Elizabeth of Hungary lived for just a brief time in the early thirteenth century, yet she experienced life like few others; she was a child, princess, mother, queen, widowed, exiled, and one of the most devout women to ever live. She maintained and balanced the roles of prospering sovereign and meek servant of God.
Saint Elizabeth was steadfast in her religion and commitment to the impoverished even after being banished by her in-laws in the years after her husband’s death. She was a remarkable woman who, in the early 1300s, lived for a little less than a quarter of a century yet had a greater influence on a whole nation than many individuals who lived twice as long as she lived.
Germans still refer to her as “dear St. Elizabeth,” and the Roman Catholic Church celebrates her feast day, November 17, in her honor.
The Life of Saint Elizabeth
Although she is commonly referred to as Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, she is more properly known as Elizabeth of Thuringia and Hesse because she married into the family line of the Thuringians from the Hesse region.
She was the second child of King Alexander II and Queen Gertrude of Hungary. She was born in 1207 in the fortress at Pressburg (present-day Bratislava, the capital city of Slovakia). Even at such a young age, the prospect of marriage loomed large in her life as a royal daughter. She was eventually betrothed to Landgrafin Hermann I of Thuringia after an offer was accepted.
Elizabeth was a remarkable young lady who devoted her life to serving God. She was a strong-willed, clever, and well-educated young woman who frequently performed penance, refused to attend Mass while wearing embroidered sleeves or gloves (because she considered them needless and tacky), and offered alms to the poor consistently. She entrusted her young life to the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist early and would frequently become absorbed in prayer.
The Youth of Saint Elizabeth
Elizabeth got married when she was between the ages of thirteen and fourteen when most adolescents her age are off having fun and getting into mischief. Since Hermann I passed away on December 31, 1216, she married his brother, Ludwig. It turned out to be a successful pairing.
Ludwig was a compassionate spouse who had a profound affection for his wife. He was kind and careful not to abuse his power. Because of this, their ideas and personal morals were completely aligned with one another, as his ultimate purpose was to serve God.
As he had done throughout his life, Ludwig devoted his reign to carry out the will of God. He went to Italy as a ruler to represent the empire and the emperor there. During his departure, he entrusted Elizabeth with managing his household and money.
Saint Elizabeth’s Marriage With Ludwig
Elizabeth was entrusted with managing his household and money while he was gone. She was also responsible for distributing alms over the entire area, which included state robes and ornaments. In addition to this, she established a medical facility with twenty-eight beds just below the Wartburg and made daily trips there to see to the requirements of the patients.
After spending only a short time back in Germany the next year, Ludwig once again embarked on a journey, this time joining Emperor Frederick II on a crusade that took them to Palestine. He passed away not long after departing for Palestine on September 11, 1227, on his way to participate in the fight for God against those who did not believe in him.
As a result, Elizabeth became a widow at twenty, taking care of her three children alone. Her loss of her devoted husband left her in profound anguish. Despite this, she prayed to God for help and received it in the form of advice from Caesarius of Speyer. In 1225, she constructed a convent for the Franciscan order in Eisenach, filled with renewed optimism.
Trouble In The Horizon
Trouble, on the other hand, was not far behind. Elizabeth relocated to Marburg in 1227 after deciding that, for ethical grounds, she needed to abandon her residence at Wartburg. Heinrich Raspe, Ludwig’s brother, was a terrible and harsh individual compared to his brother. He intended to supply her with just enough to sustain her each day but nothing beyond that.
She did not accept these terms, and in the end, his inconsiderate and uncooperative behavior was what drove her out of Warburg. Without extra money, she could not provide for the less fortunate people in the community, and her conscience would not let her act without regard for the feelings of others.
On the Friday before Easter in 1228, she sought sanctuary with the Franciscans at Eisenach and found it there. Here, she decided to give up all of her worldly goods and joined the Third Order of St. Francis, becoming one of Germany’s first tertiaries.
In the summer of 1228, she finished the construction of the Franciscan hospital in Marburg, which was her final deed in the broader world. After that, she committed completely to helping the needy and the sick, particularly those in the most desperate situations. She passed away just a few years later when she was twenty-four.
Canonization of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, also known as Saint Elizabeth of Thuringia, is the first time a royal Franciscan tertiary has been accomplished.
Elizabeth of Hungary passed away when she was just twenty-four years old, and with her passing, the world mourned one of the most devout women who had ever lived.
Elizabeth passed away on November 17, 1231, at the age of twenty-four, most likely because she was worn out by her austerities and her near continual engagement with the sick. Soon after she was laid to rest, miracles were credited to her intercession, and testimony to her sanctity was gathered rapidly that she was canonized by the pope barely four years after she passed away.
She was known for her kindness and generosity toward others, as well as her unwavering commitment to carrying out the will of God. Her fame spread rapidly, and most of her devotees may be found in areas around Germany and Hungary.
The historical distance that today’s culture has from the 12th century has contributed to a drop in Elizabeth’s popularity. Still, she is remembered today for her many acts of charity and selflessness.
The Miracles of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary
While she was alive, St. Elizabeth experienced multiple miracles.
The “miracle” of the roses is one of the best-known examples. The story of Elizabeth and the roses is one of the most well-known tales about her, and it is frequently portrayed in art. The scene depicts her unexpectedly running into her husband while she is on a covert mission to distribute bread to the needy.
The story goes that he asks her what she has concealed under her cloak to disprove the rumors that she was looting from the castle. After she disclosed her burden, the loaves of bread suddenly transformed into roses. This convinced Ludwig that God was active in his wife’s life and inspired him to give to charity.
Elizabeth’s care for Helias of Eisenach, a leper, was yet another amazing event in her lifetime. She put the sick person in the bed she and her husband slept in. Her mother-in-law was appalled and told Ludwig about it when he arrived home. As Ludwig was about to throw away the bedsheets, he noticed that the leper had been replaced with a crucifixion-like image of Christ.