Share this story


From riches to rags

Blessed Isabel of France

Feast day: Feb. 26

Patron saint of sick people

Meaning of name: God’s promise, or dedicated to God

Claim to fame: Isabel was born into France’s royal family in 1225. She was the daughter of Louis VIII and Blanche of Castille. Her brother was King Louis IX. While at court, Isabel demonstrated piety and modesty, and a desire to be holy. She broke off an engagement to a count and even refused to marry Conrad, the son of German Emperor Frederick II, determined to stay a virgin. She founded the Franciscan Monastery of the Humility of the Blessed Virgin, a convent of the order of St. Clare (the Poor Clares), although the rules at Isabel’s convent were not as strict as the rules of the order. Isabel herself never took vows, and refused the position of abbess. But she still practiced the same rules used in the convent and spent most of her life tending to the poor and sick of Paris. Several other convents adopted Isabel’s rules, but there was never any formal religious order formed based on them.

Why she is a saint: St. Isabel was born into luxury. She easily could have melted into the carefree, popular and often corrupt lifestyle at court, but instead persisted in her desire to remain chaste and holy.

Best quote: Isabel’s piety and dedication to God and the church defined her life. It was said of her that “She was even more devoted to the Franciscan Order than to her royal brother.”

How she died: Isabel died at her home in Longchamps on Feb. 23, 1260. Nine days after her death, her body was exhumed, and was found in perfect condition, with no signs of decay. In 1637, the body was again exhumed, still with no signs of decay.