Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231)

She was the daughter of King Andrew II of Hungary and, at the age of fourteen, married the landgrave of Thuringia, Ludwig IV.  The marriage had been arranged for political reasons, but it was also a love match, and the couple lived in great contentment with one another for six years.  Their home was at the Wartburg castle, near Eisenach, and they had three children.  Then, in 1227, Ludwig went to join the Crusaders assembling in Apulia, and died suddenly at Otranto.  (In parts of Germany, he is popularly called St. Ludwig).  We are told that, when the news reached Elizabeth, she ran through the castle, shrieking crazily.  What followed is a matter of some uncertainty.  It is commonly said that, in the depth of winter, with a baby at her breast, she was turned out of Wartburg castle by her brother-in-law.  In any case, having provided for her children, a few months later she formally renounced the world, put on the dress of the third order of St. Francis, and devoted herself to the care of the poor and sick at Marburg, in Hesse.

Elizabeth had, also, put herself wholly under the direction of her confessor, Master Conrad of Marburg, a learned and able man but, on the kindest and most simple showing, one of deplorable insensitivity.  He overshadowed the closing years of St. Elizabeth’s short life.  His treatment of her was ruthless, at times brutal, and she admitted how much she feared him.  But his methods did not break her spirit.  She was humble and obedient, and bowed before every storm.  And, after it had passed, she straightened up, strong and unhurt, like grass after heavy rain (the comparison is her own).  Until her health failed, St. Elizabeth was tireless in serving the wants of those in need.  The princess who made garments for them went fishing to get them food.  She has ever been one of the most loved saints of the German people.  [She died at 24.]

From: The Penguin Dictionary of Saints by Donald Attwater (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1965), p. 113.


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