Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Itta, Countess

Blessed Ida of ToggenburgArticle

Saint Itta was born of the Counts of Kirchberg, in Suabia, not far from Ulm, in the year 1160. Having passed her youth piously, under the care of her parents, she was married, when 18 or 19 years of age, to Henry, Count of Toggenburg. The young couple lived, for a considerable time, in great love and harmony, until an unforeseen accident not only destroyed it, but also occasioned a sad tragedy. It was the custom of the Countess, once or twice a year to have her clothing aired and examined. Her jewels and necklaces were on these occasions laid upon a table to be inspected and cleaned. One day, having placed her magnificent wedding-ring, a gift from the Count, among these articles, she left the room, locked the door and went about her household affairs. During her absence, a raven, who had his nest in the neighborhood, flew into the room, seized the ring in his beak and carried it to his nest. It was found, soon after, by one of the servants, who, instead of returning it at once, put it on his finger and showed it to some of his fellow-servants. A valet of the Count, recognizing the ring, conceived the horrible suspicion that the Countess had been faithless, and, without delay, made known the fact to his master. The Count, in great rage, called the hunter into his presence, and had no sooner beheld the ring on his finger, than he commanded him to be tied to the tail of a horse, and to be dragged over rocks and bushes until he expired. Having given this unjust command, he ran still trembling with rage, into the room of the innocent Countess, reproached her with infidelity, listened not to her justification, but deaf to her prayers, tears and supplications, dragged her to the battlements of the castle, which stood upon a high rock, and cast her into a terrible abyss, convinced that she would be dashed to pieces. But divine Providence watched miraculously over the innocence of the holy Countess, who although precipitated from a height of more than 400 feet, remained as unharmed as if Angels had carried her. Recognizing the miracle which the Almighty had wrought, she gave Him her most fervent thanks, and resolved to pass the rest of her life in the same place, although it was a wild chasm, unfrequented by man, and the dwelling of wild beasts. The holy Countess built herself a poor little hut to shelter her, and looked for some herbs and water with which to appease her hunger and thirst. The Almighty, who had fed the prophet Elias by means of a raven, took care also, in a miraculous manner, of His faithful servant, as she afterwards confessed. Itta lived in this lonely spot for several years very quietly, occupying herself in praising God and in pious meditations, whilst all thought her dead, until at last it pleased heaven to reveal her innocence. A hunter came to the place where Itta dwelt. Seeing the footprints of a human being in the sand, he followed them, and thus came to her hut. Entering it, he immediately recognized the Countess. Hastening home, the hunter informed the Count of the startling discovery, and led him to Itta’s hut. At the sight of her, shame, grief and repentance almost broke the Count’s heart, and his sobs deprived him of all power of speech. Having at last controlled himself, he sank at the feet of his innocent spouse, whom he had so long believed dead, and most humbly begged her to pardon him. He offered to make all possible reparation to her, and duly to punish the instigator of the cruelty he had committed, begging her to return with him to the castle and pass her days according to her own pleasure. Itta raised the Count from the ground, saying that she had long since forgiven him, and that she desired that he should leave unpunished him who had caused her such misery, as he had also been to her the unconscious instrument of numberless graces. But she said that she never could return to the castle again; and that the only favor she could ask was that the Count would build her a small dwelling-place at the foot of the mountain named Hornlein, where she might, in peaceful solitude, serve that God, who had so miraculously preserved her life. Her request was immediately granted; and when the little dwelling was finished, she lived in it, in austerity and poverty, as she would not receive anything from the Count, but maintained herself by asking alms. She left her house only to go to the church of a neighboring village to receive the blessed Sacrament, and to devoutly assist at the divine office to the great edification of all. Some time later, when her strength began to fail, the nuns of a convent near by, requested her to pass the remainder of her life with them, that she might not be exposed to the danger of dying alone in her little dwelling, without receiving the holy Sacraments. Itta consented, but on condition that they would build her a hut next to the Church, where she might continue to live separated from all mankind. The nuns cheerfully complied with the request, as they were desirous of having near them a soul so dear to God. After a few more years spent in this new dwelling, she gave her soul, purified by sorrow and trial, and adorned with great virtues, into the keeping of her Father in Heaven. Her holy body was buried in the Convent Church at the Altar of Saint Nicholas, and her shrine became celebrated by many miracles.

Practical Considerations

• The valet of the Count did great wrong in allowing such a reason to arouse his suspicions against the pious Countess; and in disclosing them to one, whom, above all, he should have spared. How much evil he thus occasioned! Be slow and careful in suspecting and judging. Never reveal your suspicions to any, except to those whom your duty compels you to inform of them, and when you can hope that good may arise from it. We can never arouse suspicion in the fidelity of one or the other, without becoming guilty of great sin.

• The Count did still greater wrong, by so easily believing his servant and by not investigating the matter, and giving no chance either to the innocent hunter, or to his own wife to justify themselves, but allowing himself to be carried away by his passion, and punishing them so cruelly. Learn from this that we must not be ready to believe accusers and slanderers. Much less ought we to punish any one, before we have heard his defense and investigated the matter; and we ought never to punish any one when we are in a passion.

• Saint Itta suffers the wrong done to her patiently, forgives, from the depth of her heart, not only her husband, but also the wicked valet, and turns the terrible persecution into an occasion of serving the Almighty, who had protected her so miraculously. How do you suffer wrongs of much less weight done to you? Do you also forgive, from the depth of your heart, those who have wronged you? How do you profit by crosses and trials? Has not the Almighty visibly protected you, more than once, when your life was in danger? Why do you not serve Him more zealously?

In conclusion, learn that God reveals the innocence of His faithful servants in His own good time, even in this world: and that He recompenses richly those who innocently suffer for love of Him. Therefore, if you have to suffer, refrain from murmurs or complaints; hope in God, and bear your cross patiently, out of love for Him. He knows when it will be time to bring your innocence to light, and reward you. “Expect the Lord, do manfully.” (Psalm 36) “Behold I come quickly, and my reward is with me, to render to every man according to his works.” (Apocalypse 22)

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Itta, Countess”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 23 May 2018. Web. 13 November 2018. <>