Church Sainte Elizabeth of Hungary in Versailles!

I am as usual trying to tell you a bit more than the palace/museum of Versailles.   The off the beaten paths found in my beloved city are numerous and merits a longer visit to see these wonders of my belle France. Therefore, let me bring on a bit long, sorry, post on a venerable building; the Church of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary very much linked to Madame Elizabeth, guillotine sister of Louis XVI!  The Church Sainte-Elisabeth de Hongrie is located at 25 rue des Chantiers very closed to another train station of Versailles, Chantiers, this one takes you to gare Montparnasse in Paris!

The layout of the Church Ste Elizabeth of Hungary in Versailles is of a basilical shape without transept visible from the exterior.The exterior main façade is advanced from an ancient porch surmounted by a triangular pediment. The steeple wall is pierced by a bay with giblets and topped by a clock and capped with a cross. The roof is double-sloped. Two lateral wings flank this main façade. While the interior is a building on two levels. The central nave is covered with a coffered ceiling. The high windows are in a full-hanger arch. The 3 aisles are separated from the central nave by square pillars. All   done in the Neo Classic style from the 19C.


The main construction stages were taken as first a chapel built in 1850 , which corresponds to the present central nave of 20 meters by 8 meters. Then we add the two aisles. The chapel became a parish church in 1863 and as early as 1864, the choir was enlarged. In 1890, the decorations were finished with the choir enlarged by embellishing it with a armature adorned with rinses, the whole dominated by the monogram of Ste. Elisabeth. Finished the decoration by painting a large canvas depicting the Miracle of roses. There was restoration work carried out in 2009-2010 which have brought to life a hidden backdrop. Now, with its belt panelling , its azure-blue coffered ceiling decorated with gilded motifs, with its superb choir and historical canopy in the aisles, Ste. Elizabeth’s Church has an undeniable artistic cachet.


A bit of history I like

The district of Montreuil in Versailles has its church: Saint-Symphorien (see post), which is in fact located in the Grand Montreuil. The so-called Petit Montreuil had no place of worship in the 18C, although this area was the subject of all the attention of the younger sister of King Louis XVI, Madame Elisabeth (see post on her). The Royal Princess lived on the level of the current Avenue de Paris, (Domaine de Montreuil/Elizabeth) which separates the Grand from Petit Montreuil. In the 19C, the district enjoyed a legacy of the former Princess who died on the scaffold (guillotine) during the reign of terror of the French revolution. The construction of a worship building was then started. It was the Church Saint Elizabeth of Hungary” in homage to Princess Elizabeth of Versailles!

Elisabeth of Hungary was a sovereign of Thuringia, a member of the Franciscan Third Order and recognized Holy by the Catholic Church. Her day is celebrated on the day of her death ,November 17. The Teutonic Order built a Gothic church destined to receive her relics. These attract large crowds making Marburg a large pilgrimage center of the Christian West. She was the daughter of King Andre II of Hungary (Árpád dynasty) and Gertrude of Andechs-Meran (Babenberg dynasty). Betrothed at four years old and married at fourteen years old to the Landgrave Louis IV of Thuringia, she was acquainted with the movement founded in Italy by Francis of Assisi, to which she adhered from the bottom of her soul. The couple is very united and had three children, Elizabeth dies at 24 years old.

With Saint Elisabeth of Hungary the Christian hagiography has built a character of a perfection rarely reached. In the golden legend , one reads that, daughter of an illustrious king of Hungary, she had been raised in the veneration of God and disdained children’s games. At the age of five, she had so much pleasure in praying in the Church that her companions were unable to get her out. When she was playing, she was always seen running next to a Chapel to be sure to get into it more easily. Of all that was given to her, she reserved the tenth part to the poor. When she arrived at the age of marriage, she married the Landgrave of Thuringia. Which was pretty good dough, tells us the legend, to all endure the mania of his wife: incessant devotions, fasting, mortifications, offerings of her clothes, preferring the dry bread to the sumptuous dishes of her husband’s table, etc. The legend still adds to the altruism: she fed the poor, dressed those who went naked, burying herself the beggars and pilgrims, wore the children on the baptismal fonts, sewed their swaddling clothes, spun the wool with her maids, sold her ornaments to feed the poor when the wheat was missing; She built a large house at the foot of the castle to greet the sick, coming to visit them every day, distributing gifts, care and holy words. All called her the mother of the poor!

However, the Landgrave of Thuringia went on a crusade and died there. Having become a widow, Elisabeth was expelled from the castle by the parents of the deceased who accused her of being dissipating and prodigal. After wandering, depressed, in the countryside, she was received by her uncle, the Bishop of Bamberg… who wanted to remarry her. She did not have the time: the body of her deceased husband came back from the Holy Land and the bishop had to let her go. Elizabeth wore the religious habit, lived like a poor, even refusing to return to the castle of the King of Hungary. Her life of humility continued. Serving the poor. She received two thousand marks in dowry, distributed some to the indigent and built a large hospital in Marburg with the rest, dedicating all its activity to the sick.   The life of Saint Elisabeth of Hungary-in her absolute altruism-is one of the most incredible ever written. She can be represented either as a princess or as a Franciscan tertiary. When she is portrayed as a princess, she wears a crown on her head and in her hands a book where two crowns are laid. These can represent her royal birth, her austere piety and her abstinence, or be understood as the three knots of the Franciscan cord representing the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. She holds by hand a alms, a jug, a basket of bread, fruit and fish; It can also have an apron with roses. She is one of the main characters of the opera by Richard Wagner Tannhäuser (Dresden 1845); as well there is an oratorio by Franz Liszt about the legend of Elisabeth of Hungary.

A bit on the religious significance of this  Church Ste Elizabeth of Hungary  and Madame Elizabeth. Madame Elisabeth died in the smell of holiness. According to Madame de Genlis, a rose smell spread over the Place de la Concorde after her exécution. Her cause for beatification was officially introduced on December 23, 1953 by Cardinal Maurice Feltin, Archbishop of Paris, after being declared, the same year, Servant of God by Pope Pius XII, acknowledging by decree the heroic of her virtues, of the only made her martyrdom. Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris, reactivates the cause of her beatification in 2016, Abbé Xavier Snoëk, parish priest of the Sainte-Élisabeth-de-Hungary, being appointed postulator of the Cause, and recognises in May 2017 the Association of the faithful promoters of her cause. On November 15, 2017, Cardinal Vingt-Trois, after the opinion of the Conference of the Bishops of France and the Nihil obstat of the Congregation for the Cause of the Saints, in Rome, hopes that the trial will lead to the canonization of Élisabeth Philippe Marie Hélène de France dit Madame Elisabeth, sister of king Louis XVI. 

The official Church Saint Elizabeth

There you go folks, another dandy historical monument of my Versailles. A pretty Church Ste Elizabeth, worth the off the beaten path trail to see it. As well as a beautiful story of holy saints one done ,and the other coming.  Enjoy the other Versailles.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!

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