How credible is Futuretimeline Net

The question of the place where these medieval saints died preoccupied historians and archaeologists alike. A historical riddle whose solution seems amazingly banal. Or is it not that easy after all?

First of all, the place of death is distinguished from the grave itself. As is the case today, in the 13th century it was rather uncommon to be buried in the place where you took your last breath. In the case of saints, however, the corpse is also sacred, as are the objects that the saint touched during her lifetime. This makes the place of death a place of remembrance that has also become sacred.

So we know that Elisabeth von Thuringia died in Marburg in 1231, presumably somewhere on the premises of her hospital, perhaps also in her hospital itself. The canonization followed shortly afterwards, the site was given to the Teutonic Order, who built today's Gothic Elisabeth Church over her grave. The main place of pilgrimage to St. Elisabeth is the grave mausoleum in the Elisabeth Church in Marburg. So far so good.

If we look through the early, credible sources on the life and death of Elisabeth, we will not find a description of the place of death. It just seems to be the case that for Konrad von Marburg, the compiler of the testimony to the canonization or Caesarius von Heisterbach, it seemed completely irrelevant where Elisabeth died. What matters to medieval authors is how they died. [1]

The Gothic Elisabeth Church will therefore be built from 1235 and the building of the Teutonic Order Coming will be erected on the former hospital grounds. The place of death does not seem to matter until the mid-eighties of the 13th century when letters of indulgence are issued for visiting a chapel built on the site where Elizabeth died. Three letters from the years 1286, 1287 and 1291 have survived. [2] The fragmentary necrology of the Teutonic Order also tells of a procession to the place where Elisabeth died. [3]

It seems noticeable that the processions and the foundations did not begin until the 1280s and that there was no mention of the place of death beforehand. Gaps in the tradition in the entire Middle Ages research are completely normal, but that should only be noted.

Excerpt from the so-called “Schönborn plan” from approx. 1735/37 in: J. Hotz, plans and buildings of the Teutonic Order in Hesse. Finds from the Graf von Schönborn archives in Wiesendtheid, in: P. Dr. Klemens Wieser O.T. (Ed.) Eight centuries of German orders in individual representations (Bad Godesberg 1967) 465-474

The chapel itself almost certainly dates from the second half of the 13th century, and if it was built over the place of death, there must have been a previous building that had been demolished. When the first excavations north of the church began in 1970, the excavation director at the time, Ubbo Mozer, followed up on this tradition and examined the foundations of the chapel, which was demolished in 1786. In Mozer's notes it is stated that he found the remains of a previous building. When the old excavation section was opened again at this point in 2009, the result could not be confirmed. The excavated foundation of the chapel is single-phase.

Photos from the excavation north of the Elisabeth Church in 2009 (Photos: LfDM 2009 S. Gütter)

We see, archaeologically, we cannot answer the question about the place of death. But maybe someone else has an idea how to solve the mystery of the place of death. Ingeborg Leister rightly remarked in 1977 that it seems rather unusual to own a place of death chapel if you have recently built an elaborate grave mausoleum in the large hall church next door. This little chapel was certainly not intended for pilgrims either. The purpose of the chapel is unclear, but in all probability it was an in-house infirmary, a hospital for the brothers, which according to medieval beliefs always needed a chapel.

The construction of this building and the adjoining chapel cost money and this money needs to be acquired today as it was then. And at that time there was, among other things, the means of the indulgence letter. [4] The visitor is given indulgence from sins when he visits and donates the place of death of Elizabeth. An annual procession makes this historical tradition credible. Eyewitnesses to Elisabeth's death who could contradict what had happened were no longer alive in the 1280s. This thesis Ingeborg Leister could be the solution to the riddle.

[1] “Forma de statu mortis Lantgraviae de Thuringia” in: A. Huyskens, source studies on the history of St. Elisabeth. Landgrave of Thuringia (Marburg 1908) pp. 148-150 /

Summa Vitae in: E. Könsgen (Ed.), Caesarius von Heisterbach. The life of St. Elisabeth and other testimonies, publ. Hist. Commission Hessen 67.2 = Small texts with translations 2 (Marburg 2007) pp. 127-135 /

Libellus in: A. Huyskens, The so-called Libellus de dictis quatuor ancillarum s. Elisabeth confectus (Kempten and Munich 1911) /

Caesarius von Heisterbach "Sancte Elyzabeth Lantgravie" in: E. Könsgen (Ed.), Caesarius von Heisterbach. The life of St. Elisabeth and other testimonies, publ. Hist. Commission Hessen 67.2 = Small texts with translations 2 (Marburg 2007) pp. 7-91

[2] Wyss, Document Book I, No. 460, No. 474, No. 525

A. Wyss, Hessian Document Book. Document book of the Deutschordens-Ballei Hessen. First volume. 1207-1299 (Leipzig 1879)

[3] Wyss, Urkundenbuch III, 1292, p. 266

A. Wyss, Hessian Document Book. Document book of the Deutschordens-Ballei Hessen. Third volume. 1360 to 1399 (Leipzig 1899)

[4] I. Leister, On the building history of the German House, in: C. Schott (Ed.), Hundred Years of Geography in Marburg. Festschrift on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Geography Chair in Marburg, the move into the “German House” and the 450th anniversary of the founding of the Philipps University (Marburg 1977) 106