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Saint Elizabeth of Hungary

Saint Elizabeth was the daughter of King Andrew the II of Hungary and her noble ancestory went back all the way to Vladimir the Great. She was born on July 7th, 1207 in the castle of Sarospatak. At the early age of four, she was brought to Germany, to the court of of Thuringia and betrothed to Louis IV (also known as Ludwing IV) - the two were married in 1221 when Elizabeth was fourteen. Just two years later, she met with Franciscan friars who had recently moved into the town and began living the ideals of Saint Francis of Assisi. Louis initially supported Elizabeth in her endeavors of charity for the poor believing it would guarantee him a spot in heaven.

Two of the most famous miracles involving Saint Elizabeth happened during this time. Once, while giving away bread to the poor and needy in secret, he accidentally ran into her husband who was returning from a hunting party. Members of the court were concerned that she was stealing treasures from the castle to fund the charity work, and so to quell suspicions Louis asked her to open her cloak to prove she had not stolen anything. When she opened her cloak , white and red roses flowed from her cloak, a sign that God was protecting her and the work she was doing.

Another time, while her husband was away, she allowed a leper (Helias of Eisenach) to use the royal bed. Saint Elizabeth's mother in law was mortified that she allowed a leper to lay in the bed and so immediately called for Louis to return home. When he returned home, he went straight to the bed to rip off the bedsheets. The second he did he immediately saw a vision of Christ crucified laying on the bed.

During the spring of 1226, great floods and plagues came to the land of Thuringia. Elizabeth redoubled her efforts of charity, assisting in the building of a hospital below Wartburg Castle and giving away official state robes to the poor to keep them clothed while her husband was representing them at the Imperial Diet held in Cremona. Everything changed though, when on September 11, 1227, Louis died suddenly in Italy on his way to the join the Sixth Crusade. He wrote that day in her diary:

"He is dead. He is dead. It is to me as if the whole world died today."

A battle for the court broke out internally, with Louis' brother Henry Raspe taking regency while Elizabeth's oldest son Hermann was still a minor. Elizabeth would eventually move to Marburg in Hesse with the priest (and her confessor) Konrad von Marburg after a deep conflict over the disposal of her dowry. She took upon a vow of chastity and complete obedience to her confessor Konrad. Konrad was extremely strict to her, ordering harsher and harsher penances and punishments for her sins. When her uncle, the Bishop Ekbert of Bamberg attempted to seek a remarriage for her, she threatened to cut off her own nose to maintain her vows (so that suitors would no longer find her attractive). Her second child, Sophie of Thuringia married Henry II the Duke of Brabant and her third child would eventually become the abbess of Altenberg Abbey, Hesse.

Saint Elizabeth died in 1231 in Marburg. Shortly after her death, many healing miracles were attributed to her intercession and so the cause for canonization was opened extremely quickly with the examination booklet (Libellus de dictis quatuor ancillarum s. Elizabeth confectus) provided to Pope Gregory in 1235. Saint Elizabeth was formally canonized by Pope Gregory IX on May 24th, 1235. The Papal Bull that declared her a saint is on display today in Vienna Austria and her body that was laid in a golden shrine is also on display in Marburg. Philip I of Hesse during the Protestant reformation captured the church and in a raid had her bones dispersed to put an end to any pilgrimages to her shrine. Swedish troops in the Thirty Year's war plundered the reliquary chalice - it is now on display in Stockholm. Because the Teutonic Order used Marburg as it's main center, Saint Elizabeth became their secondary patroness.

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