Saturday, November 17, 2012

St Elizabeth of Hungary

Esteban Murillo - St Elizabeth of Hungary

St. Elizabeth was born in Bratislava, a Kingdom of Hungary in 1207, the daughter of Alexander II, King of Hungary. At the age of four she was sent for education to the court of the Landgrave of Thuringia, and within a few years she was betrothed to his son, Ludwig. As she grew in age, her piety also increased by leaps and bounds. In 1221, aged 14, she married Ludwig of Thuringia, the same year that he was crowned Ludwig IV, and the marriage appears to have been happy. In 1223, Franciscan monks arrived, and the teenage Elizabeth not only learned about the ideals of Francis of Assisi, but started to live these ideals. Ludwig was not upset by his wife's charitable efforts, believing that the distribution of his wealth to the poor would bring eternal reward; he is venerated in Thuringia as a saint, though not canonized by the church as his wife is. In spite of Elizabeth’s position at court she began to lead an austerely simple life, practiced penance, and devoted herself to works of charity.
Painting in the church at Kosd, Hungary

Her husband was himself much inclined to religion and highly esteemed her virtue, encouraging her in her exemplary life. They had three children, Hermann, Sophia and Gertrude. Then tragedy struck - Ludwig was killed while fighting with the Crusaders. After his death, Elizabeth left the court, made arrangements for the care of her children, and in 1228, renounced the world, becoming a tertiary of St. Francis. Her family wanted her to re-marry, but she made a vow of celibacy and never married. She built the Franciscan hospital at Marburg, Germany and devoted herself to the care of the sick until her death at the young age of 24 in 1231. St. Elizabeth is frequently pictured distributing bread to the needy in her community, and thus is the patron saint of bakers, countesses, the homeless, nursing services, widows, and young brides. She was canonized in 1235, just 4 years after her death.

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