This weekend I finished such a fun project--- a portrait of St. Elizabeth the New Martyr, a Russian Orthodox saint. She's a saint I've gotten lots of requests for, she is meaningful to so many different people. And with my love of all things Old Russia, I thought it was time I tried to make my own rendition of this beloved saint.
As far as saints go, this Elizabeth is a relatively new one. She was cannonized in the late 90s by the Russian Orthodox Church and was martyred in 1918, less than a hundred years ago. Her story is one of triumph and tragedy, immense wealth and immense humility.
Born a minor German princess in the mid 19th century, she was a grand daughter of Queen Victoria.
As a young woman she was engaged and married to Grand Duke Sergei, younger brother of the Tsar of Russia. At their wedding, Elizabeth's younger sister Alix met the tsar's son....Nicholas. They would go on to become Tsar Nicholas and Tsarina Alexandra, the last reigning Tsar and Tsarina of Russia until WWI.
Elizabeth converted to her husband's Orthodox faith and was from all accounts a lovely faithful woman and her marriage happy. Sadly, her husband was assassinated in 1905 as social unrest began to bubble up within Russia and royal families, especially the Romanovs, were looked upon as out of touch and held more and more in contempt.
Her reaction to this terrible event is surprising--- she visited her husband's assassin in jail and offered forgiveness and pleaded with him to repent. She sold all her lavish goods, including a large collection of jewels, and founded a convent, The Mary and Martha Home, in Moscow. She helped the poor, sheltered orphans, and led a simple and devout life.
War, of course, came to Russia and with it huge changes. The tsar was forced to abdicate and the whole royal family arrested. Elizabeth was later arrested and taken from her convent and held in prison. Her martyrdom came in 1918 when she and her companions were thrown down a mineshaft, and when they did not die--- grenades and burning brush sent down after them. All this to the sound of singing hymns, coming from the darkness of the mine.
Elizabeth eventually succumbed to the woulds she received during this awful event, and her remains found a few days later. She was later interred in Jerusalem in the Church of Mary Magdalen, a church she and her husband helped build.
Now, 98 years after her death, this princess turned nun turned martyr now saint is remembered for her compassion and humility. She offered forgiveness in unforgiveable situation, and her faith remained strong. She is such a powerful and inspiring saint, and one that I am happy to have learned a little more about, as an ardent reader of "all things Romanov" myself.
At the moment I have the original painting AND prints in my etsy shop! Please come have a look, perhaps she is a saint you'd like to add to your home?