Reading “The Revelations of Elizabeth of Hungary” as a Devotional Text
Gardner, Maureen Curran
Master of Arts in English, Georgetown University, April 28, (2008)
In the early fourteenth century, around what is today Lake Constance in Switzerland, it appears that a sister of the Dominican convent of Töss composed an account of the visions experienced by another member of her community, Elizabeth of Töss (d. 1336) (Barratt “The Virgin” 125). The carefully crafted text showing Elizabeth’s spiritual progression in thirteen vision segments, The Revelations of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, presents an apprentice Elizabeth receiving tutorials on prayer and the spiritual life first by Mary and later by Christ Himself. Some hundred years after its composition, The Revelations was being translated and read in England attached to the name of “Saint Elizabeth,” Elizabeth of Töss’s well-known aunt.
Unfortunately, the original text of The Revelations—most likely in Middle High German—is no longer extant (Barratt “The Virgin” 135, n.3). There are however, twenty-seven other copies of The Revelations existing today in a variety of languages, which appear to have circulated during the Late Medieval period. Despite the existence of two Middle English versions, relatively little scholarly work has been done on the text. Of the little that has, much of it has concerned itself with the authorship of The Revelations, or more aptly put, the identity of the author of the visions themselves: Elizabeth.