Legend of the Eternal Bride

Arraiolos does not leave such parchments in the hands of others.

From all the stories and legends that have accumulated over the ages, the legend of the “Eternal Bride” undoubtedly stands out.

Transmitted orally or with more or less ancient written references, the reality is that even we have heard several versions alluding to the “Bride of Arraiolos” and to the “Eternal Bride”.

Unbeknownst to us, there are such legends linked to the Castle of Arraiolos and to the Manor of the Eternal Bride, with a young and beautiful maiden as the main character.

The reference comes up whenever someone takes too long to get ready: “…You look like the bride of Arraiolos…” which brings us to the legend of the “Bride of Arraiolos”, which tells of a maiden who lived in the Arraiolos Castle. She had to wait a long time for her fiancé, who had gone off to war, and spent many years away.

When he returned, the wedding was all prepared and the bride made the groom and the guests wait for a long time.

She then appeared covered with a pack saddle in an attempt to regain the beauty and youth of her past, or perhaps to hide (?) the ravages of age.

(Different versions and different interpretations are given to this legend. The reference to the “Pack saddle” is often replaced by an “Arraiolos Rug” or an “Alentejo blanket”).

The legend of the “Eternal Bride” seems to be linked to the “Solar da Sempre Noiva”, or the “Manor of the Eternal Bride” (administratively belonging to the municipality of Évora / Parish of Graça do Divor) built “in the transition between the 15th and 16th centuries, by Afonso of Portugal, Bishop of Évora, who had acquired the land that had previously belonged to the bishopric by bartering.” It stands next to the village of Arraiolos, in the tranquillity of the broad Alentejo plain, but close enough to the pole of attraction of the court that represented the city of Évora at the time.

According to the legend of the “Eternal Bride”, she was “named Beatriz and was the daughter of Álvaro de Castro, the first count of Arraiolos and brother to the controversial Inês de Castro.

Beatriz was a young woman of incredible beauty, so it was no wonder that a Castilian named Alfonso de Trastâmara fell in love with her.

But these were troubled times! Portugal was at war with Castile. It was the year 1384 and Lisbon was under siege by the Spanish. The throne was vacant, and it was João of Avis who commanded the resistance within the city. Beatriz was also in Lisbon and, for whatever obscure reason, João of Avis suspended hostilities, let in a Spanish nobleman named Pedro Álvares de Lara and he married her. This feast must have seemed quite bizarre in the eyes of the people, who were suffering the torments of war within the walls!

But since six hundred years have passed since the incident, it becomes difficult to judge the reasons that led them to do so.

In any case, the marriage was never consummated because the groom, returning with Beatriz to the Spanish camp, died of plague.

Afonso de Trastâmara regained hope of marrying his beloved, but died when he fought valiantly to impress her.

After the fighting was over and João of Avis ascended the throne, Beatriz returned to live in Portugal and the king remembered to give her hand in marriage to Nuno Álvares Pereira, who had become a widower and was given the title of Second Count of Arraiolos. But he refused.

And it is said that the king, talking with her for a long time to find a husband to suit her, became captivated by her beauty himself! Perhaps because of this, not only did he not choose her another fiancé, but he had Fernando Afonso, who secretly married her, killed. And he had him killed in a cruel manner: burned in a bonfire in the public square for all to see.

There is another version where the “Eternal Bride” was also called Beatriz and would be the daughter of Afonso of Portugal, Archbishop of Évora, who was a man of initiative and who had built several convents and palaces, including this manor where she always lived.