Saint Elizabeth of Hungary: The Iconography

In the town of Marburg, Germany, the burial of St. Elizabeth, Widow, daughter of King Andrew of Hungary and member of the Third Order of St. Francis. She went to the Lord earnest and assiduous in acts of piety and renowned for her miracles. – Roman Martyrology for November 19

St. Elizabeth, daughter of the King of Hungary and wife of the Landgrave of Thuringia, was a Franciscan tertiary (Butler, IV, 388). The Golden Legend emphasizes her works of charity, so in images she is often dressed in a Franciscan habit giving food or other assistance to the poor, as in the first picture at right, or in portraits with a basket of bread or flowers, as in the second and third pictures respectively.

The alternation between bread and flowers may be due to a borrowing from the story of St. Casilda, whose Saracen father caught her taking a basket of food to Christian prisoners. When he looked into the basket, he found only roses.

Being of royal birth and marriage, St. Elizabeth is sometimes shown with a crown, such as the very modest one in this fresco.

DATES

  • Feast day: November 19 traditional, November 17 since the reforms of 1969
  • Lived 1207-1231

HAGIOGRAPHY

Prepared in 2014 by Richard Stracke, Emeritus Professor of English, Augusta University, revised 2015-10-30.

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St. Elizabeth Clothes the Poor and Tends the Sick, 1390s (See the description page)


St. Elizabeth with her basket of bread (Flemish manuscript illustration – see the description page)


In Taddeo di Bartolo's painting (14th/15th century) the basket has flowers rather than bread. (See the description page)