(Saint and Founder of the Hungarian State)
the first Hungarian King and founder of the Hungarian state was
born in Esztergom in around 975, the son of Prince Géza and Sarolta.
He became a prince in 997 and was crowned King in 1001. His wife
was the Bavarian princess Gizella. She bore Stephen five children
(Imre, Ottó, Bernát, Ágota and Hedvig). Stephen ruled for 41 years
and died on August 15th 1038. He was buried in Székesfehérvár. His
pagan name was Vajk (a word of Turkish origin meaning "hero") and
his Christian name Stephen ("István" in Hungarian) was taken from
the name of the martyr and protector of the church of Passau.
important role in Stephen's upbringing was played by the German
priests who were, invited to come to Hungary by Prince Géza. Little
is known with certainty about the future King's youth. In 995 accompanied
by a magnificent retinue Stephen travelled to Bavaria and married
Gizella, the daughter of Henry Prince of Bavaria.
the death of his father in 997 Stephen was chosen by the chieftains
and "the people" to be prince. He immediately faced a difficult
challenge, that of imposing the system of inheritance according
to the principle of primogeniture thus doing away with the previous
pagan practices. During the period when raids were very common some
of the chieftains, who were almost independent and jealous of their
power, openly opposed the new Christian prince. The most famous
rebel chieftain was Stephen's cousin.
who, as a close relative of the House of Árpád and as ruler of the
region known as Somogy, claimed the title of prince on the death
by those who remained attached to the old order Koppány tried to
seize the throne. In a battle that took place near to Veszprém,
however, Stephen's army led by German Knights defeated the rebels
and Koppány's body was quartered and nailed to the gates at Esztergom,
Veszprém, Gyôr and in Transylvania as a warning to others who might
have been tempted to rebel. For the young ruler there was no alternative
to continuing the work of Géza. His main aims were the following:
to spread the Christian faith and organise the Church, to replace
the old, pagan order with a feudal system and through the administration
of justice to lay the foundations for the new legal system. This
all had to be done at the same time as taking into account the complex
foreign policy requirements of the embryonic state. In the year
1000 the prelate Astric was sent by Stephen to Pope Silvester II.
to ask for a crown for the Hungarian prince. At the beginning of
the year 1001 Stephen was crowned King at Esztergom receiving the
crown originally intended for the Polish prince Boleslo. The coronation
ceremony, however, marked only the beginning of the struggle to
forge the Hungarian state.
Stephen had to struggle for many years against rebellious chieftains
and their followers, who were unwilling to give up their pagan beliefs.
At the same time with the aid of his counsellors he built up a network
of counties, imitating the system established by the Franks, and
the institutions of the royal court, the centre of power, began
to take shape. Every year there were special days when justice was
administered and statutes were promulgated continuously, which helped
to bolster the feudal system being established. In this regard of
particular importance were the defence of private property, the
rejection of the principles of the pagan customary law and the bolstering
of christianity in the young state.
his achievements in organising the Church, King Stephen and his
son Imre were canonised in 1083. (Since then Hungarians celebrate
the feast day of Saint Stephen on August 20th.) Stephen established
the organisational structure of the Hungarian church by setting
up ten bishoprics and led the way in the founding of monasteries.
The aim of Stephen's foreign policy was to consolidate the feudal
system that was replacing the pagan order. He tried to be on good
terms with both Byzantium and the Holy Roman Emperor. In the second
half of his reign King Stephen felt strong enough to pursue a limited
expansionary policy in a western direction.
last ten years of his reign were marked by personal tragedies and
the political problems arising from them. In 1031 King Stephen's
only son Imre died while hunting wild boar, which made the question
of who would succeed Stephen uncertain. The following years were
marked by the political intrigues and violence that accompanied
the struggle to decide the succession.
Stephen made his sister's son Peter Orseolo heir to the throne.
King Stephen's cousin Vazul rebelled against this decision. In response
Stephen had Vazul's eyes put out and exiled his sons. Before his
death Stephen recommended to the Hungarian lords that Peter should
be his successor.King
Stephen died in 1038 in Székesfehérvár. According to the chronicles
the country mourned him for three years. He had left a confused
political situation when he quitted this life but could also point
to unique achievements - he had established the Hungarian monarchy
and ensured that Hungary belonged to Europe.