Feast of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (July 4)   Leave a comment

Above:  Saint Elizabeth of Portugal

Image in the Public Domain



Peacemaker and Queen

Also known as Saint Elizabeth of Aragon


Do not forget that when sovereigns are at war they can no longer busy themselves with their administration; justice is not distributed; no care is take of the people; and this alone is your sovereign charge, this is the main point of your duty as kings.

–Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (New York:  The Crossroad Publishing Compay, 1997), 293


St. Elizabeth of Portugal, born into the royal family of Aragon, had a fine pedigree.  Her great-aunt was St. Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231).  Our saint’s grandfather was Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II (reigned 1220-1250), also the King of Sicily (1198-1250), the King of Germany (1212-1250), and the King of Jerusalem (1229-1250).  St. Elizabeth’s parents were Constantia (Constance) of Sicily and Pedro (Peter) III “the Great” of Aragon (reigned 1276-1285).

Our saint, raised a pious Roman Catholic, led a holy life.  In 1282 she entered into an arranged marriage to King Diniz (Denis) of Portugal (reigned 1279-1325), a man known for interest in and patronage of the arts, for hard work, and for immorality.  Diniz cheated on and abused St. Elizabeth, fathering children out-of-wedlock.  She and Diniz had two children–Constantia and the future King Alfonso IV “the Brave” (reigned 1325-1357).  Diniz’s favorite child, though, was Alfonso Sanches, not in line to succeed to the throne.  For many years St. Elizabeth prayed for Diniz’s conversion.  He reformed his life toward the end of it.  St. Elizabeth also founded convents, orphanages, monasteries, hospitals, and halfway houses for former prostitutes.

During her lifetime St. Elizabeth had a reputation as a peacemaker.  In 1323 she rushed to the battlefield, where she ended the civil war between King Diniz and his heir, the future Alfonso IV.  After Diniz died in 1325, our saint became a Franciscan tertiary and retired to the Poor Clares convent (which she had founded) at Coimbra.  At the end of St. Elizabeth’s life she went to another battlefield–this time at Estremoz, Portugal–to reconcile her son, Alfonso IV, and his son-in-law, King Alfonso IX of Castille (reigned 1313-1350).  The two were locked in combat in 1336, for Alfonso IX, husband of Alfonso IV’s daughter, Maria, had cheated on her and imprisoned her in a castle.  At Estremoz St. Elizabeth made peace once more.  There she died of a fever on July 4, 1336.

Pope Urban VIII canonized her in 1625.

Blessed are the peacemakers.





God of compassion, you have reconciled us in Jesus Christ, who is our peace:

Enable us to live as Jesus lived, breaking down walls of hostility and healing enmity.

Grant us grace to make peace with those from whom we are divided,

that forgiven and forgiving, we may be one in Christ;

who with you and the Holy Spirit reigns for ever, one holy and undivided Trinity.  Amen.

Genesis 8:12-17, 20-22

Psalm 51:1-17

Hebrews 4:12-16

Luke 23:32-43

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 737


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