Apr 302017

Today is marked as Jubilate Sunday in the ecclesiastical calendar of many Christian traditions. I get a little miffed that on many sites – including Wikipedia – it is called the 3rd Sunday AFTER Easter. Can’t these people count? It is the 3rd Sunday OF Easter (or the 2nd Sunday after Easter). The full Easter season stretches from the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday to Pentecost – a pretty long haul that usually starts in February and ends in late May or early June. The Christmas and Easter seasons flow into one another with a short break between them of a couple of weeks (longer if Easter is late). By comparison, the time from Pentecost to Advent (beginning the Christmas season again), is very long, usually around 6 months. Technically, the time between major seasons is known as ordinary time, and because the liturgical color for ordinary time is green the period from Pentecost to Advent is colloquially known (mostly by clergy), as the meadow period – when all the lessons of Christmas and Easter are put into practice (you know: grow a meadow and make hay). But now we are in the period of Easter that in many traditions is a time for rejoicing; but not all, as we shall see.

The third Sunday of Easter is called Jubilate Sunday because in the liturgy of the Catholic Church the first line of the introit for that day’s mass is “Jubilate Deo omnis terra” (“Shout with joy to God, all the earth”) from Psalm 66:65.

The liturgy for this day in the Catholic and Anglican traditions, and for the next two Sundays, continues to celebrate the Easter resurrection.

The Germanic Lutheran tradition was at one time rather more dour. Johann Sebastian Bach composed three church cantatas for the occasion, based on the prescribed readings: the epistle reading, 1 Peter 2:11–20, “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man”, and the gospel reading, John 16:16–23, the announcement of the Second Coming from the Farewell discourse:

20 Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. 21 A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.

Bach’s three cantatas for this day are:

Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen, BWV 12, 22 April 1714

Ihr werdet weinen und heulen, BWV 103, 22 April 1725

Wir müssen durch viel Trübsal, BWV 146, 12 May 1726 or 18 April 1728

I’ll focus on Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen (Weeping, Lamenting, Worrying, Fearing). Bach composed the cantata in Weimar when he was Konzertmeister at the ducal court, where he had an opportunity to work with a large, well-funded contingent of professional musicians. He led the first performance in the Schlosskirche, the court chapel of the Schloss in Weimar. His job called for the performance of a new church cantata each month. He composed Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen as the second cantata in the series, on a text probably written by court poet Salomon Franck. The work is structured in seven movements, an instrumental Sinfonia, a choral passacaglia, a recitative on a Bible quotation, three arias and, as the closing chorale, the last stanza from Samuel Rodigast’s hymn “Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan” (“What God does is well done”) (1674). The cantata is scored for three vocal soloists, a four-part choir, trumpet, oboe, bassoon, two violins, two violas, and basso continuo.

Bach reworked the first section of the first chorus to form the Crucifixus movement of the Credo in his Mass in B minor. Franz Liszt based extended keyboard compositions on the same material. Here is the cantata on Baroque instruments and with vocalists adopting a Baroque style:

Because of the Lutheran tradition there’s not a lot of “Jubilate” here. The music is wonderful, of course, but as a pastor I find the sentiments misplaced. I understand the point. After the resurrection, Jesus remains with the disciples a little while and then ascends to heaven, leaving them bereft. But not long after, Pentecost comes, giving them the Holy Spirit to comfort them until his triumphant return. So obviously the period after the resurrection contains mixed messages. Christians should be thinking around this time: “Now what?” But for me the heavy lifting comes after Pentecost in the meadow period. Between Easter and Pentecost is mostly for rejoicing in my book.  So let’s talk about pork neck.

Pork neck is not a cut that you see in the UK or the US, unless your butcher deals in whole carcasses and you specially ask for it. In Germany it is a normal cut. It consists of the front part of the pig’s back behind the head. It is both meaty and fatty, but not as fatty as belly meat. It is a good choice for grilling or roasting. In Weimar it is the custom to marinate the meat overnight and then grill it. Some people bone the neck meat, roll it, and roast it. Schwarzbier is a dark lager made in Thuringia. You can substitute any German-style dark, bitter beer.

Thüringer Mutzbraten


2 lb/ 1kg pork neck, cut into thick cutlets


2 tsp marjoram
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, peeled and finely diced
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
2 cups Schwarzbier


Combine all the marinade ingredients in a bowl. Place the cutlets on a zip top bag. They must be able to lie flat in one layer, so divide them between 2 bags if necessary. Pour the marinade in the bag(s). Squeeze out as much air as possible, then seal the zip top. Lay the cutlets flat so that they are surrounded by marinade. Refrigerate overnight.

Next day, take the cutlets from the refrigerator and let them come to room temperature before grilling.

It is traditional to use birch in the grill, but you can use any wood or charcoal. I use a barbecue with a lid so that the pork can smoke a little as it cooks.  For pork I used to cook using apple wood. If you don’t have an outdoor grill you can use your broiler.

Feb 152016


Today is presumed to be the birthday of the composer normally called Michael Praetorius. He was born Michael Schultze, the youngest son of a Lutheran pastor, in Creuzburg, in present-day Thuringia. His family name in German appears in various forms including Schultze, Schulte, Schultheiss, Schulz and Schulteis. Praetorius was the conventional Latinized form of this family name.

After attending school in Torgau and Zerbst, he studied divinity and philosophy at the University of Frankfurt (Oder). He was fluent in a number of languages. After receiving his musical education, from 1587 he served as organist at the Marienkirche in Frankfurt. From 1592/3 he served at the court in Wolfenbüttel, under the employ of Henry Julius, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg. He served in the duke’s State Orchestra, first as organist and later (from 1604) as Kapellmeister.


His first compositions appeared around 1602/3. The motets of this collection were the first in Germany to make use of the new Italian performance practices, and as a result, they established him as a proficient composer.

His “middle creative period” is marked by the nine parts of his Musae Sioniae (1605–10) and the 1611 published collections of liturgical music (masses, hymns, magnificats) which follow the German Protestant chorale style. He created these at the behest of a circle of orthodox Lutherans as well as the Duchess Elizabeth, who ruled the duchy in the duke’s absence. Henceforth Praetorius was known as a composer of sacred music.


When the duke died in 1613 and was succeeded by Frederick Ulrich, Praetorius retained his employment. From 1613 he also worked at the court of John George I, Elector of Saxony at Dresden, where he was responsible for festive music. He was exposed to the latest Italian music, including the polychoral works of the Venetian School. His subsequent development of the form of the chorale concerto, particularly the polychoral variety, resulted directly from his familiarity with the music of such Venetians as Giovanni Gabrieli. The solo-voice, polychoral, and instrumental compositions Praetorius prepared for these events mark the high period of his artistic creativity. Until his death, Praetorius stayed at the court in Dresden, where he was made Kapellmeister von Haus aus and worked with Heinrich Schütz.

Praetorius died on his 50th birthday, in Wolfenbüttel, Germany and is entombed in a vault beneath the organ of the Marienkirche there.


Praetorius was a prolific composer; his compositions show the influence of Italian composers and his younger contemporary Heinrich Schütz. His works include the nine volume Musae Sioniae (1605–10), a collection of more than twelve hundred (ca. 1244) chorale and song arrangements; many other works for the Lutheran church; and Terpsichore (1612), a compendium of more than 300 instrumental dances, which is both his most widely known work, and his sole surviving secular work. Many of Praetorius’ choral compositions were scored for several mini-choirs situated in several locations in the church for multi-phonic effect, with the conductor standing in the center of the church, visible to all the mini-choirs.


Praetorius was the greatest musical academic of his day and the Germanic writer of music best known to other 17th-century musicians. Although his original theoretical contributions were relatively few, with nowhere near the long-range impact of other 17th-century German writers, like Johannes Lippius, Christoph Bernhard or Joachim Burmeister, he compiled an encyclopedic record of contemporary musical practices. While Praetorius made some refinements to figured-bass practice and to tuning practice, his importance to scholars of the 17th century derives from his discussions of the normal use of instruments and voices in ensembles, the standard pitch of the time, and the state of modal, metrical, and fugal theory. His meticulous documentation of 17th-century practice was of inestimable value to the early-music revival of the 20th century.

Praetorius wrote in a flowery manner (in German rather than the usual Latin) with long asides, polemics, and word-puzzles – all typical of 17th-century scholarly prose. As a lifelong committed Christian, he often regretted not taking holy orders but did write several theological tracts, which are now lost. As a Lutheran from a militantly Protestant family, he contributed greatly to the development of the vernacular liturgy, but also favored Italian compositional methods, performance practice and figured-bass notation.


I always think of Praetorius at Christmas time because of his settings of many well-known Christmas works. His setting of “Es ist ein Ros entsprungen” is undoubtedly the best known and used.

He also wrote settings for In Dulci Jubilo, Quem Pastores, and Puer Natus. It is important to note that he did not compose any of these pieces, yet his settings have remained popular.

For a celebration I have chosen Thuringian potato dumplings. From the list of ingredients alone you would be forgiven for thinking that they are simple to make. They are not. In Germany you can buy mixes that simplify the process.


Thuringian Potato Dumplings


3-4 lbs starchy potatoes
1 dry bread roll
1 tablespoon butter


Wash and peel the potatoes. Fill a large bowl with lukewarm water and add a splash of vinegar. Grate 2/3 of the potatoes into the vinegar water. Carefully pour out the water and add new water and vinegar. Repeat. Transfer the grated potato to a cloth dish towel and squeeze out the liquid over the bowl. Reserve the liquid. The starch will settle on the bottom of the bowl and will be used later. Leave the potatoes in the dish towel until needed.

Remove the crust from the bread, cut it into small cubes and sauté the cubes in the butter until golden brown.

Boil the remaining 1/3 of the potatoes in lightly salted water until tender. Drain the potatoes but not completely. Leave some liquid in the pot and mash the potatoes until they form a moist purée. Bring the purée to a boil.

Carefully drain the vinegar water from the bowl leaving only the settled starch. Add the grated raw potatoes and a pinch of salt. Combine the ingredients well. Using a hand-held electric mixer, gradually incorporate the boiling potato purée. Beat the mixture until it readily comes off the sides of the bowl.

Wet your hands and shape the potato mixture into even-sized round dumplings. Press 2-3 croutons into the center of each dumpling. Using a slotted spoon, carefully lower the dumplings into gently simmering water (rapidly boiling water will cause the dumplings to disintegrate) and cook on low heat for about 20 minutes.


Jun 122014


Today is the birthday (1806) of John Augustus Roebling, a German-born U.S. civil engineer. He is famous for his wire rope suspension bridge designs, in particular, the design of the Brooklyn Bridge. I have a personal interest in Roebling because I lived for 25 years in the old telegraph office on the Delaware and Hudson Canal adjacent to the remains of an aqueduct over the Neversink River that Roebling designed in 1848.

Roebling was the youngest of four children. He was baptized in the Lutheran church Divi Blasii in Mühlhausen. As a young boy he played the bass clarinet and the French horn. He also exhibited great artistic talent for sketches and paintings. His father owned a small tobacco shop, but the business was insufficient to provide livelihood for all three sons. Roebling’s sister Friederike Amalie married Carl August Meissner, a poor merchant in the town, and his oldest brother Herman Christian Roebling prepared to take over the tobacco shop.

At first Roebling attended the gymnasium in Mühlhausen. Recognizing his intelligence at a young age, Roebling’s mother, Friederike Dorothea Roebling arranged for him to be tutored in mathematics and science at Erfurt by Ephraim Salomon Unger. He went to Erfurt when he was 15. In 1824 he passed his surveyor’s examination and returned home for a year. In 1824 he enrolled for two terms at the Bauakademie in Berlin where he studied architecture and engineering under Martin Friedrich Rabe (1765–1856), bridge construction and foundation construction under Johann Friedrich Dietlein (1782–1837), hydraulics under Johann Albert Eytelwein (1764–1848), and languages. Roebling also attended lectures by the philosopher Hegel. Roebling developed an interest in natural philosophy and many years later he worked on a 1,000 page treatise about his own concepts of the universe.

In 1825 Roebling got a government job at Arnsberg, Westphalia, working on military road building for four years. During this period he made sketches for suspension bridges. In 1829 he returned to his home to work out his final thesis and prepare for his second engineer examination. For unknown reasons, he never took the examination.

On May 22, 1831, Roebling left Prussia with his brother Carl and Johann Adolphus Etzler, the technological utopianist. Economic mobility and career advancement were difficult for engineers in Prussian society. This unfortunate state of affairs had been brought about by the Napoleonic Wars, which lasted until 1815. This period in European history left Prussia with political unrest, as authoritarian governments took the places of democratic ones. Etzler had ideas about creating a utopia in the United States, but disputes arose en route, and the group split. Roebling and his brother purchased 1582 acres (6.4 km²) of land on October 28, 1831, in Butler County, Pennsylvania with the intent to establish a German settlement, called Saxonburg. Most of the other settlers remained with Etzler. The John Roebling House at Saxonburg was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.


John Roebling and his brother arrived in the United States at an interesting time. The nation was in the later stages of an economic boom, which ended in the Panic of 1837. Farmers were deeply affected by it. Transportation between eastern industrial hubs and frontier farming markets had become a matter of both national and popular interest. Many transportation projects were underway near the location he chose for his colony, but instead of continuing as an engineer, he took up farming. After five years he married Johanna Herting, a tailor’s daughter. Agrarian work did not appeal to John Roebling, and the colony attracted very few settlers. In 1837, after the death of his brother and the birth of his first child, he returned to engineering as a vocation.

Roebling’s first engineering work in the U.S. was devoted to improving river navigation and canal building. He spent three years surveying for railway lines across the Allegheny Mountains, from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh, for the state of Pennsylvania. In 1840 he wrote to suspension bridge designer Charles Ellet, Jr., offering to help with the design of a bridge near Philadelphia:

The study of suspension bridges formed for the last few years of my residence in Europe my favorite occupation … Let but a single bridge of the kind be put up in Philadelphia, exhibiting all the beautiful forms of the system to full advantage, and it needs no prophecy to foretell the effect which the novel and useful features will produce upon the intelligent minds of the Americans.

Roebling began producing wire rope at Saxonburg in 1841. At that time canal boats from Philadelphia were transported over the Allegheny Mountains on railroad cars to access waterways on the other side of the mountains, so that the boats could continue to Pittsburgh. The system of inclines and levels that moved the boats and conventional railroad cars was a state-owned enterprise, the Allegheny Portage Railroad. The railroad cars were pulled up and down the inclines by a long loop of thick hemp rope, up to 7 cm thick. The hemp ropes were expensive and had to be replaced frequently. Roebling remembered an article he read about wire ropes. Soon after, he started developing a 7-strand wire rope at a ropewalk that he built on his farm.


In 1844 Roebling won a bid to replace the wooden canal aqueduct across the Allegheny River with the Allegheny Aqueduct. His design encompassed seven spans of 163 feet (50m), each consisting of a wooden trunk to hold the water supported by a continuous cable made of many parallel wires, wrapped tightly together, on each side of the trunk. This was followed in 1845 by building a suspension bridge over the Monongahela River at Pittsburgh.

roebling5  roebling7

roebling9  roebling8


In 1848 Roebling undertook the construction of four suspension aqueducts on the Delaware and Hudson Canal.The images above show the aqueducts at Minisink Ford, High Falls, and Cuddebackville.  The sepia tone is across from my house where there is a small beach, and the bottom image shows the abutments as they are today (my house is to the left).  All but the aqueduct at Minisink were taken down in the early 20th century.

During this period, he moved to Trenton, New Jersey. In Trenton, Roebling built a large industrial complex for wire production. This complex inspired the Trenton, New Jersey motto on Trenton’s Lower Trenton Bridge.


Roebling’s next project, starting in 1851, was a railroad bridge connecting the New York Central and Great Western Railway of Canada over the Niagara River, which would take four years. The bridge, with a clear span of 825 feet (251m), was supported by four, ten-inch (25 cm) wire cables, and had two levels, one for vehicles and one for rail traffic.


While the Niagara bridge was being built, Roebling undertook another railway suspension bridge, across the Kentucky River which required a clear span of 1,224 feet (373m). The anchorage and stone towers were completed, and the cable wire delivered along with the material for the superstructure, when the railway company became insolvent. The bridge construction was halted, and was later finished as a truss bridge.

roebling pitt

In 1859 Roebling completed another suspension bridge at Pittsburgh. Its total length was 1,030 feet (314m), consisting of two main spans of 344 feet (105m) each, and two side spans of 171 feet (52m) each.


The American Civil War brought a temporary halt to Roebling’s work. However, in 1863 building resumed on a bridge over the Ohio River at Cincinnati which he had started in 1856 and halted due to financing; the bridge was finished in 1867. The Cincinnati-Covington Bridge, later named the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge, was the world’s longest suspension bridge at the time it was finished.


In 1867 Roebling started design work on what is now called the Brooklyn Bridge, spanning the East River in New York. Roebling devised “an equilibrium strength approach, in which equilibrium is always satisfied but compatibility of deformations is not enforced.” This was essentially an approximation method similar to the force method: First, Roebling computed the dead and live loads, then divided the load between the cables and the stays. Roebling added a large safety factor to the divided loads and then solved for the forces. This approach gave a sufficiently accurate analysis of the structure given the assumption that the structure was sufficiently ductile to handle the resulting deformation.


While surveying the site of the Brooklyn tower for the Brooklyn Bridge, the tip of Roebling’s right foot was crushed by a docking boat. After his toes were amputated, Roebling was diagnosed with tetanus and developed lockjaw. He suffered severe seizures and periodically lapsed into a coma before dying in the early morning hours of July 22, 1869 in Brooklyn Heights, New York. Roebling is buried in the Riverview Cemetery in Trenton, New Jersey.

roebling brooklyn

Roebling’s son Washington Roebling and his daughter-in-law Emily Warren Roebling continued his work on the Brooklyn Bridge. His son Ferdinand expanded his wire rope business. His son Charles Roebling designed and invented a huge 80 ton wire rope machine and founded the town of Roebling, New Jersey where the John A. Roebling’s Sons company steel mill was built. His grandson Washington A. Roebling II perished on the RMS Titanic. His great-grandson Donald Roebling was a noted philanthropist and inventor who devised the amphtrack (amphibious landing craft).

Roebling’s home town of Mühlhausen is in Thuringia now in central Germany. Its cuisine is very much what is thought of as prototypically German cooking – wursts, braised beef, pig knuckles, dumplings, and sauerkraut. In a number of places where Roebling designed bridges, such as Cincinnati, there were large populations of German immigrants who brought with them the basics of German-American cooking. Among the most popular dishes, well loved in Thuringia, is sauerbraten – beef marinated in vinegar for days and then slow cooked in the marinade.




2 cups water
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup red wine vinegar
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp kosher salt, additional for seasoning meat
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
6 whole cloves
12 juniper berries
1 tsp mustard seeds
3 ½ to 4lb bottom round, whole
1 tbsp vegetable oil
? cup sugar
18 dark old-fashioned gingersnaps (about 5 ounces), crushed


In a large saucepan over high heat combine the water, cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, onion, carrot, salt, pepper, bay leaves, cloves, juniper, and mustard seeds. Cover and bring this to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Pat the bottom round dry and rub with vegetable oil and salt on all sides. Heat a large saute pan over high heat; add the meat and brown on all sides, approximately 2 to 3 minutes per side.

When the marinade has cooled to a point where you can stick your finger in it and not be burned, place the meat in a non-reactive vessel and pour over the marinade. Place into the refrigerator for 3 days. If the meat is not completely submerged in the liquid, turn it over once a day.

After 3 days of marinating, preheat the oven to 325°F/160°C.

Add the sugar to the meat and marinade, cover and place on the middle rack of the oven and cook until tender, approximately 4 hours.

Remove the meat from the vessel and keep warm. Strain the liquid to remove the solids. Return the liquid to the pan and place over medium-high heat. Whisk in the gingersnaps and cook until thickened, stirring occasionally. Strain the sauce through a fine mesh sieve to remove any lumps. Add the raisins if desired. Slice the meat and serve with the sauce and boiled potatoes or dumplings.

Nov 172013


Today is the feast of St Elizabeth of Hungary, T.O.S.F., (German: Heilige Elisabeth von Thüringen, Hungarian: Árpád-házi Szent Erzsébet, 7 July 1207 – 17 November 1231). Elizabeth was the daughter of King Andrew II of Hungary and Gertrude of Merania. Her mother’s sister was St. Hedwig of Andechs, wife of Duke Heinrich I of Silesia. Her ancestry included many notable figures of European royalty, going back as far as Vladimir the Great of Kievan Rus. According to tradition, she was born in the castle of Sárospatak, Kingdom of Hungary, on 7 July 1207. According to a different tradition she was born in Pozsony, Kingdom of Hungary (modern-day Bratislava, Slovakia), where she lived in the Castle of Posonium until the age of four.

Elizabeth was brought to the court of the rulers of Thuringia in central Germany, to become betrothed to Ludwig IV, Landgrave of Thuringia, a future bride who would reinforce political alliances between the families. She was raised by the Thuringian court, so she would be familiar with the local language and culture. In 1221, at the age of fourteen, Elizabeth married Ludwig; the same year he was enthroned as Landgrave Ludwig IV, and the marriage appears to have been happy. After her marriage, she continued her charitable practices, which included spinning wool for the clothing of the poor. In 1223, Franciscan friars arrived, and the teenage Elizabeth not only learned about the ideals of Francis of Assisi, but started to live them. Ludwig was not upset by his wife’s charitable efforts, believing that the distribution of his wealth to the poor would bring eternal reward; he is venerated in Thuringia as a saint, though he was never canonized by the Church.


It was also about this time that the priest and later inquisitor Konrad von Marburg gained considerable influence over Elizabeth when he was appointed as her confessor. In the spring of 1226, when floods, famine, and plague wrought havoc in Thuringia, Ludwig, a staunch supporter of the Hohenstaufen Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, represented Frederick II at the Imperial Diet held in Cremona. Elizabeth assumed control of affairs at home and distributed alms in all parts of their territory, even giving away state robes and ornaments to the poor. Below Wartburg Castle, she built a hospital with twenty-eight beds and visited the inmates daily to attend to them.

Elizabeth’s life changed irrevocably on 11 September 1227 when Ludwig, en route to join the Sixth Crusade, died of a fever in Otranto, Italy. On hearing the news of her husband’s death, Elizabeth is reported to have said, “He is dead. He is dead. It is to me as if the whole world died today.” His remains were returned to Elizabeth in 1228 and entombed at the Abbey of Reinhardsbrunn.

After Ludwig’s death, his brother, Henry Raspe, assumed the regency during the minority of Elizabeth’s eldest child, Hermann (1222–1241). After bitter arguments over the disposal of her dowry—a conflict in which Konrad was appointed as the official Defender of her case by Pope Gregory IX—Elizabeth left the court at Wartburg and moved to Marburg in Hesse.

Following her husband’s death, Elizabeth made solemn vows to Konrad similar to those of a nun. These vows included celibacy, as well as complete obedience to Konrad as her confessor and spiritual director. Konrad’s treatment of Elizabeth was extremely harsh, and he held her to standards of behavior which were almost impossible to meet. Among the punishments he is alleged to have ordered were physical beatings; he also ordered her to send away her three children. Her pledge to celibacy proved a hindrance to her family’s political ambitions. Elizabeth was more or less held hostage at Pottenstein, Bavaria, the castle of her uncle, Bishop Ekbert of Bamberg, in an effort to force her to remarry. Elizabeth, however, held fast to her vow, even threatening to cut off her own nose so that no man would find her attractive enough to marry.

Elizabeth’s second child Sophie of Thuringia (1224–1275) married Henry II, Duke of Brabant and was the ancestress of the Landgraves of Hesse, since in the War of the Thuringian Succession she won Hesse for her son Heinrich I, called the Child. Elizabeth’s third child, Gertrude of Altenberg (1227–1297), was born several weeks after the death of her father; she became abbess of the monastery of Altenberg Abbey, Hesse near Wetzlar.

Elizabeth then built a hospital at Marburg for the poor and the sick with the money from her dowry, where she and her companions cared for them. Her official biography written as part of the canonization process describes how she ministered to the sick and continued to give money to the poor. In 1231, she died in Marburg at the age of twenty-four.


Very soon after the death of Elizabeth, miracles were reported that happened at her grave in the church of the hospital, especially those of healing. On the suggestion of Konrad, and by papal command, examinations were held of those who had been healed between August, 1232, and January, 1235. The results of those examinations were supplemented by a brief vita of the saint-to-be, and together with the testimony of Elizabeth’s handmaidens and companions (bound in a booklet called the Libellus de dictis quatuor ancillarum s. Elizabeth confectus), proved sufficient reason for the quick canonization of Elizabeth on 27 May 1235 in Perugia—no doubt helped along by her family’s power and influence. Very soon after her death, hagiographical texts of her life appeared all over Germany, the most famous being Dietrich of Apolda’s Vita S. Elisabeth, which was written between 1289 and 1297.

She was canonized by Pope Gregory IX. The papal bull declaring her a saint is on display in the Schatzkammer of the Deutschordenskirche in Vienna, Austria. Her body was laid in a magnificent golden shrine—still to be seen today—in the Elisabeth Church (Marburg). Her remains were removed and scattered by her own descendant, the Landgrave Philip I “the Magnanimous” of Hesse, at the time of the Reformation. It is now a Protestant church, but has spaces set aside for Catholic worship. Marburg became a center of the Teutonic Order, which adopted St. Elizabeth as its secondary patroness. The Order remained in Marburg until its official dissolution by Napoleon I of France in 1803.


Elizabeth’s shrine became one of the main German centers of pilgrimage of the 14th century and early 15th century. During the course of the 15th century, the popularity of the cult of St. Elisabeth slowly faded, though to some extent this was mitigated by an aristocratic devotion to St. Elizabeth, since through her daughter Sophia she was an ancestor of many leading aristocratic German families. But three hundred years after her death, one of Elizabeth’s many descendants, the Landgrave Philip I “the Magnanimous” of Hesse, a leader of the Protestant Reformation and one of the most important supporters of Martin Luther, raided the church in Marburg and demanded that the Teutonic Order hand over Elizabeth’s bones, in order to disperse her relics and thus put an end to the already declining pilgrimages to Marburg. Philip also took away the crowned agate chalice in which St. Elizabeth’s head rested, but returned it after being imprisoned by Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. The chalice was subsequently plundered by Swedish troops during the Thirty Years’ War and is now on display at The Swedish History Museum in Stockholm. St Elizabeth’s skull and some of her bones can be seen at the Convent of St Elisabeth in Vienna; some relics also survive at the shrine in Marburg.


Elizabeth is perhaps best known for her miracle of the roses which says that whilst she was taking bread to the poor in secret, she met her husband Ludwig on a hunting party, who, in order to quell suspicions of the gentry that she was stealing treasure from the castle, asked her to reveal what was hidden under her cloak. In that moment, her cloak fell open and a vision of white and red roses could be seen, which proved to Ludwig that God’s protecting hand was at work. Her husband, according to the vitae, was never troubled by her charity and always supported it. In some versions of this story, it is her brother in law, Heinrich Raspe, who questions her. Hers is the first of many miracles that associate Christian saints with roses, and is the most frequently depicted in the saint’s iconography.


Another popular story about St. Elizabeth, also found in Dietrich of Apolda’s Vita, relates how she laid the leper Helias of Eisenach in the bed she shared with her husband. Her mother-in-law, who was horrified, told this immediately to Ludwig on his return. When Ludwig removed the bedclothes in great indignation, at that instant “Almighty God opened the eyes of his soul, and instead of a leper he saw the figure of Christ crucified stretched upon the bed.” This story appears in Franz Liszt’s oratorio about Elizabeth

To honor Elizabeth I have chosen pogácsa, a Hungarian bun which figures in many folktales as the food packed by the hero for journeys. They seemed suitable in light of Elizabeth and the roses. Maybe she was carrying them. They are delightful and I have had them as a lunch snack in Budapest on a couple of occasions. I have never made them, however. So I will give you a recipe from this website (the comment at the end is her’s, not mine!):



Recipe by: Ilona Kollár


2 lb 3 oz flour
3/4 oz. sour cream
salt, pepper, sugar, caraway seeds
5 oz. lard
10 oz. farmer’s cheese
3/4 lb. ground pork cracklings
4 .25 oz packets of dry yeast
1 cup of milk
1 egg
5-6 Tbsp dry white wine

Approximately 3/4 lb of ground pork cracklings*
2-3 Tbsp salt
1 heaping tbsp. ground black pepper

1 egg
1 pinch of salt
1 pack of caraway seeds

*To make your own Tepert?/pork cracklings:
1 lb pork belly chunks (You can find this in most Asian food markets)
Cook pork chunks in a pan in the oven, or in a skillet on the stove, until all fat is rendered out and what is left are small crispy pieces.


To prepare the scones:

  • Preheat the oven to 390?F.
  • Dissolve the yeast and sugar in some warm milk, and allow it blooms (starts to bubble). If you’re short on time, you can skip this step and add dry active yeast to the dry ingredients instead.
  • Sift the 2 lb. 3 oz. of flour into a bowl and mix in the salt.
  • Form a dent in the mound of flour with your fist and add the yeast-sugar-milk mixture, sour cream, lard, and white wine, mixing everything carefully together within this dent (either by hand or with a wooden spoon).
  • Gradually add the rest of the warm milk and work it into the flour.
  • Knead the dough thoroughly, until it is smooth and sprinkle the surface with flour.
  • Cover dough with a clean cloth and let it rest in a warm place for about 1 hour (until it expands to twice its original size).
  • In the meantime, grind the pork cracklings and mix in the salt and black pepper.
  • Lay the risen dough onto a board sprinkled with flour and, using your hands (also sprinkled with flour, knead it and stretch it to be about 1/4 in. thick.
  • Spread the pork crackling evenly onto the surface and tightly roll up the dough from the bottom to the top. (Ideally, the dough should be left to rise for 10-20 minutes after it’s been rolled.)
  • Starting from the left side and moving to the middle, flatten the dough a bit and then flip the right half over the left, like pages of a book.
  • Cover it with a clean cloth and let it sit for 20 minutes.
  • Stretch the dough to 3/4 in. thickness and score the surface about 1/2 in. apart and 1/4 in. deep.
  • Dust a round cookie cutter with a diameter of 2-3 in. (or 1 in. for minis) and use it to cut out shapes from the dough.
  • Arrange these on a baking tray, setting them at least 1 in. apart from each other. This is very important, because otherwise you will end up with one giant rectangular biscuit!
  • Beat one egg, add a pinch of salt, and brush over top of raw dough.
  • Sprinkle a small amount of caraway seeds on each.
  • Let the dough rest in a warm place for 15-20 minutes before placing the pan into the oven.
  • Bake for 20 minutes (check after 15 min.) until the tops turn reddish gold.

These are best served fresh, but you should wait to serve them until they cool down a bit, lest they give you a stomach ache!