Elizabeth of Aragon

For other people named Isabella of Aragon, see Isabella of Aragon (disambiguation).
Elizabeth of Aragon

Sancta Isabel Regina by Francisco Vilaça, painted in 1893
Queen consort of Portugal
Tenure 26 June 1282 – 7 January 1325
Born 1271
Aljafería Palace, Zaragoza, Kingdom of Aragon[1]
Died 4 July 1336
Estremoz Castle in Estremoz, Alentejo, Kingdom of Portugal
Spouse Denis, King of Portugal
Issue Constanca, Queen of Castile
Afonso IV, King of Portugal
House House of Barcelona
Father Peter III, King of Aragon
Mother Constance of Sicily
Religion Catholic Church

Elizabeth of Aragon, also known as Elizabeth of Portugal,[2] T.O.S.F. (1271 – 4 July 1336; Elisabet in Catalan, Isabel in Aragonese, Portuguese and Spanish), was queen consort of Portugal, a tertiary of the Franciscan Order and is venerated as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church.

Family and early life

Born in 1271 into the royal house of Aragon,[3] Elizabeth was the daughter of Infante Peter (later King King Peter III) and his wife Constance of Sicily and the sister of three kings: Alfonso II and James II of Aragon and Frederick III of Sicily.

Elizabeth showed an early enthusiasm for her faith. She said the full Divine Office daily, fasted and did other penance, as well as attended twice-daily choral Masses. Religious fervor was common in her family, as she could count several members of her family who were already venerated as saints. The most notable example is her great-aunt, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, after whom she was named.


King Denis of Portugal, the Rei Lavrador, and Queen Elizabeth of Portugal

Her marriage to King Denis of Portugal was arranged in 1281 when she was 10 years old, receiving the towns of Óbidos, Abrantes and Porto de Mós as part of her dowry.[4] It was only in 1288 that the wedding was celebrated, when Denis was 26 years old, while Elizabeth was 17.[4] Denis, a poet and statesman, was known as the Rei Lavrador (English: Farmer King), because he planted a large pine forest near Leiria to prevent the soil degradation that threatened the region.

Elizabeth quietly pursued the regular religious practices of her youth and was devoted to the poor and sick. Naturally, such a life was a reproach to many around her and caused ill will in some quarters. Eventually, her prayer and patience succeeded in converting her husband, who had been leading a sinful life.[5]

Elizabeth took an active interest in Portuguese politics and was a decisive conciliator during the negotiations concerning the Treaty of Alcañices, signed by Denis and Sancho IV of Castile in 1297 (which fixed the borders between the two countries). In 1304, the Queen and Denis returned to Spain to arbitrate between Fernando IV of Castile and James II of Aragon, brother of Elizabeth.[4]

She had two children:

St. Elizabeth of Portugal.
Queen, Widow and tertiary
Canonized 25 May 1625, Rome by Pope Urban VIII
Major shrine Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Nova, Coimbra, Portugal[1]
Feast 4 July; 8 July (1694–1969 calendars)
Patronage Coimbra, Diocese of San Cristóbal de La Laguna, Cathedral of La Laguna

Elizabeth would serve as intermediary between her husband and Afonso, during the Civil War between 1322 and 1324. The Infante greatly resented the king, whom he accused of favoring the king's illegitimate son, Afonso Sanches. Repulsed to Alenquer, which supported the Infante, Denis was prevented from killing his son through the intervention of the Queen. As legend holds, in 1323, Elizabeth, mounted on a mule, positioned herself between both opposing armies on the field of Alvalade in order to prevent the combat. Peace returned in 1324, once the illegitimate son was sent into exile, and the Infante swore loyalty to the king.[4]

Dowager Queen

Saint Elizabeth of Portugal. Portrait by José Gil de Castro, Museo Colonial de San Francisco (Santiago, Chile)

After Denis' death in 1325, Elizabeth retired to the monastery of the Poor Clare nuns, now known as the Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha (which she had founded in 1314) in Coimbra. She joined the Third Order of St. Francis, devoting the rest of her life to the poor and sick in obscurity.[5] During the great famine in 1293, she donated flour from her cellars to the starving in Coimbra, but was also known for modest in her dress, humble in conversation, habit to provide lodging for pilgrims, distributing small gifts, paying the dowries of poor girls, educating the children of poor nobles, and was a benefactor of various hospitals (Coimbra, Santarém and Leiria) and of religious projects (such as the Trinity Convent in Lisbon, chapels in Leiria and Óbidos, and the cloister in Alcobaça.[6]

She was called to act once more as a peacemaker in 1336, when Afonso IV marched his troops against King Alfonso XI of Castile, to whom he had married his daughter Maria, and who had neglected and ill-treated her. In spite of age and weakness, the Queen-dowager insisted on hurrying to Estremoz, where the two kings' armies were drawn up. She again stopped the fighting and caused terms of peace to be arranged. But the exertion brought on her final illness. As soon as her mission was completed, she took to her bed with a fever from which she died on 4 July, in the castle of Estremoz. She earned the title of Peacemaker on account of her efficacy in solving disputes.[5]

Although Denis' tomb was located in Odivelas, Elizabeth was buried in the Convent of Santa Clara in Coimbra,[3] in a magnificent Gothic sarcophagus. After frequent flooding by the Mondego River in the 17th century, the Poor Clares moved her mortal remains to the Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Nova (also in Coimbra). Her body was transferred to the main chapel, where it was buried in a sarcophagus of silver and crystal.


She was beatified in 1526 and canonized by Pope Urban VIII on 25 May 1625.[7] Her feast was inserted in the General Roman Calendar for celebration on 4 July. In the year 1694 Pope Innocent XII moved her feast to 8 July, so it would not conflict with the celebration of the Octave of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles.[8] In 1955, Pope Pius XII abolished this octave.[9] The 1962 Roman Missal changed the rank of the feast from "Double" to "Third-Class Feast".[10] The 1969 revision of the Calendar classified the celebration as an optional memorial and restored it to 4 July. Her feast is also kept on the Franciscan Calendar of Saints. Since the establishment in 1819 of the Diocese of San Cristóbal de La Laguna, Saint Elizabeth is the co-patron of the diocese and of its Cathedral pursuant to the papal bull issued by Pope Pius VII.[11]


St. Elizabeth is usually depicted in royal garb with a dove or an olive branch.[3]

She was the subject of a 1947 Portuguese-Spanish film The Holy Queen in which she was played by Maruchi Fresno.


Preceded by
Beatrice of Castile
Queen Consort of Portugal
Succeeded by
Beatrice of Castile


  1. 1 2 "Lives of the Saints, For Every Day of the Year," edited by Rev. Hugo Hoever, S.O.Cist.,Ph.D., New York: Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1955, p.257
  2. The name given to her in the Roman Missal
  3. 1 2 3 Foley, Leonard. "St. Elizabeth of Portugal", Saint of the Day, Franciscan Media
  4. 1 2 3 4 João Ferreira (2010), p.30
  5. 1 2 3 Fr. Paolo O. Pirlo, SHMI (1997). "St. Elizabeth of Portugal". My First Book of Saints. Sons of Holy Mary Immaculate - Quality Catholic Publications. pp. 142–143. ISBN 971-91595-4-5.
  6. João Ferreira (2010), p.31
  7. Ott, Michael T. (1912). "Pope Urban VIII". The Catholic Encyclopedia. XV. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved 2007-09-07.
  8. "Calendarium Romanum" (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1969), p. 96
  9. General Roman Calendar of Pope Pius XII
  10. 3rd Class
  11. Lorenzo Lima, J. (2013). Patrimonio e historia de la antigua Catedral de La Laguna (in Spanish). Diocesis of San Cristóbal de la Laguna, Government of the Canary Islands, et al. ISBN 978-84-7947-625-0.


Wikimedia Commons has media related to Elizabeth of Aragon.
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "St. Elizabeth of Portugal". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton. 
  • "Saint Elizabeth, Queen of Portugal", Butler's Lives of the Saints
  • Ferreira, João (2010). Histórias Rocambolescas da História de Portugal [Fantastic Stories of the History of Portugal] (in Portuguese) (6 ed.). Lisbon, Portugal: A Esfera dos Livros. ISBN 978-989-626-216-7. 
  • Hoever, Hugo H., ed. (1955). Lives of the Saints, For Every Day of the Year. New York, New York: Catholic Book Publishing Co. p. 511. OCLC 10070602. 
  • Rodrigues Oliveira, Ana (2010). "Isabel de Aragão (1270–1336). A Rainha Santa". Rainhas medievais de Portugal. Dezassete mulheres, duas dinastias, quatro séculos de História [Medieval Queens of Portugal: Seventeen women, two dynasties, four centuries of history] (in Portuguese). Lisbon: A esfera dos livros. ISBN 978-989-626-261-7. 
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