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Were legendary lovers really mother and son?

Jessica Jones · 23 Jun 2015, 12:00

Published: 23 Jun 2015 12:00 GMT+02:00

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Spain’s celebrated real life romantic tragedy has often been compared to the more famous Romeo and Juliet but now a Spanish historian has claimed that the childhood sweethearts from the city of Teruel might not be quite what they seem.

They were supposed to be the star-crossed lovers Diego Marcilla and Isabel Segura, who were forbidden to marry by their families and died from broken hearts when she was forced to marry another.

According to legend the pair died in the 13th century but were finally laid to rest together two centuries later after their mummified bodies were discovered in the crypt.

But Spanish historian Fernando López Rajadel has revealed that the bodies in fact have come from a family crypt and therefore were most likely to be mother and son.

In pics: Most romantic Spanish couples 

The Spanish historian, who specializes in the Middle Ages, believes that the story is nothing but fiction, forming part of a "severely butchered" codex, dating to the 15th century and stored in the Library of Catalonia, that describes the history of the Marcilla family. 

A councillor in Teruel, Yagüe de Salas, copied out the codex at the beginning of the 17th century and, according to López, noted that the exhumed female body had "wide hips" from having borne children.

But the claims have not gone down well with the Lovers of Teruel Foundation:

"It is impossible," a spokesman told The Local, "all the data points to the pair being the same age, around 18 or 19 years old."

"Carbon dating has taken place," the spokesman added, but conceded that there was still no confirmation that the mummified bodies were Diego Marcilla and Isabel Segura.

Carbon dating, which took place in 2004, proved that the bodies were those of a man and woman who died at the beginning of the 13th century.

Story continues below…

However, López, who is about to publish a reconstruction of the original Library of Catalonia manuscript, believes that if a more detailed analysis was carried out, "they would discover that the woman was the mother and therefore was not Isabel de Segura," he told Spanish daily ABC.

The accepted story of the Lovers of Teruel is that Diego Marcilla came to claim his bride after six years away to make his fortune, but just hours earlier, Isabel de Segura had been forced by her wealthy family to marry another man. Diego promptly died of a broken heart and Isabel dropped down dead beside his corpse.

The story of the lovers captured the imagination of the town, whose inhabitants called for the couple to be buried next to each other. In 1560, their bodies were exhumed and placed side by side, in a tomb that includes lids bearing the sculptures of the "lovers", their hands outstretched and almost touching, but not quite, due to the fact that the church forbade hand holding as Isabel was a married woman.

The city of Teruel has turned the legend to their advantage, classing itself as "the city of love" on its tourism website and holding a medieval festival on the lovers' honour every February 14th. 

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Jessica Jones (jessica.jones@thelocal.com)

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