Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

Born about 1129; d. 18 June, 1165.-Feast 18 June. She was born of an obscure family, entered the double monastery of Schönau in Nassau at the age of twelve, received the Benedictine habit, made her profession in 1147, and in 1157 was superioress of the nuns under the Abbot Hildelin. After her death she was buried in the abbey church of St. Florin. When her writings were published the name of saint was added. She was never formally canonized, but in 1584 her name was entered in the Roman Martyrology and has remained there.

Given to works of piety from her youth, much afflicted with bodily and mental suffering, a zealous observer of the Rule of St. Benedict and of the regulation of her convent, and devoted to practices of mortification, Elizabeth was favoured, from 1152, with ecstasies and visions of various kinds. These generally occurred on Sundays and Holy Days at Mass or Divine Office or after hearing or reading the lives of saints. Christ, His Blessed Mother, an angel, or the special saint of the day would appear to her and instruct her; or she would see quite realistic representations of the Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension, or other scenes of the Old and New Testaments . What she saw and heard she put down on wax tablets. Her abbot, Hildelin, told her to relate these things to her brother Egbert (Eckebert), then priest at the church of Bonn. At first she hesitated fearing lest she be deceived or be looked upon as a deceiver; but she obeyed. Egbert (who became a monk of Schönau in 1155 and succeeded Hildelin as second abbot ) put everything in writing, later arranged the material at leisure, and then published all under his sister's name.

Thus came into existence

  • three books of "Visions". Of these the first is written in language very simple and in unaffected style, so that it may easily pass as the work of Elizabeth. The other two are more elaborate and replete with theological terminology, so that they show more of the work of Egbert than of Elizabeth.
  • "Liber viarum Dei". This seems to be an imitation of the "Scivias" ( scire vias Domini ) of St. Hildegarde of Bingen, her friend and correspondent. It contains admonitions to all classes of society, to the clergy and laity, to the married and unmarried. Here the influence of Egbert is very plain. She utters prophetic threats of judgment against priests who are unfaithful shepherds of the flock of Christ, against the avarice and worldliness of the monks who only wear the garb of poverty and self-denial, against the vices of the laity, and against bishops and superiors delinquent in their duty ; she urges all to combat earnestly the heresy of the Cathari ; she declares Victor IV, the antipope supported by Frederick against Alexander III, as the one chosen of God. All of this appears in Egbert's own writings.
  • The revelation on the martyrdom of St. Ursula and her companions. This is full of fantastic exaggerations and anachronisms, but has become the foundation of the subsequent Ursula legends.
There is a great diversity of opinion in regard to her revelations. The Church has never passed sentence upon them nor even examined them. Elizabeth herself was convinced of their supernatural character, as she states in a letter to Hildegarde; her brother held the same opinion; Trithemius considers them genuine; Eusebius Amort (De revelationibus visionibus et apparitionibus privatis regulae tutae, etc., Augsburg, 1744) holds them to be nothing more than what Elizabeth's own imagination could produce, or illusions of the devil, since in some things they disagree with history and with other revelations (Acta SS., Oct, IX, 81). A complete edition of her writings was made by F.W.E. Roth (Brunn, 1884); translations appeared in Italian (Venice, 1859), French (Tournai, 1864), and in Icelandic (1226-1254).

More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ephesians 4:1-6
1 I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you therefore to ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
1 [Psalm Of David] To Yahweh belong the earth and all ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 12:54-59
54 He said again to the crowds, 'When you see a cloud ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 24th, 2014 Image

St. Anthony Mary Claret
October 24: Claretian archbishop and founder. Anthony was born in Salient in ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter