Elizabeth, Saint

Elizabeth, Saint of Thuringia, was a daughter of king Andrew II, of Hungary, and was born at Pressburg in 1207. When only four years old she was destined by her father to become the wife of Ludwig, oldest son of landgrave Hermann of Thuringia. She was immediately sent to the court of the landgrave, at the Wartburg; for her education, and on her arrival was betrothed to Ludwig. She early showed a remarkable inclination for ascetic exercises. Several efforts were on that account made to have her sent back to her father, but Ludwig, who in 1215 succeeded his father as landgrave, refused to dismiss her, and in 1221 married her. As landgravine she continued her ascetic manners, and refused all the comforts of life. At the same time, she was indefatigable in all works of charity. She spun and sowed garments for the poor, and, at the time of a famine, fed as many as 900 people daily. Her confessor, Konrad von Marburg, not only encouraged her asceticism, but made her vow absolute obedience, and that, in the case of her husband's death, she would not marry again. Ludwig died in 1227, at Otranto, while taking part in the crusade of emperor Friedrich II. In consequence of the opposition of her mother-in-law Sophia, and most of the members of the family, as well as the courtiers generally, Elizabeth was deprived of the regency during the minority of her oldest son, and her brother-in-law, Heinrich Raspe, assumed the administration of the landgravate. Soon Elizabeth, with her son Hermann, and her two daughters, was expelled from the Wartburg, and for a time had to beg in the streets of Eisenach for the necessaries of life. At length she found a refuge at one of the castles of her maternal uncle, the bishop of Bamberg. Repeated offers of a second marriage (even, it is said, from the emperor Friedrich), which were made to her she refused. When the knights who had accompanied her husband returned from the crusade, they compelled Heinrich Raspe to restore to Elizabeth the Wartburg, and the revenue to which she could lay claim as the widow of the landgrave. Subsequently Heinrich gave her the town of Marburg, with a number of adjoining villages, and an annual income of 500 marks in silver. Elizabeth took up her residence at Marburg in 1229, and again devoted her whole time to asceticism and benevolence. Her confessor Konrad not only continued to be very severe, but several times was even guilty of acts of great cruelty with regard to her. Nevertheless, she declined an invitation from her father to return to him. Exhausted by her ascetic life, she died in a hospital which had been erected by her, November 19, 1231. The fame of her ascetic life had already pervaded all Europe, and, as was usual in such cases, the people soon ascribed to her relics a number of miracles, about the details of which there is, however, the greatest discrepancy, among the contemporaneous writers, showing how little they rested on careful investigation. No longer than four years after her death, in 1235, she was canonized by pope Gregory IX. In 1236 her relics were transferred with great solemnity to a new church (St. Elizabeth's) which landgrave Konrad erected at Marburg. The emperor Friedrich II placed a golden crown on the head of the saint, and an immense crowd ,of people, estimated at 200,000, came to see the relics while exhibited to public view. After the Reformation, landgrave Philip, in order not to countenance the veneration of relics, had them removed from the church; subsequently the Teutonic knights obtained permission to send them to various Roman Catholic churches and convents. Her head is preserved in the church of St. Elizabeth at Breslau. — See Herzog, Real- Encyklop. 3:767; Wetzer und Welte, Kirch.-Lex. 3:531; Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Generale, 15:875; Justi, Elisabeth die Heilige (Zurich, 1797, 2d ed. Marb. 1835); Schmerbauch, Elisabeth die Heilige (Erfurt, 1828); Montalembert, Vie de St. Elisabeth (Par. 1835); Simon, Ludwig IV und s. Gemahlin, die heil. Elisab. (Frankf. 1854); Kahnis, Die heil. Elis. in Zeitschriftfur histor. Theol. 1868. SEE KONRAD VON MARBURG. (A.J.S.) Elizabethines.

(1.) Associations of women whose object it was to imitate the ascetic life and the benevolent zeal of Elizabeth (q.v.) of Thuringia. They did not retire from the world, and only met for prayer and some ascetic exercises.

(2.) A branch of nuns of the third order of St. Francis, so called after Elizabeth of Hungary, who, after the death of her husband, is said to have joined of the third order of St. Francis. Modern writers on monastic orders generally doubt or deny the report that Elizabeth ever was a member of the third order of Franciscans, but the name Elizabethines is still in use to designate Franciscan nuns of the third order. In France they have also been designated by the name of Scaurs or Filles de la Misisericorde (Sisters of Charity). The real foundress of the monastic community is said to have been Angelina di Corbaro, daughter of the count of Corbaro and Tisigniano. She was born in 1377, married the count de Civitelle, with whom she lived as a sister, and immediately after the death of her husband (1393) joined the third order of Franciscans. She founded the first monastery of Franciscan Tertiarians in 1395 at Foligno. In 1428 the monasteries of this order were organized into a congregation, which was authorized to elect at the triennial conventions ("Chapters General") a general. In 1459 the congregation was placed under the general of the Franciscan Observants. In the middle of the 16th century the Elizabethines had 135 monasteries and 3872 nuns. In 1843 the number of members was estimated at 1000. — Helyot, Dict. des Ordres Relig. (ed. Migne), 2:144; Fehr, Geschichte der Monchsorden, 1:275. (A.J.S.)

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