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Coimbra, Portugal: Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Nova & tomb of St. Elizabeth of Portugal

About the Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Nova in Coimbra:

They say in real estate that location is everything, and that is certainly the case here. Originally this convent was Mosteiro de Santa Clara-a-Velha, located in an area of the city that was prone to flooding.  It was later built at the current location and the name changed to Santa Clara-a-Nova.  Located on high ground, it offers a beautiful view of the city.  The interior is magnificent, and most notably for the fact that includes the tomb of a saint:  Saint Elizabeth of Portugal.

About Elizabeth of Portugal:

Elizabeth of Portugal was named after her relative, Saint Elizabeth of Hungary. She was enthusiastic about her Catholic faith from a young age; fasting, doing works of penance and attending daily Mass.  She had been promised in marriage to King Denis of Portugal at an early age…and upon reaching 17 (he was 26), she did indeed marry him.  She was admired (not by all the courtiers, of course) for her devotion to the poor and sick. During her reign, she earned the title of “peacemaker”, having on more than one occasion prevented battles by riding out between the opposing forces.

She helped alleviate hunger during a famine in 1293 by donating flour from her cellars.

Saint Isabel of Portugal the Miracle of the Roses
Secretariado Nacional Bens Culturais da Igreja, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The best known story about Saint Elizabeth is the miracle of the roses which has frequently been depicted in art:  One of the miracles associated with St. Elizabeth of Hungary is the “miracle of the roses.”

As the story is told, Elizabeth was taking bread in her cloak to give to the poor when she met her husband, who was out hunting, in the forest. Members of his hunting party suspected that Elizabeth was stealing–but, when she was asked to open her cloak to reveal what she had concealed, a miracle occurred. When she opened her cloak, the bread had been transformed into red and white roses.  This Certainly reminds us of Saint Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe.
When Denis died in 1325, Elizabeth retired to the monastery here run by the Poor Clare nuns. She joined the Third Order of St. Francis and became a benefactor of various hospitals and religious projects in Portugal.
Pope Gregory IX canonized her on May 27, 1235 and she is the patron saint of charities, bakers, beggars, brides, death of children, homeless people, hospitals, the Sisters of Mercy and widows.

She died from a fever on July 4, 1336.  Her incorrupt body can viewed through a few portholes cut in the side of her tomb, although it is quite difficult to see.

Miracles were said to have followed quickly after her death.  She was canonized in 1626, and her feast day is celebrated on July 4.

Finding the Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Nova:

Address: confraria rainha, 3040-270 Coimbra, Portugal

Tel:  +351 239 441 674

Click here for a semi-official site for the Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Nova

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