Heart in black sand

Sortelha is one of Portugal’s most romantic and atmospheric historical villages. From the castle, you can look down on the butterscotch coloured granite cottages within the village walls or out over the boulder-strewn countryside. Two of those boulders rest on the slope below the castle walls, just touching. It’s not difficult to imagine that they are kissing. According to this Sortelha legend, that’s exactly what they’re doing.

Eternal Kiss, Sortelha
Eternal Kiss, Sortelha

Sortelha’s legend of the eternal kiss

Many moons ago, back in the days of fairies and magic, the mayor of Sortelha was married to a virtuous and much-loved fairy. They had only one child, a daughter, who grew up to be a delightful and beautiful young woman who was obedient, kind and religious.

Sadly, it was not a peaceful time. The Moors and Christians were fighting over land in Portugal and a Moorish army had been holding the Christian stronghold of Sortelha under siege for months. During this time, the dutiful daughter and the leader of the army, a handsome prince, had fallen hopelessly in love. Despite being limited to glances and gestures due to the dual barriers of war and religion, or perhaps because of this, their passion had reached an almost unbearable intensity.

One night, it so happened that the three gates to the walls which protected Sortelha from the surrounding army were being guarded by three soldiers who were aware of and sympathetic to the girl’s plight. At two o’clock in the morning, while everyone was asleep, they allowed the unarmed prince to enter the outer perimeter and creep uphill while the lovesick mayor’s daughter slipped out of the tower and down the rocky hillside to finally embrace her lover.

At that moment, her mother, the fairy, awoke with a start having had a premonition that her daughter was planning to run away with the man who was both an enemy and an infidel. The fairy and her husband wanted their daughter to marry the brave Christian son of the mayor of nearby Sabugal, which at the time was in the Kingdom of León in Spain, thereby establishing a strong neighbourly allegiance. Fearful of a terrible scandal, the mother slid out of bed without waking her husband to try and prevent her daughter from committing such folly.

By the time she reached the village walls and looked out over the hillside, she saw that her chaste, respectable daughter was already in the arms of her lover and engrossed in a passionate kiss. Shocked and horrified at the scene below, the fairy waved her magic wand without thinking and the rebel prince and the mayor’s daughter were never seen again. In the place where they had been kissing, two boulders lie together in what the locals call um beijo eterno, an eternal kiss.

The mysterious disappearance of the prince caused the army to withdraw from the seige of Sortelha. The mayor, devastated at losing his daughter, could no longer bear to stay in his village and left to farm some land down in the valley. The rocks and the legend are all that remain.

If you enjoyed this tale, you’ll love the story of Pedro and Inês, Portugal’s real-life Romeo and Juliet.


  1. Author

    Yours too, Jo! Although it’s unlikely that the lovers would have been able to stay together so perhaps being sealed in a kiss for eternity is a kind of blessing for them. At least they avoided the heartache of separation or exile.

  2. That’s rather sad! Hope your Valentine’s Day turns out much better, Julie 🙂

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