Beatrice of Silva
|Saint Beatrice of Silva, O.I.C.|
Foundress of the
Order of the Immaculate Conception
|Saint and Foundress|
Ceuta, Kingdom of Portugal
|Died||August 9, 1492
|Honored in||Roman Catholic Church|
|Beatified||July 28, 1926 by Pope Pius XI|
|Canonized||October 3, 1976 by Pope Paul VI|
|Major shrine||Conceptionist Monastery at Toledo, Spain (where her body rests)|
Beatrice de Menezes da Silva, O.I.C. (sometimes called "Brites") (Spanish: Beatriz da Silva y de Menezes), (Ceuta, Kingdom of Portugal, ca. 1424 – Toledo, Spain, August 9, 1492) was a noblewoman of Portugal, who became a nun and was the foundress of the monastic Order of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady. She is honored as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church.
She was one of the eleven children of Rui Gomes da Silva, the first Magistrate of Campo Maior, located on the border of Spain and Portugal, and of Isabel de Menezes, an illegitimate daughter of Dom Pedro de Menezes, 1st Count of Vila Real and 2nd Count of Viana do Alentejo, in whose army her father was serving at the time of her birth. She was born in Ceuta, located in North Africa, during her father's time of service in controlling the newly-conquered city. One of her brothers was the Blessed Amadeus of Portugal, O.F.M., a noted reformer of the Order of Friars Minor.
Beatrice was raised in the castle of Infante John, Lord of Reguengos de Monsaraz. In 1447 Beatrice accompanied his daughter, Princess Isabel of Portugal, to Spain as her lady-in-waiting when Isabel left to marry King John II of Castile and became Queen of Castile and León. Beatrice was her good and close friend, (and later was to receive her support when she founded the Conceptionists). Soon, however, her great beauty began to arouse the irrational jealousy of the Queen, who had her imprisoned in a tiny cell. During this incarceration, Beatrice experienced an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in which she was instructed to found a new Order in Mary's honor.
Beatrice finally escaped her imprisonment with difficulty and took refuge in the Dominican Second Order monastery of nuns in Toledo. Here she led a life of holiness for forty years, without becoming a member of that Order. In 1484 Beatrice, with some companions, took possession of a monastery in Toledo (still the motherhouse of the Order) set apart for them by Queen Isabel for the new community, which was to be dedicated to honoring the Immaculate Conception of Mary.
In 1489, by permission of Pope Innocent VIII, the nuns adopted the Cistercian Rule, bound themselves to the daily recitation of the Office of the Immaculate Conception, and were placed under obedience to the Ordinary of the archdiocese. In 1501, Pope Alexander VI united this community with the Benedictine community of San Pedro de las Duenas, and put them all under the Rule of St. Clare. Pope Julius II gave the new religious Order a Rule of its own in 1511, and in 1616 special Constitutions were drawn up for the Order by Cardinal Francis Quiñones.
A second monastery was founded in 1507 at Torrigo, from which, in turn, were established seven others. The Order soon spread through Portugal, Spain, Italy, and France, as well as in Brazil, then Portugal's colony in South America. This foundation was later to separate from the monastic Order, and became Missionary Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis. The foundress determined on the habit, which was white, with a white scapular and blue mantle.
See also 
- Order of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady (Conceptionists)
- Congregation of the Immaculate Conception
- Geneall.pt (Portuguese) The Spanish version of this article, however, cites an unreferenced recent document from the Vatican which states that modern research has proven her birthplace to have been Campo Maior.