Saint Elizabeth of Hungary
Daughter of King Andrew II and Gertrude
Saint Elizabeth of Hungary was the daughter of King Andrew II and his queen, Gertrude. When not yet four years of age, Elizabeth was betrothed to Louis, son of Hermann, landgrave of Thuringia, to whom she was married in 1221. Though Elizabeth was only fourteen she was already distinguished for her piety and tender pity for the poor.
Her husband, with whom she lived happily, did not oppose her excessive charities. In 1223 her first child was born, and each of her four children she dedicated to God from infancy. During her husband’s absence in Italy in 1226, a dreadful famine devastated Thuringia. Elizabeth did everything that was possible for the relief of the poor and suffering, and nursed the sick and dying with the utmost tenderness. Every day nine hundred persons were fed in the courtyard of the castle, and countless instances were cited of her boundless generosity and thoughtfulness.
She also founded a hospital near the castle, which in 1331, a hundred years after her death, was replaced by a convent, founded in her honor. The district still hears the name of the “Valley of Elizabeth,” and a well of pure water where the duchess was wont to wash the clothes of the poor, bears her name to this day.
The following year, in 1227, Louis died while on the way to the holy land, and Elizabeth, in her grief retired to Maryburg, which had been conceded to her for life with all its privileges and revenues, in order to be under the immediate guidance of her confessor, Conrad of Marburg. She joined the Franciscans, wore the poorest dress and lived on the scantiest food, spending all her income in works of charity. Here she built a hospital which she visited every day, nursing the patients, and attending to those afflicted with loathsome diseases.
At Conrad’s behest she gave up her children, dismissed her friends, and so far submitted to him as to receive physical chastisement at his hands.
In 1231 when she was but twenty-four, she died of a fever, her body was carried to the small chapel of St. Francis, and after four days she was buried there in the presence of an immense crowd of people. It is said that many wonderful cures were accomplished at her tomb; the blind, the halt, and those afflicted with diseases were healed by touching it, and by prayers to the good saint.
Elizabeth belongs to the sweetest female characters of the Middle Ages. With a loving heart, capable as well as desirous of absolute devotion, she early felt the drawing from on high and followed it, with a life of deep and sincere piety.
In 1907 a new impulse was given to her veneration in various parts of Europe 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; the latter case she is portrayed either alone or as a surprised by her husband, who, according to legend, 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.
Reference: Famous Women; An Outline of Feminine Achievement Through the Ages With Life Stories of Five Hundred Noted Women By Joseph Adelman. Copyright, 1926 by Ellis M. Lonow Company.