Who Is Saint Isabel?

saint isabel gardenSaint Isabel was born in 1271 to the King of Aragon, Spain.  Baptized Elizabeth, after her great-aunt, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, she was known in her own country by the Spanish form of that name, Isabella.  The young princess had a naturally sweet disposition and her parents encouraged her inclination to emulate every virtue, which she saw practiced by others.

At 12 years of age, she was married to Denis, King of Portugal.  That prince admired her birth, beauty, riches, and personality more than her virtue; yet he allowed her complete liberty to live according to her deep faith, even esteemed her piety without feeling any desire to imitate it.

She divided her day between prayer and devotions, domestic duties, public affairs, service to others - especially to those in need.  She sought out the poor and unfortunate to help them; and established institutions throughout her kingdom, especially hospitals and orphanages, to aid those she could not personally reach.

She continued to love and respect her husband, bearing his neglect and infidelity with great patience.  Denis, though a good ruler, was a bad subject; just, brave, generous, and compassionate in public life, but in his private relations, selfish and profligate.

When he fell seriously ill in 1324, she was constantly at his bedside.  It may well have been her prayers and faithful devotion that brought about his sincere repentance before his death some months later.  Denis and Isabel had two children, Alfonso and Constance.  Alfonso succeeded his father as King.

Though Isabel retired to live a life of simplicity in a small home, she was often called upon to settle disputes between the fractious rulers of that day.  Her gentle nature and ability to reconcile prevented a great deal of bloodshed.  In fact she was on another errand of reconciliation when, overcome by age and the extreme heat, she died in 1336, on the feast day of our nation, July 4th.