Ludwig, Landgrave (Count) of Thuringia (in Hungary) listened with amusement to his darling wife Elizabeth. "We could serve God better if we weren't so rich," she said. "Instead of seven castles, all we need is enough land for a single plow and a couple hundred sheep."
"We would hardly be poor with so much land and so many sheep," he replied, laughing. "At any rate, there would still be plenty of people to say we were far too well off."
Although Elizabeth of Hungary is well known for her saintly ways, her husband Ludwig is also considered a saint. Not only did he wholeheartedly support his wife's charities, he did good out of his own heart. The two rode together over the countryside, ravaged by recent wars, doing what they could to ease its people's misery.
Ludwig (or Louis) was especially concerned for justice. Like a good ruler, when his merchants were robbed in Poland, he rode with his army and forced the citizens of Lubitz to make restitution. He did the same thing with Wurtzburg.
Ludwig chose to marry Elizabeth. She had been designated for an older brother who died. Some of his family considered her too religious to make a good wife and tried to discourage the match. But Ludwig admired her holiness.
Elizabeth dearly loved her husband and missed him greatly when he rode off to assist Emperor Frederick II in 1226. That was a hard winter and the people suffered terribly, eating tree bark to stay alive. Elizabeth set up food lines and raided the treasury to feed them. On Ludwig's return, the treasurer complained at her "extravagance."
Elizabeth defended herself, saying, "I gave to God what was His and God has kept for us what was ours."
"Let her do good and give God whatever she will, so long as she leaves me Wartburg and Neuenburg," Ludwig told his tight-fisted servant.
Another time, his angry mother took Ludwig up to see his bed. He found a leper lying there. Ludwig almost lost his temper, but then he saw in the leper the form of Christ. Instead of raging at Elizabeth, the thoughtful young husband supplied his wife with the resources to open Europe's first leprosarium.
In 1227, Ludwig set out to fulfill a vow by going on a crusade. Elizabeth had a premonition that he would never return.
And that proved to be the case. Ludwig caught malaria in Otranto, Italy. When the end drew near, he was given the last sacraments. Perhaps he was hallucinating, but the room seemed full of white doves to him. "I must fly away with these white doves," he said.
Although never officially named a saint, Ludwig is considered one by the common people. He is especially remembered on this day, September 11.
- Bihl, Michael. "St. Elizabeth of Hungary." The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton, 1914.
- Butler, Alban. "Bd Louis of Thuringia." Lives of the Saints. Various editions.
- Various web sites such as Saint of the Day.
Last updated June, 2007