeral procession follows, and the story is played out anew. The choice of actors for the main roles - Diego and Isabel - is carried out especially carefully - there are always plenty of people willing to take part in the performance. Despite its modest size - the town currently has only 35 thousand inhabitants - Teruel receives a huge number of tourists from all over the world these days.

From the holiday in Teruel

In addition to the performance itself, in which the scene of Isabel's death over Diego's coffin is played out, during these days there are exhibitions of costumes, concerts of early music, literary competitions dedicated to the history of Teruel lovers. The city has an atmosphere of the Middle Ages. For those who do not have the opportunity to be in Teruel during the holiday, it remains to enjoy the works of art that are created on this plot. In addition to Boccaccio, other masters also told the story of tragic love, Juan Eugenio Arsenbus in the drama The Story of Lovers of Teruel, Edith Piaf in one of her songs, and, perhaps, Shakespeare, who, of course, could not pass by such a beautiful and so sad story.

Mausoleum at Teruel

Diego and Isabel were not the first pair of lovers who were destined to leave for another world almost simultaneously.

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