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Elizabeth of Schonau, St.


Benedictine nun and mystic; b. in the Rhineland, perhaps near Bonn, Germany, 1129; d. Schönau, Hesse, June 18, 1164. She entered the double Benedictine monastery in Schönau at 12, was professed in 1147, and appointed mistress (superior) of the nun's convent in 1157. In 1152, after a serious illness, she had begun to experience extraordinary visions and ecstacies, of which her brother Egbert (see eckbert of schÖnau) commanded her to write detailed accounts. He published three books of her Visiones with a preface of his own and a chronological list of the visions and most important spiritual experiences. Her second work, the Liber viarum Dei, was written in imitation of the Scivias of St. hildegard. Both works reveal the controlling hand of Egbert, especially in matters of theology, Church discipline, and politics. Siding with frederick i barbarossa, Elizabeth [Egbert] supported the antipope Victor IV against alexander iii, violently denounced heretics and abuses in the Church, and addressed stern warnings and prophecies of doom to clergy and laity. Her bizarre elaboration of the already fantastic St. ursula legend (Visiones, 2.3), also probably the result of Egbert's influence, was enormously popular in the Middle Ages, as were all her visionary writings, although they were never sanctioned by the Church. Contemporary authorities testify to her sincerity, purity, and genuine zeal. Apparently through a confusion of the two monasteries in Schönau, Cistercian and Benedictine, her name was inscribed as a Cistercian in the Roman martyrology in 1584, under gregory xiii.

Feast: June 18.

Bibliography: elisabeth of schÖnau, Die Visionen der hl. Elisabeth von Schönau , ed. f. w. e. roth (Brünn 1884); Das Gebetbuch der hl. Elisabeth von Schönau, ed. f. w. e. roth (Augsburg 1886); Elisabeth of Schönau: The Complete Works, tr. a. l. clark (Mahwah, N.J. 2000). eckbert, Sanctae Elisabeth vita, Patrologia Latina, ed. j. p. migne, 217 v. (Paris 187890) 195: 119194. Acta Sanctorum June 4:499532; Oct. 9:167171. a. butler, The Lives of the Saints, ed. h. thurston and d. attwater (New York 1956) 2:578580. e. spiess, Ein Zeuge mittelalterlicher Mystik in der Schweiz (Basel 1935). w. oehl, Deutsche Mystikerbriefe (Munich 1931). w. levison, Das Werden der Ursula-Legende (Köln 1928).

[m. f. laughlin]

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