St. Elizabeth of Hungary was born in 1207, and was the daughter of the Hungarian king Andrew II. When she was still very young, her father arranged her marriage to Ludwig of Thuringia, a German nobleman. The plan forced Elizabeth to separate from her parents while she was still a child. To add to her grief, her mother was murdered in 1213, due to a conflict between her own German people and the Hungarian nobles. These early tragedies gave Elizabeth a solemn view on life and death, and she sought solace in prayer.
In 1221, she was married. Ludwig supported Elizabeth’s efforts to live out the Gospels within the royal court. She also vowed to help the Franciscan order and their mission of charity, using her influence as queen. Ludwig and Elizabeth embraced a life of generosity. They had three children, although their only son died relatively young. One of their daughters eventually entered religious life and became abbess of a German convent, and the other joined the nobility.
In 1226, Ludwig was in Italy, and flooding and disease struck Thuringia. Elizabeth took care of the afflicted, even giving up her family’s clothes and goods. She arranged for a hospital to be built, and is said to have provided for the needs of a thousand poor people a day.
The following year, Ludwig died on his way to Jerusalem to assist in the Sixth Crusade. Elizabeth was devastated, and vowed never to remarry, despite pressure from her relatives. She used her remaining money to build another hospital, where she worked constantly. She joined the Third Order of St. Francis, and near the end of her life, she lived in a small hut, and spun her own clothes.
Elizabeth eventually became ill herself, dying in November of 1231. After her death, miraculous healings began to occur at her grave near the hospital, and she was declared a saint four years later.