St. Elizabeth of Schonau

Mystic (1129–1164)
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Saint Elisabeth of Schönau by unknown 16th century German sculptor(s). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

At the age of twelve, St. Elizabeth entered a double monastery (housing both men and women) in Schonau, Germany. Six years later she was professed as a Benedictine nun. Though she suffered from ill health, she embraced the discipline of prayer and the austerities of religious life. At the age of twenty-three she began to receive extraordinary visions that continued throughout her life. Some of these experiences had an ecstatic quality, but others left her with a sense of diabolical persecution.  

Eventually, in a series of books written on wax tablets, she recorded her visions and other prophetic utterances, chronicling her visions and dialogues with the Virgin Mary, her insights into doctrine, along with revelations regarding the life of St. Ursula. These were copied and widely circulated. Dozens of her letters survive, including several to her friend and contemporary, St. Hildegard of Bingen, in which she describes her mission to warn Christians, including many priests and bishops, to repent of their sins.  

Though never formally canonized, upon her death on June 18, 1164, Elizabeth was quickly acclaimed as a saint and her name was added to the Roman Martyrology.  

“I, a poor earthen vessel, say these things not of myself but through the Living Light. Those who desire to do the works of God . . . should put on the breast-plate of Faith, and be humble and poor, living as He did, the Lamb whose trumpet sound they are.” —St. Elizabeth of Schonau 

© Liturgical Press.

Robert Ellsberg

Robert Ellsberg is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Orbis Books and the author of several award-winning books, including All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time; Blessed Among All Women; and The Saints' Guide to Happiness.

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