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Isabelle of France

French saint
The basics
Date of birth Paris, Île-de-France, France
Date of death Feb 23, 1270
Mother: Blanche of Castile
Brother(s): Louis IX of France Robert I Count of Artois Alphonse Count of Poitiers Charles I of Naples John Tristan Count of Anjou and Maine
Father: Louis VIII of France
Authority VIAF id ISNI id Library of congress id
The details

Isabelle of France (March 1224 – 23 February 1270) was the daughter of Louis VIII of France and Blanche of Castile. She was a younger sister of King Louis IX of France (Saint Louis) and of Alfonso, Count of Poitiers, and an older sister of King Charles I of Sicily. In 1256, she founded the Poor Clare monastery of Longchamp in the part of the Forest of Rouvray (now called the Bois de Boulogne), west of Paris. She is honored as a saint by the Franciscan Order. Her feastday is the 26th of February.

Early life

Isabelle's father died when she was two years old, and it was her mother, Blanche, who oversaw her education. She could read both Latin, and the vernacular, and enjoyed tales of chivalry as well as devotional texts. While pursuing the traditional feminine interests such as embroidery, she took special pleasure in working on priestly vestments.

When still a child at court, Isabelle was already devoted to religion. By the papal bull of 26 May 1254, Pope Innocent IV allowed her to retain some Franciscan friars as her special confessors. She was even more devoted to the Franciscan Order than her royal brother.

By virtue of the Treaty of Vendôme in March 1227, Isabelle was betrothed with Hugh, eldest son and heir of Hugh X of Lusignan, with the marriage contract being signed on June 1230; however, she refused to celebrate the formal wedding due to her fixed determination to remain a virgin, although she never became a nun. Later, she refused the hand of Conrad IV of Germany, son of Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, although pressed to accept by everyone, even by Innocent IV.

Monastery of Longchamp

As Isabelle wished to found a monastery of Poor Clares, her brother King Louis began in 1255 to acquire the necessary land in the Forest of Rouvray, not far from the Seine, west of Paris. On 10 June 1256, the first slide of the monastery church was laid. The building appears to have been completed about the beginning of 1259, because Pope Alexander IV gave his sanction on 2 February 1259, to the new Rule which was composed especially for this monastery by the Franciscan Mansuetus base on the Rule of St. Clare. Not as strict as that rule, the community was allowed to hold property. The monastery was named the Monastery of the Humility of the Blessed Virgin. In the Rule the nuns were called the Sisters of the humble order of servants of the most Blessed Virgin Mary. The nuns were subject to the Friars Minor. Some of the first nuns came from the Poor Clare monastery in Reims.

Isabelle never joined the community herself, but did live in the monastery in a room separate from the nun’s cells. She suffered from illnesses during her life, which prevented her from following the rule of life for the nuns. Isabelle refused to become abbess, which allowed her to retain her wealth and resources, so she could support them and continue to give to the poor. She kept a discipline of silence for most of her day.

Isabelle died at Longchamp on 23 February 1270, and was buried in the monastery church. After nine days her body was exhumed; it showed no signs of decay, and many miracles were said to have been wrought at her grave. In 1521 Pope Leo X allowed the Monastery of Longchamp to celebrate her feast day with a special Office. On 4 June 1637, a second exhumation took place. On 25 January 1688, the nuns obtained permission to celebrate her feast with an octave, and in 1696 the celebration of the feast on 31 August was permitted to the whole Franciscan Order by Pope Innocent XII.

The Monastery of Longchamp had many vicissitudes. The French Revolution closed it, and in 1794 the empty building was offered for sale, but, as no one wished to purchase it, it was destroyed. In 1857 the walls were pulled down, except for one tower, and the grounds were added to the Bois de Boulogne.


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