Patron of bakers, beggars, brides, charities, death of children and Patronness of the Secular Franciscan Order, (together with Saint Louise, King of France).
St. Elizabeth of Hungary, also known as St. Elizabeth of Thuringia, was born in Hungary on July 7, 1207 to the Hungarian King Andrew II and Gertrude of Merania.
As soon as her life began, she had responsibilities from being a royal pressed upon her. While Elizabeth was very young, her father arranged for her to be married to Ludwig IV of Thuringia, a German nobleman. Because of this plan, Elizabeth was sent away at the age of four for education at the court of the Landgrave of Thuringia.
Elizabeth's mother, Gertrude, was murdered in 1213, when Elizabeth was just six-years-old. According to history, the murder was carried out by Hungarian noblemen due to the conflict between Germans and the Hungarian nobles. From this point on, Elizabeth's perspective on life and death dramatically changed and she sought peace with prayer.
Happiness was returned to her young life in 1221 when she was formally married to Ludwig, whom she deeply loved. Together the couple had three beautiful children, two of whom became members of nobility and the third entering the religious life, becoming abbess of a German convent.
Elizabeth continued to live a life full of prayer and a service to the poor. Ludwig, who was now one of the rulers of Thuringia, supported all of Elizabeth's religious endeavors even though she was a part of the royal court. She began to lead an austerely simple life, practiced penance, and devoted herself to works of charity. She used her royal position to advance her mission for charity.
In 1223, Franciscan friars arrived in Thuringia and taught 16-year-old Elizabeth all about Francis of Assisi's ideals. She then forth decided to live her life mirroring his.
She wore simple clothing and set aside time every day to take bread to hundreds of poor people in her land. Ludwig and Elizabeth were politically powerful and lived with a remarkable generosity toward the poor.
In 1226, when disease and floods struck Thuringia, Elizabeth took to caring for the victims. It is said she even gave away the royal's clothing and goods to the afflicted people. Elizabeth had a hospital built and provided for almost a thousand poor people daily.
Elizabeth's life was full of love and faith. However, tragedy struck when Ludwig passed away from illness in 1227. It is said upon hearing the news, she said, "He is dead. He is dead. It is to me as if the whole world died today." His remains were entombed at the Abbey of Reinhardsbrunn.
Elizabeth vowed to never remarry and to live a life similar to a nun, despite pressure from relatives.
Her vows included celibacy and an agreement of complete obedience to her confessor and spiritual director, Master Conrad of Marburg. His treatment of Elizabeth was very strict and often harsh. He held her to a standard that many saw as impossible to meet. He provided physical beatings and sent away her children. However, she continued to keep her vow, even offering to cut off her own nose, so she woud be too ugly for any man to want.
In 1228, Elizabeth joined the Third Order of St. Francis. Elizabeth, having received her dowry, founded a hospital in honor of St. Francis, where she personally attended to the ill. She ministered to the sick and provided support to the poor.
Elizabeth's life was consumed deeply by her devotion to God and her charitable labor. She passed away at the age of 24, on November 17, 1231 in Marburg, Hesse.
St. Elizabeth has been praised by Pope Benedict XVI as a "model for those in authority."