Lanternarius Press

St. Stephen of Hungary

AUGUST 16 is the traditional memorial of St. Stephen of Hungary (+1038).

Stephen was of the new generation of Magyars who were baptized as children. The Magyars were rather newly arrived from the Urals of middle Russia. His father, a duke of an area around the Danube, converted to Christianity along with his ten-year old son. Stephen married Gisela at 20 and took over his father’s lands, when his father died two years later.

After Stephen’s inheritance, there was rebellion among the nobles. By Christianization of the area, Stephen achieved a political and religious unity in the area now known as Hungary. He asked the pope to organize the establishment of Catholic churches in his country. He also asked to be crowned king, which happened Christmas Day, 1001. He had one out of every towns had to have a church and a priest. Then he developed tithes to pay for the buildings and support of priests and poor. To eliminate pagan culture, Stephen used violence, when necessary. Towards the end of his reign, Stephen also had difficulty with the Holy Roman Empire.

From the time his son died in 1031, Stephen was involved in a battle over succession, even a plot by his nephews to assassinate him. He died in 1038. The next few decades were filled with fighting in Hungary. But in 1083, Pope Gregory VII authorized Stephen’s canonization. This crowned the legends that began to be written about Stephen. He is the patron of Hungary and of stone cutter and brick layers.

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