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Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231) was the wife of Lewis, Landgrave of Thuringia. After his death in 1227 during one of the Crusades, she entered a convent and devoted herself to good works. Before becoming a nun, she passed through a spiritual crisis, torn by the need to renounce the world, and therefore her children, in order to fulfil her desire to serve God. Pressed by a domineering monk, Conrad, whose natural affections had been starved by celibacy, Elizabeth finally vowed that 'naked and barefoot' she would follow her 'naked Lord'. Calderon's picture shows this moment of self-abasement.
Calderon took his subject from a play by Charles Kingsley, 'The Saint's Tragedy', first published in 1848. It was based on fact.

September 1998