Friday, July 22, 2011


Born July 7, 1207(1207-07-07)Pressburg, Kingdom of Hungary (modern-day Bratislava,
Died November 17, 1231(1231-11-17) (aged 24)Marburg, Landgraviate of Thuringia, Holy Roman
Empire (modern-day Hesse, Germany)
Canonized May 28, 1235, Perugia, Italy by Pope Gregory IX

Feast:- November 17

Also called St. Elizabeth of Thuringia, born in Hungary, Elisabeth of Hungary (German:
Heilige Elisabeth von Thüringen, Hungarian: Árpád-házi Szent Erzsébet, July 7, 1207 –
November 17, 1231probably at Pressburg, 1207; died at Marburg, Hesse, 17 November (not 19
November), 1231.
She was a daughter of King Andrew II of Hungary (1205-35) and his wife Gertrude, a member
of the family of the Counts of Andechs-Meran; Elizabeth's brother succeeded his father on
the throne of Hungary as Bela IV; the sister of her mother, Gertrude, was St. Hedwig, wife
of Duke Heinrich I, the Bearded, of Silesia, while another saint, St. Elizabeth (Isabel) of
Portugal (d. 1336), the wife of the tyrannical King Diniz of that country, was her
In 1211 a formal embassy was sent by Landgrave Hermann I of Thuringia to Hungary to
arrange, as was customary in that age, a marriage between his eldest son Hermann and
Elizabeth, who was then four years old. This plan of a marriage was the result of political
considerations and was intended to be the ratification of a great alliance which in the
political schemes of the time it was sought to form against the German Emperor Otto IV, a
member of the house of Guelph, who had quarrelled with the Church. Not long after this the
little girl was taken to the Thuringian court to be brought up with her future husband and,
in the course of time, to be betrothed to him.
The court of Thuringia was at this period famous for its magnificence. Its centre was the
stately castle of the Wartburg, splendidly placed on a hill in the Thuringian Forest near
Eisenach, where the Landgrave Hermann lived surrounded by poets and minnesingers, to whom
he was a generous patron. Notwithstanding the turbulence and purely secular life of the
court and the pomp of her surroundings, the little girl grew up a very religious child with
an evident inclination to prayer and pious observances and small acts of
self-mortification. These religious impulses were undoubtedly strengthened by the sorrowful
experiences of her life.
In 1213 Elizabeth's mother, Gertrude, was murdered by Hungarian nobles, probably out of
hatred of the Germans. On 31 December, 1216, the oldest son of the landgrave, Hermann, who
Elizabeth was to marry, died; after this she was betrothed to Ludwig, the second son. It
was probably in these years that Elizabeth had to suffer the hostility of the more
frivolous members of the Thuringian court, to whom the contemplative and pious child was a
constant rebuke. Ludwig, however, must have soon come to her protection against any
ill-treatment. The legend that arose later is incorrect in making Elizabeth's
mother-in-law, the Landgravine Sophia, a member of the reigning family of Bavaria, the
leader of this court party. On the contrary, Sophia was a very religious and charitable
woman and a kindly mother to the little Elizabeth.
The political plans of the old Landgrave Hermann involved him in great difficulties and
reverses; he was excommunicated, lost his mind towards the end of his life, and died, 25
April, 1217, unreconciled with the Church. He was succeeded by his son Ludwig IV, who, in
1221, was also made regent of Meissen and the East Mark. The same year (1221) Ludwig and
Elizabeth were married, the groom being twenty-one years old and the bride fourteen. The
marriage was in every regard a happy and exemplary one, and the couple were devotedly
attached to each other. Ludwig proved himself worthy of his wife. He gave his protection to
her acts of charity, penance, and her vigils, and often held Elizabeth's hands as she knelt
praying at night beside his bed. He was also a capable ruler and brave soldier. The Germans
call him St. Ludwig, an appellation given to him as one of the best men of his age and the
pious husband of St. Elizabeth.
They had three children: Hermann II (1222-41), who died young; Sophia (1224-84), who
married Henry II, Duke of Brabant, and was the ancestress of the Landgraves of Hesse, as in
the war of the Thuringian succession she won Hesse for her son Heinrich I, called the
Child; Gertrude (1227-97), Elizabeth's third child, was born several weeks after the death
of her father; in after-life she became abbess of the convent of Altenberg near Wetzlar.
Shortly after their marriage, Elizabeth and Ludwig made a journey to Hungary; Ludwig was
often after this employed by the Emperor Frederick II, to whom he was much attached, in the
affairs of the empire. In the spring of 1226, when floods, famine, and the pest wrought
havoc in Thuringia, Ludwig was in Italy attending the Diet at Cremona on behalf of the
emperor and the empire. Under these circumstances Elizabeth assumed control of affairs,
distributed alms in all parts of the territory of her husband, giving even state robes and
ornaments to the poor. In order to care personally for the unfortunate she built below the
Wartburg a hospital with twenty-eight beds and visited the inmates daily to attend to their
wants; at the same time she aided nine hundred poor daily. It is this period of her life
that has preserved Elizabeth's fame to posterity as the gentle and charitable chételaine of
the Wartburg. Ludwig on his return confirmed all she had done. The next year (1227) he
started with the Emperor Frederick II on a crusade to Palestine but died, 11 September of
the same year at Otranto, from the pest. The news did not reach Elizabeth until October,
just after she had given birth to her third child. On hearing the tidings Elizabeth, who
was only twenty years old, cried out: "The world with all its joys is now dead to me."
The fact that in 1221 the followers of St. Francis of Assisi (d. 1226) made their first
permanent settlement in Germany was one of great importance in the later career of
Elizabeth. Brother Rodeger, one of the first Germans whom the provincial for Germany,
Caesarius of Speier, received into the order, was for a time the spiritual instructor of
Elizabeth at the Wartburg; in his teachings he unfolded to her the ideals of St. Francis,
and these strongly appealed to her. With the aid of Elizabeth the Franciscans in 1225
founded a monastery in Eisenach; Brother Rodeger, as his fellow-companion in the order,
Jordanus, reports, instructed Elizabeth, to observe, according to her state of life,
chastity, humility, patience, the exercise of prayer, and charity. Her position prevented
the attainment of the other ideal of St. Francis, voluntary and complete poverty. Various
remarks of Elizabeth to her female attendants make it clear how ardently she desired the
life of poverty.
After a while the post Brother Rodeger had filled was assumed by Master Conrad of Marburg,
who belonged to no order, but was a very ascetic and, it must be acknowledged, a somewhat
rough and very severe man. He was well known as a preacher of the crusade and also as an
inquisitor or judge in cases of heresy. On account of the latter activity he has been more
severely judged than is just; at the present day, however, the estimate of him is a fairer
one. Pope Gregory IX, who wrote at times to Elizabeth, recommended her himself to the
God-fearing preacher. Conrad treated Elizabeth with inexorable severity, even using
corporal means of correction; nevertheless, he brought her with a firm hand by the road of
self-mortification to sanctity, and after her death was very active in her canonization.
Although he forbade her to follow St. Francis in complete poverty as a beggar, yet, on the
other hand, by the command to keep her dower she was enabled to perform works of charity
and tenderness.
Up to 1888 it was believed, on account of the testimony of one of Elizabeth's servants in
the process of canonization, that Elizabeth was driven from the Wartburg in the winter of
1227 by her brother-in-law, Heinrich Raspe, who acted as regent for her son, then only five
years old. About 1888 various investigators (Börner, Mielke, Wenck, E. Michael, etc.)
asserted that Elizabeth left the Wartburg voluntarily, the only compulsion being a moral
one. She was not able at the castle to follow Conrad's command to eat only food obtained in
a way that was certainly right and proper. Lately, however, Huyskens (1907) tried to prove
that Elizabeth was driven from the castle at Marburg in Hesse, which was hers by dower
right. Consequently, the Te Deum that she directed the Franciscans to sing on the night of
her expulsion would have been sung in the Franciscan monastery at Marburg. Accompanied by
two female attendants, Elizabeth left the castle that stands on a height commanding
Marburg. The next day her children were brought to her, but they were soon taken elsewhere
to be cared for.
Elizabeth's aunt, Matilda, Abbess of the Benedictine nunnery of Kitzingen near Würzburg,
took charge of the unfortunate landgravine and sent her to her uncle Eckbert, Bishop of
Bamberg. The bishop, however, was intent on arranging another marriage for her, although
during the lifetime of her husband Elizabeth had made a vow of continence in case of his
death; the same vow had also been taken by her attendants.
While Elizabeth was maintaining her position against her uncle the remains of her husband
were brought to Bamberg by his faithful followers who had carried them from Italy. Weeping
bitterly, she buried the body in the family vault of the landgraves of Thuringia in the
monastery of Reinhardsbrunn. With the aid of Conrad she now received the value of her dower
in money, namely two thousand marks; of this sum she divided five hundred marks in one day
among the poor. On Good Friday, 1228, in the Franciscan house at Eisenach Elizabeth
formally renounced the world; then going to Master Conrad at Marburg, she and her maids
received from him the dress of the Third Order of St. Francis, thus being among the first
tertiaries of Germany. In the summer of 1228 she built the Franciscan hospital at Marburg
and on its completion devoted herself entirely to the care of the sick, especially to those
afflicted with the most loathsome diseases. Conrad of Marburg still imposed many
self-mortifications and spiritual renunciations, while at the same time he even took from
Elizabeth her devoted domestics. Constant in her devotion to God, Elizabeth's strength was
consumed by her charitable labours, and she passed away at the age of twenty-four, a time
when life to most human beings is just opening.
Very soon after the death of Elizabeth miracles began to be worked at her grave in the
church of the hospital, especially miracles of healing. Master Conrad showed great zeal in
advancing the process of canonization. By papal command three examinations were held of
those who had been healed: namely, in August, 1232, January, 1233, and January, 1235.
Before the process reached its end, however, Conrad was murdered, 30 July, 1233. But the
Teutonic Knights in 1233 founded a house at Marburg, and in November, 1234, Conrad,
Landgrave of Thuringia, the brother-in-law of Elizabeth, entered the order. At Pentecost
(28 May) of the year 1235, the solemn ceremony of canonization of the "greatest woman of
the German Middle Ages" was celebrated by Gregory IX at Perugia, Landgrave Conrad being
present. In August of the same year (1235) the corner-stone of the beautiful Gothic church
of St. Elizabeth was laid at Marburg; on 1 May, 1236, Emperor Frederick II attended the
taking-up of the body of the saint; in 1249 the remains were placed in the choir of the
church of St. Elizabeth, which was not consecrated until 1283.
Pilgrimages to the grave soon increased to such importance that at times they could be
compared to those to the shrine of Santiago de Compostela. In 1539 Philip the Magnanimous,
Landgrave of Hesse, who had become a Protestant, put an end to the pilgrimages by
unjustifiable interference with the church that belonged to the Teutonic Order and by
forcibly removing the relics and all that was sacred to Elizabeth. Nevertheless, the entire
German people still honour the "dear St. Elizabeth" as she is called; in 1907 a new impulse
was given to her veneration in Germany and Austria by the celebration of the seven
hundredth anniversary of her birth.
St. Elizabeth is generally represented as a princess graciously giving alms to the wretched
poor or as holding roses in her lap; in the latter case she is portrayed either alone or as
surprised by her husband, who, according to a legend, which is, however, related of other
saints as well, met her unexpectedly as she went secretly on an errand of mercy, and, so
the story runs, the bread she was trying to conceal was suddenly turned into roses.

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