“Bodas de Isabel Segura” 2023
by Muriel Feiner
There are many love stories with tragic endings, some are real and others border on legend, some have given rise to literary masterpieces, as is the case of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” or “Calixto y Melibea” in Fernando de Rojas’s “La Celestina”, and there are others which are based on fact, such as Juana la Loca and Felipe el Hermoso. And there are many others which have inspired great works of art, such as the Taj Majal, in Agra (India), which Emperor Shah Jahan built in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal.
And no less poignant is the alabaster and bronze mausoleum dedicated to the “Lovers of Teruel” in the church of San Pedro, donated by famous Spanish sculptor Juan de Ávalos, which conserves the remains of Diego de Marcilla and Isabel de Segura. In this magnificent tomb, the outstretched hands of the young lovers barely touch representing the fact that they could never consummate their great passion for one another.
This romantic story that ends in tragedy draws extra special attention in the Aragonese city of Teruel, when Valentine’s Day, February 14th comes around. Hundreds of actors and actresses reenact the sad tale throughout the city, amidst thousands of spectators wearing medieval costumes. This traditional event has been declared a Festival of National Tourist Interest and aspires to soon be recognized of “International Interest”. Teruel is part of the “Europa Enamorada” (“Europe in Love”) network, made up of a series of cities throughout the continent which want to preserve the most traditional love stories celebrated in their respective countries.
An ancient legend
As the story goes, Isabel and Diego grew up together and fell in love in thirteenth-century Teruel. Both were of noble families, she, the daughter of Don Pedro de Segura, a wealthy merchant; and he, of the Marcilla family, whose social and financial status were in decline. They planned to get married, but Isabel’s father did not approve. His daughter insisted so much that they agreed that Isabel would wait five years for Diego to become rich and honorable, and so he marched off to fight the Moors in the Crusades. He participated in the famous battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212 that was won by the Christians and marked an important triumph in the “Reconquista” of the country.
Unfortunately, Isabel received no news from Diego in all this time and when the five years had passed, her father insisted she fulfill her promise. He even bribed someone to tell her that Diego was killed in the Battle of Muret. She finally consented and accepted the proposal to wed Pedro de Azagra, a nobleman from Albarracín. On the very day of the deadline, the entire city was decorated to celebrate the marriage.
And lo and behold, Diego returned safe and sound, with the hope of finally being reunited with his beloved Isabel. But the tolling of the church bells announced the celebration of the marriage between Isabel de Segura and Pedro de Azagra. That night he went to her house and asked Isabel to give him one last kiss. She refused in respect of the vows she made to her new husband and at that moment, Diego collapsed, dying of a broken heart.
Heartbroken too for having lost her true love, Isabel went to Diego’s funeral and gave him the kiss that she had denied him the night before. Such was her emotion, that she collapsed beside his body. In view of such sadness, both families and Isabel’s husband of one day, Pedro de Azagra, relented and decided to bury the couple together so that they would never be separated again.
A historical recreation
Although the fiestas are more commonly known as the “Amantes de Teruel”, its true title is “The Wedding of Isabel de Segura” and it forms a part of the events organized by the Asociación Española de Fiestas y Recreaciones Históricas. This year, 2023, the city is celebrating the 25th anniversary, forever expanding its festivities with historical recreations throughout the city, medieval markets, traditional gastronomy, falconry and fencing demonstrations, artisan workshops, theater, music and dance.
A great setting
The city of Teruel offers the perfect setting for these festivities, with extraordinary examples of Mudejar art, in the cathedral and churches of San Salvador, San Martín and San Pedro, which form a Mudejar monumental complex, declared a World Heritage Site. From atop the 13th century Torre del Salvador you can contemplate the beauty of the surrounding landscape. Visitors should also see the Escalinata, the Plaza del Torico, with its sculpture of a small bull on a column — the emblem of the city — the Acueducto de los Arcos, the Paseo del Óvalo and the nearby Dinópolis Theme Park.
And there is always time to enjoy the local gastronomy, which is famous for its cured ham and sausages, the typical “migas”, made from bread and pork, garlic soup and roast lamb or ternasco, and other even heartier typical dishes such as the Gazpacho de Pastor, Caldereta de Pastor and the Madejas. No meal would be complete without the delicious deserts “suspiros de amante”, pastry made from cheese and egg, the meringues, the “borracho” cakes and the Mudejar “trenzas” buns.
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Images (Wikimedia Commons)
Featured image/MiguelAlanCS, C C BY-SA4.0
The lovers’ hands/kurtxio, CC BY2.0
Bodas de Isabel Segura actors and actresses 2023/MiguelAlanCS, CC BY-SA4.0. Cropped.
La Escalitana/MiguelAlanCS, CC BY-SA4.0
Isabel Segura’s wedding/Turol Jones, CC BY-SA4.0
Turolense delicacies/Turol Jones, CC BY-SA4.0
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