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A branch of the Order of Saint Clare, founded by Beatriz de Silva. Isabel, the daughter of Edward, King of Portugal, having married John II (1406-1454) of Castile, took her kinswoman, Beatriz de Silva, sister of James I, Count of Portalegre, with her. The beautiful Beatriz, however, aroused the suspicion and jealousy of the queen, and was imprisoned. Escaping, she fled to the Sisters of St. Dominic at Toledo, where she lived about forty years. Her veneration for the Immaculate Conception of Mary inspired her to found, with twelve companions, a special order in honour of Mary's privilege. Queen Isabella gave her the castle of Galliana in 1484. The sisters followed the Cistercian rule, reciting the Office of the Blessed Virgin in addition. Beatriz died 1 Sept., 1490, at the age of sixty-six.
Through the influence of Ximnenes de Cisneros, the famous Archbishop of Toledo, the Conceptionists were subordinated to the Franciscans, and in 1501 they adopted the rules of the Order of Saint Clare, modified with the authorization of Alexander VI. Julius II sanctioned them anew in 1506; Quiñonez, provincial of the Franciscans of Castile, and later general of the entire order, drew up their constitution in 1516. The second convent was founded at Torrigo, another at Madrid in 1512, and one at Assisi in the same year. Maria Theresa of Austria, daughter of Philip IV of Spain, summoned them to the Faubourg Saint-Germain at Paris, where the Sisters of Saint Clare adopted their rules, which were again modified by a Brief of Clement X. The Conceptionists wear a white habit and scapular with a blue cloak, and an image of the Blessed Virgin on their habit. The celebrated Maria de Agreda (q. v ), author of "The Mystical City of God", was a Conceptionist. The Conceptionist congregation is at present spread widely throughout Spain and Belgium.
HÉLYOT, Hist. des ordres monastiques, VII, 334-39; WADDING, Annales Min. (Rome, 1736), XV, 451, XVI; HEIMBUCHER, Die Orden und Kongregationen der kath. Kirche (Paderborn, 1907), II, 488 sqq.; Acta Ordinis Min. (1907), XVI, 347 sqq.; Hist. abrégée de l'ordre de Ste Claire d'Assise (Lyons and Paris, 1906), II, 259 sqq.