The Torre del Oro is linked to a tragic legend of a women who was pestered by a king into a horrific act of self-mutilation. The woman in question was Maria Fernandez Coronel who was born in 1334 and is reported to have grown into an immensely beautiful woman over the years.
King Peter I (Don Pedro I) who was the king of Castile and León from 1350 to 1369 met Maria (who was married to Don Juan de la Cerda, the lord of Gibraleon) and he was instantly besotted by her beauty. It is said that King Peter was so besotted that he commenced a campaign of harassment against Maria, constantly pestering her, trying to get her to give herself to him. King Peter’s campaign was so intense that Maria opted to withdraw from social life, hoping that being out of sight would help to remove her from King Peter’s mind.
In 1366 the Castilian Civil War began, which saw King Peter in conflict with his illegitimate brother, Henry of Trastámara. During this civil war Maria’s husband Don Juan de la Cerda was in the service of the king’s brother and had the bad luck of being captured by the king’s men. Hearing of her husband’s capture Maria visited King Peter to plead for her husband’s life, but it was too late as he had already been executed at the Torre del Oro. The execution of her husband and the subsequent seizure of all the family’s assets left Maria destitute and she eventually sought refuge at a convent.
Coming to the king’s attention again meant that Maria was again subject to harassment by the king who remained insistent that she should give herself to him. Eventually the king sent his men to the convent to find Maria and bring her to him, but she managed to elude their searches by being temporarily buried alive. Displeased with his men’s failure to find Maria, the king eventually went to the convent himself in order to capture Maria, and he eventually cornered her. Finally having had enough of the king’s advances it is said that Maria picked up a pan of boiling olive oil and poured it over her face to remove her beautiful looks and dissuade the king in his advances. Unsurprisingly Maria was severely disfigured by this act of self mutilation.
After this tragic event it is said that King Peter was so remorseful for his actions that Maria’s family assets were returned to her, and these assets enabled her to found the Convent of St. Agnes in Seville. Maria eventually died on December 2nd 1411 at the ripe old age of 77. In the mid sixteenth century construction work uncovered Maria’s tomb, and her body was found to be very well preserved, with her characteristic burns still visible. Her body was subsequently placed into a glass box and today is still preserved in the Convent of St. Agnes (Convento de Santa Inés on Calle Dona Maria Coronel), and it can be viewed on the anniversary of her death each year (December 2nd). Some pictures of her persevered body can be found on this blog.
King Peter met a suitably nasty end for a sex pest; in 1369 he was apparently stabbed in the face by his illegitimate brother Henry of Trastámara.
|Torre del Oro (the Gold Tower).|
|The Canal de Alfonso XIII.|
Pictures: Seville, Spain (November 2014).
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