Foundress of the Congregation of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady
Saint Beatrice of Silva Menezes (Ceuta, Portugal, 1424 – Toledo, Spain, August 9, 1492) was a noble of Portugal, founder of the Congregation of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady and saint of the Roman Catholic Church.
Raised in the castle of Princess Isabella of Portugal, Beatrice of Silva went to Spain with her when Isabella married John II of Castile and became Queen of Castile and León. She was a good and close friend, as well as relative of Isabella and together they founded the Conceptionists in 1484 at Toledo, Spain. On the marriage of Princess Isabella of Portugal with King John II of Castile, Beatrice had accompanied the queen to the court of her husband, but her great beauty having aroused the jealousy of the queen, she escaped with difficulty and took refuge in the Dominican convent at Toledo. Here for forty years she led a life of holiness, without becoming a member of the Order. Inspired by an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to found a new congregation in her honour, Beatrice of Silva, with some companions, took possession of a convent (the Convent of the Order of the Immaculate Conception) set apart for them by Queen Isabella I of Castile in Toledo.
In 1489, by permission of Pope Innocent VIII, the sisters 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 congregation with the Benedictine community of San Pedro de las Duenas, under the Rule of St. Clare, but in 1511 Julius II gave it a rule of its own, and in 1616 special constitutions were drawn up for the congregation by Cardinal Francis Quiñones. The second convent was founded in 1507 at Torrigo, from which, in turn, were established seven others. The congregation soon spread through Portugal, Spain, Italy, and France. The founder determined on the habit, which was white, with a white scapular and blue mantle. The Tomb of Saint Beatrice of Silva Menezes is in Toledo, Spain.
The founder, Beatrice of Silva Menezes (sometimes cited as "Brites") (1424-90), was canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1976; her feast day is 1st September. She is patron of prisoners.