The Miracle of the Loaves

Mortuary Chapel Altar and reredos, showing the Deposition from the Cross
Reredos panel showing grapes and vine leaves.
Stained glass window in the Mortuary Chapel of the Cathedral Church of St Marie, showing St Elizabeth of Hungary
The bread miraculously transformed to roses.
Michael Joseph Ellison, pictured in The Sheffield Banking Company – An Historical Sketch 1831-1916, by Robert Eadon Leader
Elizabeth of Hungary in the North Transept stained glass window.

St Marie’s Mortuary Chapel, half way up the Cathedral’s North Aisle, contains an altar with a reredos, carved by Johann Petz, the Austrian-born sculptor, who lived from 1818 to 1880, setting up his own sculpture workshop in Munich.

The central panel in the reredos shows the removal of Christ from the cross – also known as the Deposition or Pieta. Meanwhile, panels on either side contain carvings of grapes and vine leaves.

Stained glass windows in the Mortuary Chapel and the North Transept, both have depictions of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary carrying flowers in her apron, which have been miraculously transformed from loaves that she secretly was taking to the poor.

Elizabeth lived in the 12th century and is said to have spent enormous sums on alms-giving, founding hospitals and setting up homes for orphans, to the anger of some members of the court.

Several versions exist of the legend of St Elizabeth and the loaves.

All agree that, fearing a reprimand when challenged by her opponents to say what she had hidden under her cloak, she told them she was carrying roses.

When she was forced to open the cloak, the food was miraculously transformed into roses.

Following the death of her husband, King Ludwig, Elizabeth was thrown out of the court by her brother in law and was exiled.

Elizabeth became a lay member of the Franciscans, living a life of poverty but still working for the poor, this time by cleaning the houses of the elderly.

She later refused an offer to return to court and died among those she served, in hardship and poverty.

The window in the Mortuary Chapel and the neighbouring window showing Mary Magdalene were given to the church by Mary Ellison and Elizabeth Wake for its opening in 1850.

Both the Ellisons and the Wakes were prominent local Catholic families, acting, respectively, as Agents for the Dukes of Norfolk and leading solicitors.

The main window in the North Transept is dedicated to another member of the Ellison family, Michael Ellison, who died in 1861.

Michael Ellison was the Duke of Norfolk’s Land Agent in Worksop and Sheffield and was the father of Michael Joseph Ellison.

M J Ellison followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming the Duke of Norfolk’s Agent in Sheffield.

He was also a director of the newly formed Sheffield Banking Company, founded in 1831, and a first class cricketer.

In 1863, he was one of the founders of Yorkshire Cricket Club, becoming its first treasurer and, soon afterwards, its President.

M J Ellison was instrumental in persuading the Duke of Norfolk to let Sheffield Cricket Club rent land on Bramall Lane and paid the rent for that land – £70 a year at the time, which is the equivalent of £7,960 in today’s money – until his death in 1898.

Ellison was a playing member of the world’s oldest football club, Sheffield Football Club – which was founded in 1857 – and in 1889 became Sheffield United’s first chairman, holding the post until his death. In addition to the image of St Elizabeth of Hungary, the window dedicated to his father contains depictions of Saint Thomas Villanova, the Archangel Michael, and Saint Mary Magdalene

North Transept stained glass window showing Saints Thomas of Villanova, Michael the Archangel, Elizabeth of Hungary and Mary Magdelene.