Born around 1265, Notburga was a young serving girl who worked for Count Henry of Rattenberg at his castle near Eben in the Austrian Alps. She came from a poor peasant family and soon became aware that the castle’s pigs were given more food in a day than her parents ate in weeks. The same was true of the poor people who came to the castle gates to beg for alms.
Notburga began passing waste food from the castle kitchen to the beggars at the gates, and if there was not enough she donated some of her own food.
This activity was noticed by Count Henry’s mother, who encouraged Notburga to continue. However, his wife took a very different view. When her mother-in-law died she made sure that Notburga was dismissed.
Notburga went to work for a local farmer, for whom she worked hard although she insisted on being allowed time off on Sundays to go to church.
Meanwhile, life for Count Henry started to go downhill. His wife died and enemies started encroaching on his lands. He could only think that his misfortunes were due to the injustice of sacking a kitchen maid who had only tried to be charitable to people worse off than herself.
When he remarried, and his new wife said that she needed a good maid to look after her, Count Henry lost no time in getting Notburga back on the payroll. She stayed in the household for the rest of her life – which ended in 1313 – and Count Henry’s difficulties disappeared from the day she returned.
St Notburga’s day is 14th September. She is usually portrayed holding a sickle, as used by a peasant farmer. She is a patron saint of servants.