The Legend of the Lovers of Teruel

Find out about the most tragic love story known in Aragon, starring Isabel de Segura and Diego de Marcilla.

A tragic love story that could have been real

One of our most famous stories is, without a doubt, that of the lovers of Teruel. A tragic medieval story that was first published in the 16th century.

The names of the Lovers of Teruel

Juan Diego Martínez and Isabel belonged to two of the great families of the city of Teruel, the Marcilla (or Marsilla) and the Segura, he was a Marcilla and Isabel was the daughter of Pedro Segura.

Isabel and Juan Diego, almost always mentioned in the stories as Marcilla, knew each other from childhood and when she reached adulthood he confessed his love and desire to take her as his wife. She wanted the same thing, but she would not agree without her family’s consent.

Her story

Times had changed and the Marcilla family was not going through one of its best economic times. Elizabeth’s father flatly refused this link, and he would only agree to it on one condition: that John go off to make his fortune in the world and within five years recover his family’s fortune. He accepted, and Elizabeth promised to wait for him.

Elizabeth’s father did not wait the five years and anxious to marry off his daughter, whom he respected until she was 20 years old, he arranged a marriage with Don Pedro de Azagra, Lord of Albarracín. Isabel, as more than five years had passed and she did not receive news of her beloved – whom she believed to be dead – agreed to what her father had been asking her for years.

The reason for the delay was that Marcilla, fighting against the Almohads in the lands of Valencia, was seduced by one of the wives of the Emir of Valencia, Zulima. He rejects her and she tries in every way possible to prevent Diego’s return to Teruel so that the deadline expires.

The same day of the wedding, news arrives in Teruel that Juan Diego Garcés Martínez de Marcilla had returned to Zaragoza, with great wealth and the desire to marry his beloved Isabel. They said that he had earned more than a hundred thousand wages, fighting against the Moors, by sea and by land.

The death of the Lovers

But by the time she arrived in Teruel, Isabel had already married and, although Marcilla tried every possible way to get her back, she refused. The conversation became complicated and soon went from amorous delusions to accusations and reproaches. In the end Marcilla calms down and only asks for a kiss and a hug. Isabel denies her in a brusque way and the reproaches return, the conversation, which is very intense, ends like this:

  • ISABEL: For this I gave my hand!
  • MARSILLA: Wretched…!
  • ISABEL: What did you do?
  • MARSILLA: Your betrayal reveals itself. Imposter! -And he said he loved me!
  • ISABEL: Man of curse! I wish you would never see the battlements of Teruel! Cruel! You love to claim a woman for yourself who has been torn to pieces? I already hate you.
  • MARSILLA: Oh God! She says so! (He falls into a seat as if wounded by lightning.) I can’t take it anymore.
  • ISABEL: What a sight! She faints… Forgive me a moment of rejoicing…
  • MARSILLA: Isabel hates me… She cheated on me! Here I feel… what anguish! I adore her… and she hated me… she kills me. (Dies.)
    As we can see, the scene ends badly – according to Hartzenbusch’s version.

Marcilla could not bear the rejection of her Elizabeth and died right there at the feet of her beloved. Elizabeth did not know what to do and ran to find her husband, who was sleeping in her house… she told him what had happened and the rest of the story.

Then they took the body to her parents’ house without being seen by anyone. But that night, remorse kept the young woman awake.

The next day, during Marcilla’s funeral, Isabel appeared in her wedding dress. She walked to the altar of St. Peter’s Church, removed the shroud from her face and gave her that kiss she had denied her in life. As she did so, Elizabeth fell to her death before the body of the man she truly loved.

The husband told the story she had told him, to all those present. They agreed to bury them in the same grave, so that they would be eternally united. The chronicles say that this happened in 1217, when Don Domingo Celada was a judge in Teruel.

Tradition assures us that they died of love. That is why they were buried together, and have remained so until today.

Is the story of the Lovers of Teruel true?

The scholars of the legend believed to have found a certain parallelism in this story with the story of “Girolamo y Salvestra” that appeared in Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron. A text that was very widespread during the Middle Ages and that seems to have reached the peninsula by means of a Catalan manuscript in 1429, although the first version of the complete Decameron arrived in Seville in 1496.

But we must take into account that, in 1217, after the conquest of the region by Alfonso II, a certain Marcilla was appointed as governor of Teruel – with the same name of the implacable father who, as we know, sent Marcilla abroad for almost 7 years – would Boccaccio hear the story that Marcilla himself would tell in his travels? And let’s not forget the Hispanic minstrels who traveled from court to court telling all the stories they collected in the streets.

There is also a news item circulating (of which I have found no reliable source) in which it is said that a DNA analysis of the bodies has been carried out, the result of which has been to date their death around the 14th century, 100 years after the story. What’s more, in some reviews I have even read that it could well be two men… But what I said… I have no reliable sources of this data.

True or not, there are more sources in favor of the veracity of the story than of denying it. In any case, history, like all ancient tales, has undergone many modifications and “decorations”, with the appearance of characters and situations that are surely pure invention… or not… Who knows?

The tomb and the mummies of the Lovers of Teruel

It was in 1555, during some works in the chapel of San Cosme and San Damiano in the church of San Pedro, when the two mummified bodies appeared. According to the later testimony of the notary Yagüe de Salas, an old document appeared next to the bodies, containing the story. They were buried again years later in that same church.

Since then, on the anniversaries of the discovery of the remains, the mummies were usually exhibited to the public. At least 19th century engravings and 20th century photographs are preserved from this curious “exhibition”. It was during the celebration of the 5th centenary of the discovery, in 1955, that a commission commissioned Juan de Ávalos to build the mausoleum that we can see today.

The Lovers in the popular culture
During the month of February the city of Teruel relives the tragedy of Los Amantes. Its streets recreate the medieval atmosphere of the time as well as the different scenes of the history of Los Amantes, turning the city into a festival that immerses the visitor in the 13th century.

The so-called “Marriage of Isabel de Segura”, which a few years ago reached the category of festival of national tourist interest, in which this story is represented in great detail and using the streets of the city as a stage.

The mausoleum, renovated in 2005, is located in the church of San Pedro de Teruel these are their schedules and rates (2017).

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