St. Elisabeth of Hungary (1207 - 17 November 1231) was the daughter of King Andrew II of Hungary (1175-1235) and his wife Gertrude of Andechs-Meran (murdered 1213), and because she was widowed, relinquished her wealth to the poor, and built hospitals, is the patron saint of hospitals, nurses, bakers, brides, countesses, dying children, exiles, hobos, homeless people, lacemakers, and widows, and is a symbol of Christian charity.
Her feast day is 17 November (formerly 19 November).
As an infant she was betrothed to a son of Hermann I, Landgrave of Thuringia, and was raised with his family.
When her betrothed died in 1216, she became engaged to his brother, Ludwig IV of Thuringia, and they were married in 1221. The marriage appears to have been happy: Ludwig was not upset by the distribution of his wealth but rather believed that his wife's charitable efforts using his money enhanced his chances of eternal reward. But Ludwig died on 11 September 1227 of plague at Otranto, Italy en route to the Sixth Crusade.
With Ludwig's death, his brother Henry assumed the regency, and Elisabeth and her three children were turned out. She joined the Third Order of St. Francis, a lay Franciscan group. She built a hospice at Marburg for the poor and sick and put herself under the spiritual direction of the Dominican inquisitor Konrad von Marburg, who was harsh and severe and often beat her.
Elizabeth died, either from physical fatigue or from disease, only 24 years old, in Marburg. She was canonized by Pope Gregory IX in 1235. Her body was enshrined in a magnificent golden shrine - still to be seen today - in a church in Marburg which was named for her (it is now a Protestant church, but with Catholic spaces for worship). Marburg then also became the center of the Teutonic Order, whose second patroness St. Elisabeth became, and who should stay in Marburg until its dissolution by Napoleon in 1803. Due to the cult of St. Elizabeth, Marburg became one of the 4-5 main centers of Pilgrimage of the 14th and early 15th century. During the 15th century, the popular cult of St. Elizabeth slowly faded, but it was so some extent replaced by an aristocratic one.
Elisabeth-Kirche in Marburg
Three hundred years after her death, one of Elisabeth's descendants, the Landgrave Philip "the Magnanimous" of Hesse, one of the leaders of the Protestant reformation and of the most important allies of Martin Luther, raided the church and demanded the surrender of Elisabeth's bones from the knights, in order to disperse the relics and thus to end the (by then rather meagre) pilgrimages to Marburg.
Skull reliquary of St. Elisabeth
Philipp also took the crowned agate chalice in which St. Elizabeth's head rested but had to give it back after being enjailed by the Emperor. It was subsequently taken as war booty by Swedish troops during the Thirty Years War, was never returned, and is today to be seen in the National Museum in Stockholm. The skull and some of her bones are displayed in Vienna's Convent of St. Elizabeth; there are also some relics in the shrine in St. Elizabeth in Marburg today.