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The Case of a Married Female Saint: Rutebeuf’s Saint Elizabeth of Hungary

The Case of a Married Female Saint: Rutebeuf’s Saint Elizabeth of Hungary

By David K. Wagner

Given at the Vagantes Medieval Graduate Student Conference, on March 29, 2012

St. Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231) was a married saint who was canonized in 1235. This paper focuses on the portrayal of Elizabeth by Rutebeuf as a female married saint and her piety within the bounds of marriage.

Her confessor, Konrad Von Marburg, wrote her “Summa Vitae” in 1232. Elizabeth was pious and worried that her husband, Ludwig IV of Thuringia, would limit her devotion but he became supportive of her piety. Elizabeth was extremely pious even as a child, and once she married, she desired chastity throughout her marriage. She wanted chastity but continued to have relations with her husband and bore him three children until he died on Crusade. She prayed rather than slept in private. Her husband Ludwig (the Landgrave) was concerend about her hurting
herself physically by not sleeping.

Before he died, Ludwig seemed to have  found a new found spirituality. He voluntarily sacrifices food to the starving and he develops a relationship with God. Is this a conversion spurred by his wife’s example? The text would suggest yes. They have a balanced, happy and stable marriage  and Elizabeth’s husband was not spiritually apathetic. They both encouraged each other to have a relationship with God. There is a suggestion in the text that they planned on becoming mendicants. This text shows the positive aspects of being a married medieval saint while maintaing a pious life as an ascetic.

Elizabeth of Hungary - Church of St. Elisabeth (Bratislava)

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