At a recent ceremony at the Church of St. Elizabeth of Portugal in the UK, a tile picture of Queen Saint Elizabeth of Portugal (Rainha Santa Isabel), created by Algarve artist Ray Gilman and fired by Algarve artist Jerome Gay, was presented to the church to celebrate the birthday of parishioner Elizabeth Carey.
The 1.7 metre high picture made from azulejos, represents the Queen’s famous ‘miracle of roses’ story. The story of this presentation began when Elizabeth Carey visited Estremoz in Portugal where Rainha Santa Isabel lived and died. The sainted Queen has a chapel dedicated to her memory in one of the castle towers and the chapel walls are adorned with azulejos depicting scenes of her life.
Elizabeth Carey tried, but failed, to find a likeness of the Queen in Estremoz to take back to her church in Richmond, which is named after the Portuguese saint. So the two Algarve-based artists got together to create the spectacular tile piece and mount it on the walls of the St. Elizabeth Church, Richmond.
The parish priest Father Philip Mathias invited the birthday girl to unveil the picture, after celebrating Mass on her 80th birthday. She was overwhelmed by the beauty of the piece and sacrilegiously commented “Oh my God!” then turned to her son in law Ray, who had organised the surprise, and joked, “I’ll never be nasty to you ever again!”
Queen Saint Elizabeth of Portugal is described historically as a courageous peacemaker, mediating between her husband, King Dinis, and his sons, and successfully preventing a civil war in around 1320. She was also extremely pious and, after her husband’s death, gave away most of her fortune to the poor. But she is best known for the ‘miracle of roses’.
As legend has it, the Queen was a very charitable woman and gave away more than her husband would have wished. One day, as she was giving out alms to the poor, King Dinis arrived, so she hid the alms in the folds of her gown. But the King demanded to see what was hidden in her gown, which she claimed were just roses; he insisted she showed him and, when she spread her skirt, the alms had miraculously turned into roses. She died at Setremoz in 1336 and is now buried in the monastery of Santa Clara-a-Nova in Coimbra. She was canonised in 1625.