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St. Ferdinand III

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King of Leon and Castile, member of the Third Order of St. Francis, born in 1198 near Salamanca; died at Seville, 30 May, 1252. He was the son of Alfonso IX, King of Leon, and of Berengeria, the daughter of Alfonso III, King of Castile, and sister of Blanche, the mother of St. Louis IX.

In 1217 Ferdinand became King of Castile, which crown his mother renounced in his favour, and in 1230 he succeeded to the crown of Leon, though not without civil strife, since many were opposed to the union of the two kingdoms. He took as his counsellors the wisest men in the State, saw to the strict administration of justice, and took the greatest care not to overburden his subjects with taxation, fearing, as he said, the curse of one poor woman more than a whole army of Saracens. Following his mother's advice, Ferdinand, in 1219, married Beatrice, the daughter of Philip of Swabia, King of Germany, one of the most virtuous princesses of her time. God blessed this union with seven children: six princes and one princess. The highest aims of Ferdinand's life were the propagation of the Faith and the liberation of Spain from the Saracen yoke. Hence his continual wars against the Saracens. He took from them vast territories, Granada and Alicante alone remaining in their power at the time of his death. In the most important towns he founded bishoprics, reestablished Catholic worship everywhere, built churches, founded monasteries, and endowed hospitals. The greatest joys of his life were the conquests of Cordova (1236) and Seville (1248). He turned the great mosques of these places into cathedrals, dedicating them to the Blessed Virgin. He watched over the conduct of his soldiers, confiding more in their virtue than in their valour, fasted strictly himself, wore a rough hairshirt, and often spent his nights in prayer, especially before battles. Amid the tumult of the camp he lived like a religious in the cloister. The glory of the Church and the happiness of his people were the two guiding motives of his life. He founded the University of Salamanca, the Athens of Spain. Ferdinand was buried in the great cathedral of Seville before the image of the Blessed Virgin, clothed, at his own request, in the habit of the Third Order of St. Francis. His body, it is said, remains incorrupt. Many miracles took place at his tomb, and Clement X canonized him in 1671. His feast is kept by the Minorites on the 30th of May.

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