Isabelle of France (saint)

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For other people named Isabella of France, see Isabella of France (disambiguation).
Isabelle of France
St. Isabel of France Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois.jpg
St. Isabelle at the Church of Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois in Paris, a neo-gothic replica of the original statue
House House of Capet
Father Louis VIII of France
Mother Blanche of Castile
Born March 1224
Died 23 February 1270 (aged 45)
Longchamp, Pays de France, Kingdom of France
Burial Monastery of St. Clare, Longchamp, Pays de France, Kingdom of France
St. Isabelle of France
Venerated in Catholic Church
(Poor Clares in France)
Beatified 1521 by Pope Leo X
Canonized 1696 by Pope Innocent XII
Feast 26 February

Isabelle of France (March 1224[1] – 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.

Early life[edit]

Isabelle's father died when she was 2 years old and it was Isabelle's mother Blanche who oversaw her education. Like her brothers, she studied Latin and became an expert in this language.[2] At times she would even correct her chaplains whenever they made mistakes during church service.[3] She also received a short religious education.

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. She not only broke off her engagement with a count, Hugh XI of Lusignan but moreover refused the hand of Conrad IV of Germany, son of Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, although pressed to accept him by everyone, even by Innocent IV, who however did not hesitate subsequently to praise her fixed determination to remain a virgin.

Monastery of Longchamp[edit]

As Isabelle wished to find a monastery of the Order of Poor Ladies of St. Clare of Assisi, 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 stone 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 Isabelle composed, along with a team of at least four leading Franciscans, including St. Bonaventure. This Rule was drawn up solely for this monastery, which was named the Monastery of the Humility of the Blessed Virgin (monasterium humilitatis beatae Mariae virginis). In the Rule the nuns were called the Sorores Ordinis humilium ancillarum Beatissimae Mariae Virginis ("sisters of the humble order of servants of the most blessed virgin Mary"). The fast was not so strict as in the Rule of St. Clare, in that the community was allowed to hold property (a proposition against which St. Clare held out until she won approval of her Rule on her deathbed), and the nuns were subject to the Friars Minor. Some of the first nuns came from the Poor Clare monastery in Reims.

Isabelle refused to become an abbess, and she never entered the cloister, but from 1260 (or 1263) she followed the rules in her own home nearby. She would help the sick and the poor and was not altogether satisfied with the first Rule drawn up. Therefore submitted a revised Rule to Pope Urban IV, through her brother, Louis, who had also secured the confirmation of the first Rule. Pope Urban approved this new document on 27 July 1263. The difference between two Rules consisted for the most part in outward observances and minor alterations. This new rule was also adopted by other French and Italian monasteries of the Order of St. Clare, but one can by no means say that a distinct congregation was formed on the basis of Isabelle's Rule. In the new Rule, the pope gave the nuns of Longchamp the official title of sorores minores inclusae, which was doubtlessly intended to emphasize closer union with the friars.

Isabelle died in her house at Longchamp on 23 February 1270, and was buried in the monastery church. After nine days her body was exhumed, when 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.[4]


Further reading[edit]

  • Agnes d'Harcourt (third Prioress of Longchamp, 1263–1270), Vie de Madame Isabelle, Archives Nationales L. 1021 MSS., Paris.
  • André, Histoire de Ste Isabelle, Carpentras, 1885.
  • Daniélo, Vie de Madame Ste Isabelle, Paris, 1840.
  • Berguin, La Bienheureuse Isabelle de France, Grenoble, 1899.
  • Duchesne, Histoire de l'abbaye royale de Longchamp, 12557–1789, Paris, 1904.
  • Sbaralea, Bull. Franc., III, Rome, 1765, 64-9.
  • Sbaralea, Bull. Franc., II, Rome, 1761, 477-86.
  • Sean L. Field, Isabelle of France: Capetian Sanctity and Franciscan Identity in the Thirteenth Century (University of Notre Dame Press, 2006).
  • Sean L. Field, ed. and trans., The Writings of Agnes of Harcourt: The Life of Isabelle of France and the Letter on Louis IX and Longchamp (University of Notre Dame Press, 2003).


  1. ^ The Chronicon Turonense records the birth in 1224 "mense martio" of "Isabellis, filia Ludovici Regis Franciæ". Chronicon Turonense, Recueil des historiens des Gaules et de la France, vol. XVIII, p. 305.
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ PD-icon.svg "St. Isabel of France". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. 


  • Goldstone, Nancy (2009). Four Queens: The Provençal Sisters Who Ruled Europe. Phoenix Paperbacks, London. 
  • Nolan, Kathleen D. Capetian Women, 2003.

External links[edit]

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company.