Born in 1271, Queen Isabel was married to King Diniz (or Dinis). Like her great-aunt Saint
Elizabeth of Hungary, for whom she was named, Saint Elizabeth of Portugal dedicated her life to
the poor. She established orphanages and provided shelter for the homeless. She also founded a
convent in Coimbra.
There are many versions of the story of Queen Isabel's miracle of turning bread into roses, but they are all fundamentally the same. She is said to have been forbidden by her unfaithful husband to give to the poor. Having hid bread to give away in her apron, she encountered King Diniz, who asked her what she was carrying. Not wanting to let on that the contents of her apron were meant for the poor, she responded that they were roses. The bread was transformed into roses, and King Dinis, who could not understand how she could have possession of fresh roses in January, did not punish his wife.
Known for settling disputes, Queen Isabel was called the Peacemaker. When her son Affonso (or Afonso) declared war on his father, jealous of the attention being paid by Diniz to his illegitimate sons, she rode between the armies, reconciling the two sides. On another occasion, she rode to Estremoz despite being ill to keep the army of Affonso, by then Affonso IV, from fighting that of Castile. Affonso, angry at the mistreatment his daughter Maria was suffering at the hands of her husband, the king of Castile, had ordered an attack. Isabel stopped the fighting, but the exertion proved to be too much for her and she fell ill, dying shortly thereafter.
Isabel was buried in Coimbra. She was canonized in 1625 by Urban VIII, and her feast day is July 8. Many Portuguese and Portuguese-American organizations bear her name.