Elizabeth of Hungary (Thuringia), St.
ELIZABETH OF HUNGARY (THURINGIA), ST.
Hungarian princess, Franciscan penitent, patroness of secular and regular Franciscans; b. 1207; d. Nov. 16/17, 1231. Elizabeth was the daughter of King Andrew II of Hungary and Queen Gertrude. Her sister Mary would marry Asen II, the king of Bulgaria. Her brother Béla would eventually become the king of Hungary. Her maternal aunt was Queen Hedwig of Poland and her first cousin on her father's side was Agnes of Bohemia with whom St. Clare of Assisi corresponded and who is known in these extant letters as Agnes of Prague. Among her other maternal relatives were Mathilda, the abbess of Kitzingen-on-Main, and Eckbert, the bishop of Bamberg. In 1211, at the age of four, she was betrothed to Ludwig IV of Thuringia, son of Duke Hermann and Duchess So >phie of Bavaria. At that time she was brought to the castle in Thuringia, the Wartburg, near Eisenach. There she was raised with her intended husband and his siblings. In 1221, Elizabeth and Ludwig were married. She was fourteen and he twenty. They had three children: a boy, Hermann (1222), and two girls, Sophia (1224) and Gertrude (1227). Ludwig died in 1227 as he was embarking for the Holy Land. Elizabeth died four years later. Pope Gregory IX canonized her in Perugia on May 27, 1235.
Elizabeth's initial contact with Franciscan spirituality dates from 1221 when the friars successfully settled in Germany. Contact with them and a Brother Rodeger, her personal spiritual director for a time, helped develop her sensitivities and dedication in providing food for the poor and hungry and her care for the sick. She built two hospitals, one near Wartburg castle and the other in the town of Marburg. These works of mercy were hallmark activities of the early sisters and brothers of the Order of Penance. Desiring a life of voluntary poverty and humility and anxious for personal involvement in these works of mercy, she was clothed in the grey habit of the Franciscan penitents on Good Friday of 1228. Sometime before her husband's death, Conrad of Marburg took over the role of her spiritual guide. Some few letters from Conrad as well as excerpts from the process of canonization form the nucleus of the earliest records of Elizabeth's life.
Feast: Nov. 17.
St. Elizabeth of Hungary.
Bibliography: j. ancelet-hustache, Gold Tried by Fire: Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, tr. p. j. oligny and v. o'donnell (Chicago 1963). b. cazelles, The Lady as Saint: A Collection of French Hagiographic Romances of the Thirteenth Century (Philadelphia 1991) 52–171. r. manselli, "Royal Holiness in the Daily Life of Elizabeth of Hungary: The Testimony of Her Servants," tr. e. hagmann. Greyfriars Review 11 (1997) 311–330. g. schinelli, "Elizabeth of Hungary: Medieval Princess or Sharper Image?" The Cord 50 (2000), 281–288.