Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Two Elizabeths from Portugal

A very nicely done page on the life of the lady who inspired a minor character in Lois McMaster Bujold's The Curse of Chalion and got her own adventure in Paladin of Souls. Needless to say, her ultimate fate is quite a bit better in Bujold's world than in our own.

Here's a rather touching portrait of poor Isabel, by Petrus Christus. She is portrayed praying, with St. Elizabeth behind her. Not the mother of John the Baptist, though.

This other Isabel of Portugal -- St. Elizabeth of Portugal -- is from the 1200s. Her feastday is today. She also had a rather difficult husband (Diniz I, called "the Just"). Since she reigned only about a hundred years after Portugal was retaken from the Moors and became an independent kingdom, it's not surprising that she left her mark. Especially when you get the same story about the roses as you get about her great-aunt, St. Elizabeth of Hungary. (But hey, if God did it for your aunt, you might very well trust God to do it for you!) She was also known in legend for receiving the plans for a church in a dream, and then paying the workers with flowers that turned into gold coins. (Useful trick.) She founded about five zillion hospitals, many of which are still in existence as organizations, and did good deeds galore. She was also a Third Order Franciscan. Her body rests in the Convent of St. Clare in Coimbra.

Here's a good article (in English!) about the saint's life. She was a learned woman, it seems, and a decent engineer and architect as well. In fact, she drafted the plans for the buildings she built, and her country's scholars name their style "Isabeline". (Spanish scholars mean entirely different things when they talk about Isabeline stuff -- either Isabel and Ferdinand, or Isabel II in the early Victorian period.)

Her husband King Diniz (now spelled Dinis) may have been a womanizer, but according to this article, there's a reason he was called "the Just". He even refused to believe the accusations against the Templars. He built a castle in Estremoz, which is now a hotel. He was also called "the Farmer", which seems a rathar flattering title in a king.

He also gave his queen the town of Ă“bidos as a wedding present, and the "wedding town" became a tradition for Portugal's kings and queens thereafter.

Here's a Portuguese-American festa with some information on the saint, and here's stamps and postcards of her. Here's a nice statue.

Here's a weird little page that gathers a lot of information, but ultimately claims that all the legends about the queen in question were invented by crypto-Jews in order to do homage to Esther. Um. Well, that seems rather unlikely, doesn't it? I'd find it more likely that the Marranos got attached to St. Elizabeth because she was a peacemaker and a doer of righteous deeds. Quite possibly, the charitable organizations founded by her had helped them, and they were grateful.


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