Artibus et Historiae no. 65 (XXXIII)

2012, ISSN 0391-9064

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LUÍS URBANO AFONSO - Eros et Thanatos: The Tomb of King Pedro in Alcobaça and its Wheel of Life and Fortune (1358–1363)

The tragic relationship between Prince Pedro of Portugal (†1367) and Inês de Castro (†1355) is one where Life seems to imitate Art. Their secret love affair, the assassination of Inês by order of Pedro’s father, and the cruel vengeance meted out by Pedro on Inês’ murderers are episodes that recall well-known classical and medieval stories of tragic loves, such as Pyramus and Thisbe or Tristan and Iseult. The Gothic tombs of Pedro and Inês in the Cistercian Abbey of Alcobaça, sculpted between 1358 and 1363, provide several references to this remarkable story of love, hate, revenge and death, using symbols and ideas taken from various iconographical, allegorical and literary traditions, including the Ages of Man and the Wheels of Life and Fortune. Together, these two tombs tell a tragic story of love and death, reshaping and molding a series of artistic and literary models that were very popular in court culture at the time to a specific pair of lovers. Conversely, the rich imagery of the two tombs has substantially contributed to feed the legendary nature of their tragic story. Thus, although Pedro was unable to alter their tragic history, he made these two monuments the foundation of a fertile love story that would become legendary; surpassing the fame of the immortal loves of his own days.

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