Two marble hands reaching for each other, immortalised for all time; these are the 12th-century lovers Diego and Isabel, whose tomb to this day attracts romantics from all over the world.
Here is the legend of Los amantes de Teruel:
In the city of Teruel in northern Spain (the region of Aragon), childhood sweethearts Diego and Isabel grew up and fell deeply in love with each other. They wished to marry, but Isabel’s rich and powerful father did not find Diego a suitable suitor, for he was a second son and not sufficiently wealthy. Diego came up with a solution: he would go out into the world and make his fortune, returning in five years to marry Isabel.
Isabel waited the long years for her love’s return, never once straying from her commitment to him. But Isabel’s father was impatient, and when they heard nothing from Diego, he assumed him gone for good. On the day after the five-year period had elapsed, he made his daughter marry another, Don Pedro – only to find Diego riding into the village right after the ceremony, now a wealthy man and ready to marry his Isabel (Diego had begun the five-year count the day after he agreed it with the father, hence he thought he was right on time).
The poor, thwarted lovers! That evening, as Isabel lay in bed with her new husband, Diego crept into the room.
‘Kiss me,’ he said, ‘for I am dying.’
‘I cannot,’ she told him, ‘for to do so would be to betray my husband, and to displease God.’
Isabel’s faith stood between them, an indomitable force. Diego was heartbroken. After imploring her again to kiss him – to save him – he collapsed to the floor, dead.
The next day, a funeral was held for Diego in the local church. A devastated Isabel decided she must grant Diego his dying wish. She walked down the church to his body, lifted her veil and kissed her love. In an instant, she too had fallen to the floor, dead.
Moved by the story of these two tragic lovers, their families buried them side by side, that they may be together at last, in the eternal life.
So ends the legend of Spain’s very own star-crossed lovers. It is a legend, though it has been taken seriously by many ever since, in 1578, two mummies were exhumed in the Church of San Pedro in Teruel which, it was claimed, were those of Diego and Isabel. The mummies were laid to rest in a new, beautifully sculpted tomb, atop which their effigies reach for each other but do not quite touch, to represent the purity of their love.
In fact, the mummies are not the true Diego and Isabel of history (recent DNA testing has discovered the remains are not quite old enough, and both are male), but that does not diminish the romance of the legend, which has put Teruel on the ‘Europe in Love’ map, along with places like Verona.
The story has captured many creative imaginations. Here are the lovers depicted by painter Antonio Muñoz Degrain (1840–1924):
Recently, the lovers’ story inspired an opera, produced by the Amantes Foundation and performed at the Church of San Pedro in Teruel, where the lovers – and their legend – rest.
This month, I’m having a FAN-tastic Fiesta, to celebrate the launch of my Andalucían Nights trilogy in a special, all-in-one edition.
The award-winning epic Andalucían Nights Trilogy sweeps the reader from the wild landscapes of Spain in the 1950s, through a history of dangerous liaisons and revenge dramas, to a modern world of undercover missions and buried secrets. Romantic, exotic and deeply compelling, and featuring a brilliant cast of characters, including a passionate young gypsy, a troubled young writer and an estranged family, The Andalucían Nights Trilogy is a romantic treat waiting to be discovered.
Available from Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Andalucian-Nights-Trilogy-Award-winning-Romantic-ebook/dp/B06XKZ2XKC/
You’ll find my Fiesta touring on various book blogs in the next two weeks; be sure to check my Facebook and Twitter to read excerpts and guest posts on the books.
Here’s what you can win in the Fiesta!
That’s six prize in total: each book in the Andalucían Nights trilogy, plus three beautiful, authentic Spanish hand fans. Entry is open to all (I will post internationally) via the Rafflecopter form below.
All that is left to say is Buena suerte – Good luck!
There is so much that drew me to the Spanish region of Andalucía when it came time to choose a setting for my romantic trilogy. But given that core themes in the trilogy are roots and legacies, the rich history of the Andalucía was a big attraction.
Andalucía is steeped in history. I have written before about the Moors who ruled ‘Al-Andalus’, modern-day Andalucía, from 711 to 1492 (see my blog post http://hannahfielding.net/the-moorish-legacy-in-andalucia/), and today I want to focus on another important people who took control of Andalucía and helped to shape its history: the Romans.
The Roman occupation of Andalucía dates back to the sixth century AD. They conquered the region, which was controlled by the Carthaginians, and bought it into their empire, naming it Baetica (part of Spania). It became an important part of the Roman Empire: emperors Trajan and Hadrian hailed from here, and in mythology Hercules was said to have founded the city of Cadiz.
The Romans lost Andalucía to the Moors many centuries ago, and yet their influence is felt still, most especially in the distinctive architecture of the region. The Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba (the Mezquita) is a beautiful example of Roman-inspired Moorish architecture. It was in fact constructed using materials from Roman buildings, including a temple dedicated to Janus that had stood on the site and the Amphitheatre of Mérida.
For me, original Roman buildings are even more interesting. When I visited Andalucía, I spent some time touring archaeological sites. I especially loved the Roman amphitheatres: the Acinipo, near Ronda; the Italica, Seville; and the Malaga theatre.
[Picture credits: Apinicio Falconaumanni; Malaga Andy Nash; Italica Diego Delso.]
Baleo Claudia, in the Cadiz province, is really stunning. There, archaeologists have uncovered an ancient town, complete with basilica, theatre, market, and the temple of Isis – all at a spectacular stretch of coastline.
I found stepping back into the Roman Empire in Andalucía fascinating – and inspirational. When you read my Andalucían Nights trilogy, you will find echoes of the distant Roman past interspersed in these modern-era stories.
For example, in Indiscretion Salvador considers what makes the Andalucían horses the family breed so special:
‘Look at our cartujanos. Over the centuries, their bloodline lost its purity and was injected with new strains that have made it stronger. Today, not only does the blood of their Moorish ancestors run in them, but also that of the Nubian horse, which the Romans used in their chariot races.’
Also in Indiscretion, the heroine Alexandra visits Ronda, and feels a sense of the past when she steps into the bullring:
The following afternoon, La Plaza de Toros in Ronda was drenched with the blinding white glare of a fierce sun. The huge, tragic amphitheatre with its floor of red sand, reminiscent of the Roman arenas of old, had been the scene of many bloody and barbarous combats between man and beast since the end of the eighteenth century.
I could not resist drawing on the Roman influence in my characterisation as well. In Legacy, for example, the heroine finds herself likening Ruy to a Roman god.
He was coming towards her, bare-chested, his eyes shining. He looked like a primitive Roman god and the sexual stir she felt in her belly was instant, confusing her thoughts.
Of course, beyond Andalucía itself, another Roman influence can be found in all my writing – that of the great Roman philosophers, Marcus Aurelius in particular. I will leave you with one of my favourite Aurelius quotations from Meditations, whose sentiment guides my writing hand:
‘Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.’
In my twenties, after graduating university, I travelled around Europe, keen to visit places I had read so much about. Andalucía was one such place; it had cropped up so many times in the literature I had read.
There was Washington Irving’s captivating Tales of the Alhambra, in which he described in such vivid detail his approach to the complex of Moorish palaces:
In the wild passes of these mountains the sight of walled towns and villages, built like eagles’ nests among the cliffs, and surrounded by Moorish battlements, or of ruined watchtowers perched on lofty peaks, carries the mind back to the chivalric days of Christian and Moslem warfare, and to the romantic struggle for the conquest of Granada. In traversing these lofty sierras the traveller is often obliged to alight, and lead his horse up and down the steep and jagged ascents and descents, resembling the broken steps of a staircase.
Sometimes the road winds along dizzy precipices, without parapet to guard him from the gulfs below, and then will plunge down steep, and dark, and dangerous declivities. Sometimes it struggles through rugged barrancos, or ravines, worn by winter torrents, the obscure path of the contrabandista; while, ever and anon, the ominous cross, the monument of robbery and murder, erected on a mound of stones at some lonely part of the road, admonishes the traveller that he is among the haunts of banditti, perhaps at that very moment under the eye of some lurking bandolero. Sometimes, in winding through the narrow valleys, he is startled by a hoarse bellowing, and beholds above him on some green fold of the mountain a herd of fierce Andalusian bulls, destined for the combat of the arena. I have felt, if I may so express it, an agreeable horror in thus contemplating, near at hand, these terrific animals, clothed with tremendous strength, and ranging their native pastures in untamed wildness, strangers almost to the face of man: they know no one but the solitary herdsman who attends upon them, and even he at times dares not venture to approach them. The low bellowing of these bulls, and their menacing aspect as they look down from their rocky height, give additional wildness to the savage scenery.
There was Lord Byron’s romantic depictions of the Andalusian cities of Seville and Cádiz in his poetry, most prominently in Childe Harold, but most beautifully, for me, in ‘The Girl of Cadiz’:
The Spanish girl that meets your love
Ne’er taunts you with a mock denial;
For every thought is bent to prove
Her passion in the hour of trial.
When thronging foemen menace Spain
She dares the deed and shares the danger;
And should her lover press the plain,
She hurls the spear, her love’s avenger.
There was Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca, whose words stand as the epigraph for Indiscretion: ‘To burn with desire and keep quiet about it is the greatest punishment we can bring on ourselves.’ He showed the world the ‘hidden Andalucía’, and with such passion, as here in his poem ‘Sleepingwalking Ballad’:
Green, how I want you green.
Big hoarfrost stars
come with the fish of shadow
that opens the road of dawn.
The fig tree rubs its wind
with the sandpaper of its branches,
and the forest, cunning cat,
bristles its brittle fibers.
But who will come? And from where?
She is still on her balcony
green flesh, her hair green,
dreaming in the bitter sea.
There was Ernest Hemingway’s colourful and raw descriptions of Andalucían culture, most notably the corrida (bull fight), as in this excerpt from Death in the Afternoon:
All supposed exterior signs of danger that a bull gives, such as pawing the ground, threatening with his horns, or bellowing are forms of bluffing. They are warnings given in order that combat may be avoided if possible. The truly brave bull gives no warning before he charges except the fixing of his eye on the enemy, the raising of the crest of muscle in his neck, the twitching of an ear, and, as he charges, the lifting of his tail.
All of this, and more, led me to Andalucía, where, like the writers who came before me, I found so much inspiration in the way of life there and the beautiful scenery. In my novels Indiscretion, Masquerade and Legacy I endeavour to transport my readers to this unique Spanish region, so that they too may experience the place where ‘blood boils without fire’.
If you are interested in the literary history of Andalucía, I can recommend Andrew and Suzanne Edwards’ book Andalucía: A Literary Guide for Travellers. Beware, though: reading this book could be costly; you may well find yourself buying a plane ticket to Spain…
If you’re reading this blog post, it’s a safe assumption that you’re a reader: you enjoy reading books (perhaps even my own novels; I do hope so). Consider these questions:
How much time do you devote to reading?
In your reading time, which books do you choose to read?
Whatever your answers, I wonder: do you feel satisfied by them? Is the time you devote to reading enough? Are you reading books that really enrich your life?
I had cause to ponder on these questions after reading an article entitled ‘How many books will you read before you die?’ (Lit Hub). The author of the article attempts to estimate how many more books are on your ‘to be read’ shelf, depending on your reading speed, your gender and your age. Based on her calculations, a thirty-year-old lady who is a voracious reader (defined as reading fifty books per year) has 2,800 books left to read; thirty years later, aged sixty, she has 1,100.
My first thought, upon reading the estimates, was this: none of them are enough!
Have you come across the term ‘abibliophobia’? It’s the fear of running out of reading material. I think we need a new term to mean fear of running out of time to read all you want to read. Chronophobia is anxiety over the passage of time; perhaps chronobibliophobia?
Do you identify with that fear?
Half of the issue is time. How much time do you make for reading? Is it enough? Ought you to clear more time for reading?
Recently, I watched a British film called About Time, in which a young man discovers the men in his family have a special ability: to travel in time to places and times they have been before. As the father explains this gift to his son, the son asks him how he has used the gift over the years. His answer: he read many books. The father went back in time to give himself more time to sit in a chair and read and read. Perfect, don’t you think? Here, in case I’ve piqued your interest, is the scene in which the father breaks the big news to his son:
The other half of the issue concerns your choice of book. There are so many millions of books in the world, and so of course you can read only a very small proportion. How do you choose?
The answer, I think, lies in always looking for new reads: classic and contemporary novels alike that you discover through rummaging in bookstores and libraries, and reading reviews online. In the New York Times Book Review, the writer Hari Kunzru explains that he no longer finishes a book if he’s not enjoying it; ‘once you’ve established your taste, and the penny drops that there are only a certain number of books you’ll get to read before you die, reading bad ones becomes almost nauseating’. So perhaps it is best to give yourself permission to give up on books and move on.
Whatever you do, though, don’t limit yourself to reading only ‘within your taste’; the key, I think, is to keep challenging yourself. I will leave you with two quotations that really bring home the importance of making time to read the books you want to read:
‘It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.’ – Oscar Wilde
‘I am a part of all I have read.’ – John Kieran