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St Elizabeth of Hungary's Feast Day November 18

Updated: Mar 1, 2021

by Sarah Lyon and Gordon Nary

Elizabeth of Hungary is venerated throughout central Europe as patroness of the poor and inspired one of the loveliest hagiographic legends.  Born in Sárospatak  Hungary in 1207, Elizabeth was the daughter of Andrew II, King of Hungary. At the age of four, Elisabeth was betrothed to Louis IV of Thüringia in Central Germany. At fourteen, she was married to Lewis. Louis died of the plague when Elizabeth was 20. She subsequently joined the Third Order of St. Francis, a lay Franciscan group, and built a hospital at Marburg for the poor and the sick. Elizabeth relinquished her wealth to the poor, and became a symbol of Christian charity in Germany and elsewhere after her death at the age of 24.

According to legend, shortly after her marriage, Elizabeth had depleted her own family's larder and was carrying several loaves of bread under her cloak to distribute than to the poor. Lewis saw that Elizabeth was obviously concealing something under her cloak and asked her to show him what she was hiding. After hesitating for a few moments because she didn't want her husband to be upset with her excessive charity, Elizabeth opened her cloak. To both her and Lewis's amazement, dozens of roses fell to the ground.

The legend of Elizabeth's miraculous roses continues in the small, fragrant briar roses called Elizabethblumen that still grow on the steep hills surrounding Eisenach, the site of Louis's and Elizabeth's home The year 2007 was proclaimed "Elisabeth Year" in Marburg. All year, events commemorating Elisabeth's life and works were held, culminating in a town-wide festival to celebrate the 800th anniversary of her birth on July 7, 2007. St. Elizabeth's feastday is often celebrated in Germany by decorating church altars with roses and with a variety of rose-flavored desserts. In Europe roses are still used as both culinary and medicinal ingredients. In the United States we have unfortunately lost the tradition of using flowers such as roses, violets, nasturtiums, and marigolds in our cooking. In vegetable and fruit salads, these flowers add an incomparable taste and color.

Rose petals are the most versatile of culinary flowers. They can be added to batters for cakes, pancakes, muffins, etc. Try freezing petals in ice cubes for a special cocktail. Rose water is an often under used  ingredient in transforming mousses, ice creams, and other desserts into exotic variations of everyday recipes. In preparing rose petals for cooking or for salads, wash them carefully to remove any insecticide and trim off the white portion at the base of the petals.

Rose Ice Cream


4 cups whipping cream

3/4 cup sugar

4 egg yolks

3 TB rose extract

3 drops red food coloring

candied rose petals (optional)


Mix cream and sugar in a saucepan. Place over medium heat and stir constantly until sugar is dissolved. Do not let mixture cane to a boil.

Whisk egg yolks. Slowly pour heated cream mixture into egg yolks, whisking constantly. Return mixture to saucepan and place over medium heat. Stir constantly until mixture starts to thicken (about 6 to 8 minutes). Do not let custard cane to a boil.

Mix rose extract and food color. Allow custard to cool. Use custard in a commercial ice cream machine following manufacturer's instructions.

Candied Rose Petals


1 cup sugar

1 cup rose water

3 dozen rose petals


Mix sugar and rose water in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved.

Add petals and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove petals with a slotted spoon and place on waxed paper.

Boil liquid until it registers 234º F on a candy thermometer. Dip petals in syrup to coat then. Remove them with a slotted spoon and place petals on cake racks to dry.

Rose Water

While rose water is occasionally available at pharmacies, health food stores, and specialty food shops, it only costs a fraction of the commercial price to make it. Place 8 cups of rose petals in a large pot. Cover with water and let simmer for 2 hours. Do not let water boil. Sieve liquid and discard petals. Repeat procedure 6 times with rose-flavored liquid instead of fresh water. Then bring mixture to a boil and boil down to 1/3 cup. Cover and store in refrigerator.

© 2017 Gordon Nary

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