Soror Mariana Alcoforado and the Love Letters

Mariana Mendes da Costa Alcoforado was born, lived and died in Beja. She was born on April 22, 1640 and died at the age of 83, on July 28, 1723. She was a nun, at the Convento da Conceição in Beja and for that reason she was called Soror Mariana Alcoforado.

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The Bejense Mariana Alcoforado

Mariana Alcoforado was the daughter of Francisco da Costa Alcoforado, a nobleman from the Cortiços in Macedo de Cavaleiros, armed Knight of the Order of Christ, former Order of the Temple, in December 1647 and from Leonor Mendes.

He was baptized in Beja, in the Church of Santa Maria and the godfather was D. Francisco da Gama, Count of Vidigueira and great-grandson of Vasco da Gama.

The Alcoforado family was one of the powerful families in Portugal and was one of those that fought for independence from Portugal in 1640.

Soror Mariana Alcoforado at the Conceição Convent

She was forced to enter the Convent of Nossa Senhora da Conceição, at the age of 11. In part, to be safe from the war with Spain following the Restoration, but also to honor the will of the mother who wanted to see her a nun in this Convent.

Conceição Convent
Image 1. Convento da Conceição, Photo SIPA 00815264

It did not have a great religious inclination but, at that time, many men and women were locked up in Convents and Monasteries, by decision of the parents.

Mariana Alcoforado made the novitiate and professed at the age of 16.

Being unable to do anything against his father's decision, he always longed to leave the convent's cloister and live in freedom.

Because of her skills, the nun was always in charge of the offices of clerk and vicar.

For the good works he rendered to the Convent, he obtained the title of Soror Mariana Alcoforado.

At the end of his life, in March 1723, at the age of 83, he signed his last “quarter accounts” at Convento da Conceição.

The 1640 Restoration War

Following this war, which only ended in 1668, a French Regiment arrived in Beja that supported the King of Portugal.

The nun Mariana Alcoforado, on one of those days when the Regiment parked in Beja, was sitting at the window and met a young French officer, the noble Noel Buton. This window is now called “Mértola window”.

Window of Soror Mariana Alcaforado
Image 2. Window of Soror Mariana Alcaforado, Photo CC by Georges Jansoone

Mariana, then 20 years old, could not resist the immediate passion that followed this exchange of looks. Mad with love, she introduced Bouton to her cell in total secrecy, several times, until she was discovered.

The news spread quickly and it was a scandal in the beautiful city of Beja.

Bouton, fearing the power of the Alcoforados family, left Portugal and promised Mariana that he would send for her.

Alone, cloistered in the Convent, with no support from anyone, Mariana Alcoforado wrote to her love, while she waited for him.

From this wait, first full of hope, then with some uncertainty and, finally, already exasperated and convinced of the abandonment of his only love, the 5 love letters were born, written in French for his knight Bouton.

Movie of Antonio João Paisana, a son from Beja, that makes us remember this season!

The Love Letters

“As Cartas” by Mariana Alcoforado, addressed to the Marquis Noel Bouton de Chamilly, Count de Saint-Léger, were published in France, with the title "Lettres Portugueses", on January 4, 1669, involved in some controversy as to their authorship.

In 1923 there were 130 editions in several languages.

A lifetime within 100 steps

Since she was born until her death, the nun Mariana has not left a circuit of about 100 steps. In fact, both his home and the Church where he was baptized and, finally, his enclosure in the Convento da Conceição, are 100 steps apart.

The Câmara de Beja, among other promoters, inaugurated the permanent exhibition “100 Steps” at the Nossa Senhora da Conceição Convent, currently the Rainha D. Leonor Museum and the Beja Museum. The exhibition is open until December 31, 2019.

Love Letters from Mariana Alcoforado

Love Letters by Soror Mariana Alcoforado, book in digital format.

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1 thought on “Soror Mariana Alcoforado and Letters of Love”

  1. antonio luis alves (the ghost)

    In Portuguese.
    I am grateful to be able to continue reading and learning what I like the most. History, Prose and Poetry

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