Feature: Beja’s Love Letters

A series of scandalous, passionate 17th-century love letters came from Beja, allegedly written by one of the nuns of Convento de Nossa Senhora da Conceição, Mariana Alcoforado, to French cavalry officer Count Chamilly. The letters immortalised their love affair while the count was stationed here during the time of the Portuguese war with Spain.

The Letters of a Portuguese Nun first emerged in a French translation in 1669 and subsequently appeared in English and many other languages. Funnily enough, the originals were never found.

In 1972 three Portuguese writers, Maria Isabel Barreno, Maria Teresa Horta and Maria Velho da Costa, published The Three Marias: New Portuguese Letters, a collection of stories, poems and letters that formed a feminist update of the letters – for which they were prosecuted under the Salazar regime.