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Stephen I of Hungary

Saint Stephen I
King of the Hungarians, King of the Pannonians or King of Hungary
Portrayal of Stephen I on the Hungarian coronation pall from 1031
King of Hungary
Reign 1000 or 1001–1038
Coronation 25 December 1000 or 1 January 1001
Predecessor Himself as Grand Prince
Successor Peter I
Grand Prince of the Hungarians
Reign 997–1000 or 1001
Predecessor Géza
Successor Himself as King of Hungary
Spouse Gisela of Bavaria
Issue Otto
Saint Emeric
Dynasty Árpád dynasty
Father Géza of Hungary
Mother Sarolt
Born c. 975
Esztergom, Principality of Hungary
Died 15 August 1038 (aged 62–63)
Esztergom or Székesfehérvár, Kingdom of Hungary
Burial Székesfehérvár Basilica, Székesfehérvár, Hungary
Religion Catholic

Stephen I, also Saint Stephen (Hungarian: Szent István király; Latin: Sanctus Stephanus;[1] Slovak: Štefan I. or Štefan Veľký; c. 975 – 15 August 1038) was the last Grand Prince of the Hungarians between 997 and 1000 or 1001, and the first King of Hungary from 1000 or 1001 until his death in 1038. The year of his birth is uncertain, but many details of his life suggest that he was born in or after 975 in Esztergom. At his birth, he was given the pagan name Vajk. The date of his baptism is unknown. He was the only son of Grand Prince Géza and his wife, Sarolt, who was descended from the prominent family of the gyulas. Although both of his parents were baptized, Stephen was the first member of his family to become a devout Christian. He married Gisela of Bavaria, a scion of the imperial Ottonian dynasty.

After succeeding his father in 997, Stephen had to fight for the throne against his relative, Koppány, who was supported by large numbers of pagan warriors. He defeated Koppány mainly with the assistance of foreign knights, including Vecelin, Hont and Pázmány, but also with help from native lords. He was crowned on 25 December 1000 or 1 January 1001 with a crown sent by Pope Sylvester II. In a series of wars against semi-independent tribes and chieftains—including the Black Hungarians and his uncle, Gyula the Younger—he unified the Carpathian Basin. He protected the independence of his kingdom by forcing the invading troops of Conrad II, Holy Roman Emperor to withdraw from Hungary in 1030.

Stephen established at least one archbishopric, six bishoprics and three Benedictine monasteries; thus the Church in Hungary developed independently of the archbishops of the royal officials. Hungary, which enjoyed a lasting period of peace during his reign, became a preferred route for pilgrims and merchants traveling between Western Europe and the Holy Land or Constantinople.

He survived all of his children. He died on 15 August 1038 and was buried in his new basilica, built in Székesfehérvár and dedicated to the Holy Virgin. His death caused civil wars which lasted for decades. He was canonized, together with his son, Emeric, and Bishop Gerard of Csanád, in 1083. Stephen is a popular saint in Hungary and the neighboring territories. In Hungary, his feast day (celebrated on 20 August) is also a public holiday commemorating the foundation of the state.


  • Early years (c. 975–997) 1
  • Reign (997–1038) 2
    • Grand Prince (997–1000) 2.1
    • Coronation (1000–1001) 2.2
    • Consolidation (1001–c. 1009) 2.3
    • Active foreign policy (c. 1009–1031) 2.4
    • Last years (1031–1038) 2.5
  • Family 3
  • Legacy 4
    • Founder of Hungary 4.1
    • The Holy King 4.2
    • His Holy Dexter 4.3
    • His Admonitions 4.4
    • Artistic representation 4.5
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Sources 7
    • Primary sources 7.1
    • Secondary sources 7.2
  • External links 8

Early years (c. 975–997)

Stephen's birth
Stephen's birth depicted in the Illuminated Chronicle

The date of Stephen's birth is uncertain, because it was not recorded in contemporaneous documents.[2] Hungarian and Polish chronicles written centuries later give three different years: 967, 969 and 975.[3] The unanimous testimony of his legends and other Hungarian sources, which state that Stephen was "still an adolescent"[4] in 997, substantiate the reliability of the later year (975).[2][3] Stephen's Lesser Legend adds that he was born in Esztergom.[2][3][5] His place of birth also implies that he was born after 972, because his father, Géza, Grand Prince of the Hungarians, chose Esztergom as royal residence around that year.[2] Géza promoted the spread of Christianity among his subjects by force, but never ceased worshipping pagan gods.[6][7] Both his son's Greater Legend and the nearly contemporaneous Thietmar of Merseburg described Géza as a cruel monarch, suggesting that he was a despot who mercilessly consolidated his authority over the rebellious Hungarian lords.[7][8]

Hungarian chronicles unanimously report that Stephen's mother was Sarolt, a daughter of Gyula, a Hungarian chieftain with jurisdiction either in Transylvania[9] or in the wider region of the confluence of the rivers Tisza and Maros.[10] Many historians—including Pál Engel and Gyula Kristó—propose that her father was identical with "Gylas", who had around 952 been baptized in Constantinople and "remained faithful to Christianity",[11] according to the Byzantine chronicler, John Skylitzes.[12][13] However, this identification is not unanimously accepted; for instance, historian György Györffy says that it was not Sarolt's father, but his younger brother who was baptized in the Byzantine capital.[9] In contrast with all Hungarian sources, the Polish-Hungarian Chronicle and later Polish sources state that Stephen's mother was Adelhaid, an otherwise unknown sister of Duke Mieszko I of Poland, but the reliability of this report is not accepted by modern historians.[14]

Painting by Gyula Benczúr
Baptism of Vajk, painting by Gyula Benczúr

He was born as Vajk,[5][15] which derived from a Turkic word baj, meaning "hero", "master", "prince", or "rich".[3][14] Stephen's Greater Legend narrates that he was baptized by the saintly Bishop Adalbert of Prague,[16] who stayed in Géza's court several times between 983 and 994.[17][18] However, St Adalbert's nearly contemporaneous Legend, written by Bruno of Querfurt, does not mention of the event.[17][16][18] Accordingly, the date of Stephen's baptism is unknown: Györffy argues that Stephen was baptized soon after birth,[16] while Kristó proposes that he only received baptism just before his father's death in 997.[18] He was given his baptismal name in honour of the first martyr, Saint Stephen.

Stephen's official biography, written by Bishop Hartvik and sanctioned by Pope Innocent III, narrates that he "was fully instructed in knowledge of the grammatical art"[19] in his childhood, implying that he studied Latin.[3] His two other late 11th-century biographies do not mention Stephen's grammatical studies. They only state that he "was brought up by receiving an education appropriate for a little prince".[3] Kristó says that the latter remark only refers to Stephen's physical training, including his participation in hunts and military actions.[3] According to the Illuminated Chronicle, one of his tutors was a Count Deodatus from Italy, who later founded a monastery in Tata.[20]

According to Stephen's legends, Grand Prince Géza convoked an assembly of the Hungarian chieftains and warriors when Stephen "ascended to the first stage of adolescence",[19] when he was 14 or 15.[21][22] Géza nominated Stephen as his successor and all those who were present took an oath of loyalty to the young prince.[22] Györffy also writes, without referring to his source, that Géza appointed his son to rule the "Nyitra ducate" around that time.[16] Slovak historians, including Ján Steinhübel and Ján Lukačka, accept Györffy's view and propose that Stephen administered Nyitra (now Nitra, Slovakia) from around 995.[23][24]

Upon his father's initiative, Stephen married Gisela, the daughter of Henry the Wrangler, Duke of Bavaria (r. 955–995) in or after 995.[5][25] This marriage established the first family link between a Hungarian ruler and a Western European ruling house,[26] because Gisela was closely related to the Ottonian dynasty of the Holy Roman Emperors.[18] According to popular tradition preserved in the Scheyern Abbey in Bavaria, the ceremony took place at the castle of Scheyern and was celebrated by Bishop Adalbert of Prague.[22] Gisela was accompanied to her new home by Bavarian knights, many of whom received land grants from her husband and settled in Hungary.[27] The arrival of these heavily-armed warriors strengthened Stephen's military position.[28] Györffy writes that Stephen and his wife "presumably" settled in Nyitra after their marriage.[27]

Reign (997–1038)

Grand Prince (997–1000)

Grand Prince Géza died in 997.[15][29] Stephen convoked an assembly to Esztergom where his supporters declared him grand prince.[30] Initially, he only controlled the northwestern regions of the Carpathian Basin; the rest of the territory was still dominated by tribal chieftains.[31] Stephen's ascension to the throne was in line with the principle of primogeniture which prescribed that a father was succeeded by his son.[28] On the other hand, it contradicted the traditional idea of seniority, according to which Géza should have been succeeded by the most senior member of the Árpád dynasty, who was Koppány at that time.[28][32] Koppány, who held the title Duke of Somogy,[33] had for many years administered the regions of Transdanubia south of Lake Balaton.[29][26]

Koppány proposed to Géza's widow, Sarolt, in accordance with the pagan custom of levirate marriage.[30][34][35] He also announced his claim to the throne.[30] Although it is not impossible that Koppány had already in 972 been baptized,[30] most of his supporters were pagans, opponents of Christianity represented by Stephen and his predominantly German retinue.[36] A charter of 1002 for the Pannonhalma Archabbey even writes of a war between "the Germans and the Hungarians" when referring to the armed conflicts between Stephen and Koppány.[37][36] Even so, Györffy says that Oszlar ("Alan"), Besenyő ("Pecheneg"), Kér and other place names, referring to ethnic groups or Hungarian tribes in Transdanubia around the supposed borders of Koppány's duchy, suggest that significant auxiliary units and groups of Hungarian warriors—who had been settled there by Grand Prince Géza—fought in Stephen's army.[38]

Koppány's execution
Koppány's execution after his defeat by Stephen

Kristó states that the entire conflict between Stephen and Koppány was only a feud between two members of the Árpád dynasty, with no effect on other Hungarian tribal leaders.[31] Koppány and his troops invaded the northern regions of Transdanubia, took many of Stephen's forts and plundered his lands.[36] Stephen, who "was for the first time girded with his sword", according to the Illuminated Chronicle[39] placed the brothers Hont and Pázmány at the head of his own guard and nominated Vecelin to lead the royal army.[40][36][41] The latter was a German knight who had come to Hungary in the reign of Géza.[42] Hont and Pázmány were, according to Simon of Kéza's Gesta Hunnorum et Hungarorum and the Illuminated Chronicle, "knights of Swabian origin"[43] who settled in Hungary either under Géza or in the first years of Stephen's reign.[31] On the other hand, Lukačka and other Slovak historians say that Hont and Pázmány were "Slovak" noblemen who had joined Stephen during his rule in Nyitra.[44]

Koppány was besieging Veszprém when he was informed of the arrival of Stephen's army.[38] In the ensuing battle, Stephen won a decisive victory over his enemies.[35] Koppány was killed on the battlefield.[26] His body was quartered and its parts were displayed at the gates of the forts of Esztergom, Győr, Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia, Romania) and Veszprém in order to threaten all of those who were conspiring against the young monarch.[35][45][46]

Stephen occupied Koppány's duchy and granted large estates to his own partisans.[47][29] He also prescribed that Koppány's former subjects were to pay tithes to this monastery, according to the deed of the foundation of the Pannonhalma Archabbey which has been preserved in a manuscript containing interpolations.[48][36] The same document declares that "there were no other bishoprics and monasteries in Hungary" at that time.[49] On the other hand, the nearly contemporary Bishop Thietmar of Merseburg stated that Stephen "established bishoprics in his kingdom"[50] before being crowned king.[49] If the latter report is valid, the dioceses of Veszprém and Győr are the most probable candidates.[51]

Coronation (1000–1001)

St Stephen's modern sculpture in Budapest
King Saint Stephen's modern sculpture in Budapest

When ordering the display of one part of Koppány's quartered corpse in Gyulafehérvár, the seat of his maternal uncle, Gyula the Younger, Stephen demonstrated his claim to reign all lands dominated by Hungarian lords.[52] He also decided to confirm his international position by adopting the title of king.[53] However, the exact circumstances of his coronation and its political consequences are subject to scholarly debate.[54]

Thietmar of Merseburg writes that Stephen received the crown "with the favour and urging"[50] of Emperor Otto III (r. 996–1002),[55] implying that Stephen accepted the Emperor's suzerainty before his coronation.[54] On the other hand, all of Stephen's legends emphasize that he received his crown from Pope Sylvester II (r. 999–1003).[54] Kristó[56] and other historians[57] point out that Pope Sylvester and Emperor Otto were close allies, which implies that both reports are valid: Stephen "received the crown and consecration"[50] from the Pope, but not without the Emperor's consent. Around 75 years after the coronation, Pope Gregory VII (r. 1075–1085), who claimed suzerainty over Hungary, declared that Stephen had "offered and devotedly surrendered" Hungary "to Saint Peter" (that is to the Holy See).[58][55][57] In a contrasting report, Stephen's Greater Legend states that the King offered Hungary to the Virgin Mary.[57] Modern historians—including Pál Engel, and Miklós Molnár—write that Stephen always demonstrated his sovereignty and never accepted papal or imperial suzerainty.[26][54] For instance, none of his charters were dated according to the years of the reign of the contemporary emperors, which would have been the case if he had been the German monarch's vassal.[59] Furthermore, Stephen declared in the preamble to his First Book of Laws that he governed his realm "by the will of God".[60][59]

The exact date of Stephen's coronation is unknown.[56] According to later Hungarian tradition, he was crowned on the first day of the second millennium, which may refer either to 25 December 1000 or to 1 January 1001.[61][15] Details of Stephen's coronation preserved in his Greater Legend suggest that the ceremony, which took place in Esztergom, followed the rite of the coronation of the German kings.[62] Accordingly, Stephen was anointed with consecrated oil during the ceremony.[62] Stephen's portrait, preserved on his royal cloak from 1031, shows that his crown, similarly to the Holy Roman Emperor's diadem, was a hoop crown decorated with gemstones.[63]

Besides his crown, Stephen regarded a spear with a flag as an important symbol of his sovereignty.[63] For instance, his first coins bear the inscription LANCEA REGIS ("the king's spear") and depict an arm holding a spear with flag.[63] According to the contemporaneous Adémar de Chabannes, a spear had been given to Stephen's father by Emperor Otto III in a token of Géza's right to "enjoy the most freedom in the possession of his country".[64] Stephen is styled in various ways—Ungarorum rex ("king of the Hungarians"), Pannoniorum rex ("king of the Pannonians") or Hungarie rex ("king of Hungary")—in his charters.[55]

Consolidation (1001–c. 1009)

Although Stephen's power did not rely on his coronation,[55] the ceremony granted him the internationally accepted legitimacy of a Christian monarch who ruled his realm "by the Grace of God".[65] All his legends testify that he established an archbishopric with its see in Esztergom shortly after his coronation.[66] This act ensured that the Church in Hungary became independent of the prelates of the Holy Roman Empire.[67][68] The earliest reference to an archbishop of Esztergom, named Domokos, has been preserved in the deed of foundation of the Pannonhalma Archabbey from 1002.[66] According to historian Gábor Thoroczkay, Stephen also established the Diocese of Kalocsa in 1001.[69] Stephen invited foreign priests to Hungary to evangelize his kingdom.[68] Associates of the late Adalbert of Prague, including Radla and Astrik, arrived in Hungary in the first years of his reign.[70][71] The presence of an unnamed "Archbishop of the Hungarians" at the synod of 1007 of Frankfurt and the consecration of an altar in Bamberg in 1012 by Archbishop Astrik show that Stephen's prelates maintained a good relationship with the clergy of the Holy Roman Empire.[8]

The transformation of Hungary into a Christian state was one of Stephen's principal concerns throughout his reign.[72] Although the Hungarians' conversion had already begun in his father's reign, it was only Stephen who systematically forced his subjects to give up their pagan rituals.[73] His legislative activity was closely connected with Christianity.[74] For example, his First Book of Laws from the first years of his reign includes several provisions prescribing the observance of feast days and the confession before death.[75][76] His other laws protected property rights[77] and the interests of widows and orphans, or regulated the status of serfs.[76]

If someone has such a hardened heart—God forbid it to any Christian—that he does not want to confess his faults according to the counsel of a priest, he shall lie without any divine service and alms like an infidel. If his relatives and neighbors fail to summon the priest, and therefore he should die unconfessed, prayers and alms should be offered, but his relatives shall wash away their negligence by fasting in accordance with the judgement of the priests. Those who die a sudden death shall be buried with all ecclesiastical honor; for divine judgment is hidden from us and unknown.
Laws of King Stephen I[78]
Gyula the Younger is captured
Stephen's forces seize his uncle, Gyula the Younger

Many Hungarian lords refused to accept Stephen's suzerainty even after his coronation.[45] The new King first turned against his own uncle, Gyula the Younger, whose realm "was most wide and rich",[79] according to the Illuminated Chronicle.[80] Stephen invaded Transylvania and seized Gyula and his family around 1002[81][82] or in 1003.[15][80] The contemporary Annals of Hildesheim[82] adds that Stephen converted his uncle's "country to the Christian faith by force" after its conquest.[80] Accordingly, historians date the establishment of the Diocese of Transylvania to this period.[82][69] If the identification, proposed by Kristó, Györffy and other Hungarian historians, of Gyula with one Prokui—who was Stephen's uncle according to Thietmar of Merseburg—is valid,[83] Gyula later escaped from captivity and fled to Boleslav the Brave, Duke of Poland (r. 992–1025).[80]

[Duke Boleslav the Brave's] territory included a certain burg, located near the border with the Hungarians. Its guardian was lord Prokui, an uncle of the Hungarian king. Both in the past and more recently, Prokui had been driven from his lands by the king and his wife had been taken captive. When he was unable to free her, his nephew arranged for her unconditional release, even though he was Prokui's enemy. I have never heard of anyone who showed such restraint towards a defeated foe. Because of this, God repeatedly granted him victory, not only in the burg mentioned above, but in others as well.
Thietmar of Merseburg: Chronicum[84]

About a hundred years later the chronicler Gallus Anonymus also made mention of armed conflicts between Stephen and Boleslav the Brave, by stating that the latter "defeated the Hungarians in battle and made himself master of all their lands as far as the Danube".[85][86][23] Györffy says that the chronicler's report refers to the occupation of the valley of the river Morava—a tributary of the Danube—by the Poles in the 1010s.[86] On the other hand, the Polish-Hungarian Chronicle states that the Polish duke occupied large territories north of the Danube and east of the Morava as far as Esztergom in the early 1000s.[86][87] According to Steinhübel, the latter source proves that a significant part of the lands that now form Slovakia were under Polish rule between 1002 and 1030.[87] In contrast with the Slovak historian, Györffy writes that this late chronicle "in which one absurdity follows another" contradicts all facts known from 11th-century sources.[88]

Kean's defeat by Stephen
Stephen defeats Kean "Duke of the Bulgarians and Slavs"

The Illuminated Chronicle narrates that Stephen "led his army against Kean, Duke of the Bulgarians and Slavs whose lands are by their natural position most strongly fortified"[89] following the occupation of Gyula's country.[90] According to a number of historians, including Zoltán Lenkey[90] and Gábor Thoroczkay,[69] Kean was the head of a small state located in the southern parts of Transylvania and Stephen occupied his country around 1003. Other historians, including Györffy, say that the chronicle's report preserved the memory of Stephen's campaign against Bulgaria in the late 1010s.[91]

Likewise, the identification of the "Black Hungarians"[92]—who were mentioned by Bruno of Querfurt and Adémar de Chabannes among the opponents of Stephen's proselytizing policy—is uncertain.[93] Györffy locates their lands to the east of the river Tisza,[94] while Thoroczkay to the southern parts of Transdanubia.[69] Bruno of Querfurt's report of the Black Hungarians' conversion by force suggests that Stephen conquered their lands at the latest in 1009 when "the first mission of Saint Peter"[95]—a papal legate, Cardinal Azo—arrived in Hungary.[96] The latter attended the meeting in Győr where the royal charter determining the borders of the newly established Bishopric of Pécs was issued on August 23, 1009.[95]

The Diocese of Eger was also set up around 1009.[97][95] According to Thoroczkay, "it is very probable" that the bishopric's establishment was connected with the conversion of the Kabars—an ethnic group of Khazar origin—[98] and their chieftain.[99] The head of the Kavars—who was either Samuel Aba or his father—[100] married Stephen's unnamed younger sister on this occasion.[99][101] The Aba clan was the most powerful among the native families who joined Stephen and supported him in his efforts to establish a Christian monarchy.[102] The reports by Anonymous, Simon of Kéza and other Hungarian chroniclers of the Bár-Kalán, Csák and other 13th-century noble families descending from Hungarian chieftains suggest that other native families were also involved in the process.[102]

Stephen set up a territory-based administrative system,[80] establishing

Stephen I of Hungary
Born: c. 975 Died: 15 August 1038
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Grand Prince of the Hungarians
Succeeded by
Himself as King
Preceded by
Himself as Grand Prince
King of Hungary
Succeeded by
  • A BBC report on Saint Stephen's day celebrations in Hungary
  • His picture on the Hungarian 10,000 forint banknote
  • Procession of the Holy Right Hand of St. Stephen on Videoactive
  • Stephen I, the First Christian Hungarian King (
  • (Hungarian) Kristó, Gyula (2002). Szent István király (=King Saint Stephen). Vince Kiadó and Neumann Kht.

External links

  • Bakay, Kornél (1999). "Hungary". In Reuter, Timothy. The New Cambridge Medieval History, Volume III: c. 900-c. 1024. Cambridge University Press. pp. 536–552.  
  • Berend, Nora (2001). "Introduction to Hartvic, Life of King Stephen of Hungary". In Head, Thomas. Medieval Hagiography: An Anthology. Routledge. pp. 375–377.  
  • Berend, Nora; Laszlovszky, József; Szakács, Béla Zsolt (2007). "The kingdom of Hungary". In Berend, Nora. Christianization and the Rise of Christian Monarchy: Scandinavia, Central Europe and Rus', c. 900–1200. Cambridge University Press. pp. 319–368.  
  • Butler, Alban; Cumming, John; Burns, Paul (1998). Butler's Lives of the Saints (New Full Edition): August. Burns & Oates.  
  • Cartledge, Bryan (2011). The Will to Survive: A History of Hungary. C. Hurst & Co.  
  • Curta, Florin (2001). "Transylvania around AD 1000". In Urbańczyk, Przemysław. Europe around the year 1000. Wydawnictwo DIG. pp. 141–165.  
  • Csorba, Csaba (2004). ]Castle of Szentjobb [Szentjobb vára (in Magyar). A Hajdú-Bihar Megyei Önkormányzat Hajdú-Bihar Megyei Múzeumok Igazgatósága.  
  • Engel, Pál (2001). The Realm of St Stephen: A History of Medieval Hungary, 895–1526. I.B. Tauris Publishers.  
  • Guiley, Rosemary Ellen (2001). The Encyclopedia of Saints. Infobase Publishing.  
  • Györffy, György (1983). István király és műve [King Stephen and his work] (in Magyar). Gondolat Könyvkiadó.  
  • Györffy, György (1994). King Saint Stephen of Hungary. Atlantic Research and Publications.  
  • Klaniczay, Gábor (2002). Holy Rulers and Blessed Princes: Dynastic Cults in Medieval Central Europe. Cambridge University Press.  
  • Kontler, László (1999). Millennium in Central Europe: A History of Hungary. Atlantisz Publishing House.  
  • Kristó, Gyula; Makk, Ferenc (1996). Az Árpád-ház uralkodói [Rulers of the House of Árpád] (in Magyar). I.P.C. Könyvek.  
  • Kristó, Gyula (2001). "The Life of King Stephen the Saint". In Zsoldos, Attila. Saint Stephen and His Country: A Newborn Kingdom in Central Europe – Hungary. Lucidus Kiadó. pp. 15–36.  
  • Kristó, Gyula (2003). Háborúk és hadviselés az Árpádok korában [Wars and Tactics under the Árpáds] (in Magyar). Szukits Könyvkiadó.  
  • Lenkey, Zoltán (2003). "Szent István [Saint Stephen]". In Szentpéteri, József. Szent István és III. András [Saint Stephen and Andrew III] (in Magyar). Kossuth Kiadó. pp. 5–118.  
  • Lukačka, Ján (2011). "The beginnings of the nobility in Slovakia". In Teich, Mikuláš; Kováč, Dušan; Brown, Martin D. Slovakia in History. Cambridge University Press. pp. 30–37.  
  • Magyar, Zoltán (1996). Szent István a magyar kultúrtörténetben [Saint Stephen in the History of Hungarian Arts] (in Magyar). Helikon Kiadó.  
  • Makk, Ferenc (2001). "On the Foreign Policy of Saint Stephen". In Zsoldos, Attila. Saint Stephen and His Country: A Newborn Kingdom in Central Europe – Hungary. Lucidus Kiadó. pp. 37–48.  
  • Makk, Ferenc (1993). Magyar külpolitika (896–1196) [Hungarian Foreign Policy (896–1196)] (in Magyar). Szegedi Középkorász Műhely.  
  • Molnár, Miklós (2001). A Concise History of Hungary. Cambridge University Press.  
  • O'Malley, Vincent J., CM (1995). Saintly Companions: A Cross-Reference of Sainted Relationships. Alba House.  
  • Sălăgean, Tudor (2005). "Romanian Society in the Early Middle Ages (9th–14th Centuries AD)". In Pop, Ioan-Aurel; Bolovan, Ioan. History of Romania: Compendium. Romanian Cultural Institute (Center for Transylvanian Studies). pp. 133–207.  
  • Steinhübel, Ján (2011). "The Duchy of Nitra". In Teich, Mikuláš; Kováč, Dušan; Brown, Martin D. Slovakia in History. Cambridge University Press. pp. 15–29.  
  • Thoroczkay, Gábor (2001). "The Dioceses and Bishops of Saint Stephen". In Zsoldos, Attila. Saint Stephen and His Country: A Newborn Kingdom in Central Europe – Hungary. Lucidus Kiadó. pp. 49–68.  
  • Tringli, István (2001). "The Liberty of the Holy King: Saint Stephen and the Holy Kings in the Hungarian Legal Heritaga". In Zsoldos, Attila. Saint Stephen and His Country: A Newborn Kingdom in Central Europe – Hungary. Lucidus Kiadó. pp. 127–179.  
  • Veszprémy, László (1994). "Gizella". In Kristó, Gyula; Engel, Pál; Makk, Ferenc. Korai magyar történeti lexikon (9–14. század) [Encyclopedia of the Early Hungarian History (9th–14th centuries)] (in Magyar). Akadémiai Kiadó. pp. 236–237.  
  • Wolfram, Herwig (2006). Conrad II, 990–1039: Emperor of Three Kingdoms. The Pennsylvania State University Press.  
  • Zsoldos, Attila (2001). Saint Stephen and his Country: A Newborn Kingdom in Central Europe: Hungary. Lucidus. 

Secondary sources

  • "Hartvic, Life of King Stephen of Hungary" (Translated by Nora Berend) (2001). In Head, Thomas. Medieval Hagiography: An Anthology. Routledge. pp. 378–398. ISBN 0-415-93753-1.
  • John Skylitzes: A Synopsis of Byzantine History, 811–1057 (Translated by John Wortley with Introduction by Jean-Claude Cheynet and Bernard Flusin and Notes by Jean-Claude Cheynet) (2010). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-76705-7.
  • "Life of the Five Brethren by Bruno of Querfurt (Translated by Marina Miladinov)" (2013). In Saints of the Christianization Age of Central Europe (Tenth-Eleventh Centuries) (Edited by Gábor Klaniczay, translated by Cristian Gaşpar and Marina Miladinov, with an introductory essay by Ian Wood) [Central European Medieval Texts, Volume 6.]. CEU Press. pp. 183–314. ISBN 978-615-5225-20-8.
  • Ottonian Germany: The Chronicon of Thietmar of Merseburg (Translated and annotated by David A. Warner) (2001). Manchester University Press. ISBN 0-7190-4926-1.
  • "Rodulfus Glaber: The Five Books of the Histories" (2002). In Rodulfus Glaber Opera (Edited by John France, Neithard Bulst and Paul Reynolds) [Oxford Medieval Texts]. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-822241-6.
  • Simon of Kéza: The Deeds of the Hungarians (Edited and translated by László Veszprémy and Frank Schaer with a study by Jenő Szűcs) (1999). CEU Press. ISBN 963-9116-31-9.
  • "Pope Gregory VII's letter to King Solomon of Hungary, claiming suzerainty over that kingdom". In The Correspondence of Pope Gregory: Selected Letters from the Registrum (Translated with and Introduction and Notes by Ephraim Emerton). Columbia University Press. pp. 48–49. ISBN 978-0-231-09627-0.
  • "The Deeds of Conrad II (Wipo)" (2000). In Imperial Lives & Letters of the Eleventh Century (Translated by Theodor E. Mommsen and Karl F. Morrison, with a historical introduction and new suggested readings by Karl F. Morrison, edited by Robert L. Benson). Columbia University Press. pp. 52–100. ISBN 978-0-231-12121-7.
  • The Deeds of the Princes of the Poles (Translated and annotated by Paul W. Knoll and Frank Schaer with a preface by Thomas N. Bisson) (2003). CEU Press. ISBN 963-9241-40-7.
  • The Hungarian Illuminated Chronicle: Chronica de Gestis Hungarorum (Edited by Dezső Dercsényi) (1970). Corvina, Taplinger Publishing. ISBN 0-8008-4015-1.
  • "The Laws of King Stephen I (1000–1038)". In The Laws of the Medieval Kingdom of Hungary, 1000–1301 (Translated and Edited by János M. Bak, György Bónis, James Ross Sweeney with an essay on previous editions by Andor Czizmadia, Second revised edition, In collaboration with Leslie S. Domonkos) (1999). Charles Schlacks, Jr. Publishers. pp. 1–11. ISBN 1-884445-29-2. OCLC 495379882. OCLC 248424393. LCCN 89-10492. OL12153527M. (ISBN may be misprinted in the book as 88445-29-2) .

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See also

Stephen I is also represented in a number of musical compositions. His best known representation in music was Beethoven's King Stephen Overture. In 1938, Hungarian composer Zoltán Kodály wrote a choral piece titled Hymn to King Stephen (Hungarian: Ének Szent István Királyhoz).[198][199] Levente Szörényi and János Bródy composed a rock opera, István, a király ("Stephen, the King"), of the early years of his reign in 1983. A sequel to it, Veled, Uram! ("You, Sir"), was composed in 2000 by Szörényi.[200]

King Stephen has been a popular theme in art, especially since the 19th century, with the development of Romantic nationalism. Paintings, such as The Baptism of Vajk by Gyula Benczúr in 1875, and many statues representing the King throughout Hungary and the neighboring countries, testify to Stephen's importance in Hungarian national thought. Ferenc Erkel's last complete opera from 1885, István király ("King Stephen"), was named for him.

Artistic representation

My dearest son, if you desire to honor the royal crown, I advise, I counsel, I urge you above all things to maintain the Catholic and Apostolic faith with such diligence and care that you may be an example for all those placed under you by God, and that all the clergy may rightly call you a man of true Christian profession. Failing to do this, you may be sure that you will not be called a Christian or a son of the Church. Indeed, in the royal palace, after the faith itself, the Church holds second place, first constituted and spread through the whole world by His members, the apostles and holy fathers, And though she always produced fresh offspring, nevertheless in certain places she is regarded as ancient. However, dearest son, even now in our kingdom the Church is proclaimed as young and newly planted; and for that reason she needs more prudent and trustworthy guardians less a benefit which the divine mercy bestowed on us undeservedly should be destroyed and annihilated through your idleness, indolence or neglect.
—Stephen's Admonitions to his son, Emeric[197]

The Admonitions argues that kingship is inseparably connected with the Catholic faith.[55][196] Its author emphasized that a monarch is required to make donations to the Church and regularly consult his prelates, but he is entitled to punish clergymen who do wrong.[55] One of its basic ideas was that a sovereign has to cooperate with the "pillars of his rule", meaning the prelates, the aristocrats, the ispáns and the warriors.[196]

According to Stephen's Greater Legend the King "himself compiled a book for his son on moral education".[194] This work, now known as Admonitions or De institutione morum,[195] was preserved in manuscripts written in the Late Middle Ages.[55] Although scholars debate whether it can actually be attributed to the King or a cleric, most of them agree that it was composed in the first decades of the 11th century.[55][196]

His Admonitions

The Holy Dexter was kept for centuries in the Szentjobb Abbey except during the Mongol invasion of 1241 and 1242, when it was transferred to Ragusa (Dubrovnik, Croatia).[190] The Holy Dexter was taken to Székesfehérvár around 1420.[190] Following the occupation of the central territories of the Kingdom of Hungary by the Ottoman Turks in the middle of the 16th century, it was kept in many places, including Bosnia, Ragusa and Vienna.[193] It was returned to Hungary in 1771 when Queen Maria Theresa (r. 1740–1780) donated it to the cloister of the Sisters of Loreto in Buda.[193] It was kept in the St. Sigismund Chapel in the Buda Castle between around 1900 and 1944, in a cave near Salzburg in Austria in 1944 and 1945, by the Sisters of Loreto in Buda between 1945 and 1950, and in the St. Stephen's Basilica in Budapest since 1950.[193] An annual procession has celebrated the relic since 1938, except between 1950 and 1987 when its celebration was forbidden by the communist government.[193]

Why is it, brothers, that his other limbs having become disjointed and, his flesh having been reduced to dust, wholly separated, only the right hand, its skin and sinews adhering to the bones, preserved the beauty of wholeness? I surmise that the inscrutability of divine judgement sought to proclaim by the extraordinary nature of this fact nothing less than that the work of love and alms surpasses the measure of all other virtues. ... The right hand of the blessed man was deservedly exempt from putrefaction, because always reflourishing from the flower of kindness it was never empty from giving gifts to nourish the poor.
Hartvic, Life of King Stephen of Hungary[192]

Stephen's intact dexter, or right hand (Hungarian: Szent Jobb), became the subject of a cult.[175][190] A cleric named Mercurius stole it, but it was discovered on 30 May 1184 in Bihar County.[179] The theft of sacred relics, or furta sacra, had by that time become a popular topic of saints' biographies.[191] Bishop Hartvik described the discovery of Stephen's right hand in accordance with this tradition, referring to adventures and visions.[191] To the veneration of the Holy Dexter, an abbey was dedicated in Bihar County.[175] The monastery was named Szentjobb (Sâniob, Romania) after the relic.[175]

St Stephen's intact right hand
The Holy Dexter: King St. Stephen's intact right hand

His Holy Dexter

Stephen's cult spread beyond the borders of Hungary.[172] Initially he was primarily venerated in Scheyern and Bamberg in Bavaria, but his relics were also taken to Aachen, Cologne, Montecassino and Namur.[172] Upon the liberation of Buda from the Ottoman Turks, Pope Innocent XI expanded Stephen's cult to the entire Roman Catholic Church in 1686.[172] He declared 2 September as King Saint Stephen's feast day.[163][172] As the feast of Saint Joachim was moved, in 1969, from 16 August,[186] the day immediately following the day of Stephen's death, the latter's feast was moved to that date.[187] Stephen is venerated as the patron saint of Hungary.[172] He is regarded as the protector of kings, masons, stonecutters, stonemasons and bricklayers,[188] and also of children suffering from dangerous illnesses.[188] The canonization of Saint Stephen was recognized by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople in the year 2000.[189] In the calendar of the Hungarian Roman Catholic Church, the feast is observed on 20 August, the day on which his relics were translated.[172] In Hungary, a separate feast day (30 May) is dedicated to Stephen's "Holy Dexter".[172]

Stephen's first legend, the so-called Greater Legend, was written between 1077 and 1083.[181] It provided an idealized portrait of the king,[182] who dedicated himself and his kingdom to the Virgin Mary.[181] However, Stephen's Lesser Legend—which was composed around 1100,[182] under King Coloman (r. 1095–1116)[181]—emphasized Stephen's severity.[182] Stephen's third legend was composed, also in King Coloman's reign, by Bishop Hartvik, who based his text on the previous two legends.[181] Sanctioned in 1201 by Pope Innocent III, Hartvik's work served as Stephen's official legend.[181] Gábor Klaniczay writes that Stephen's legends, suggesting that a monarch can achieve sainthood through actively using his royal powers, "opened a new chapter in the legends of holy rulers as a genre".[183] Stephen was the first triumphant miles Christi ("Christ's soldier") among the canonized monarchs.[184] He was also a "confessor king" whose cult was sanctioned, in contrast with earlier holy monarchs, even though he had not suffered martyrdom.[185]

[H]aving completed the office of Vespers the third day, everyone expected the favors of divine mercy through the merit of the blessed man; suddenly with Christ visiting his masses, the signs of miracles poured forth from heaven throughout the whole of the holy house. Their multitude, which that night were too many to count, brings to mind the answer from the Gospel which the Savior of the world confided to John, who asked through messengers whether he was the one who was to come: the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear, the lepers are cleansed, the crippled are set straight, the paralyzed are cured...
Hartvic, Life of King Stephen of Hungary[180]

The ceremony started at Stephen's tomb, where masses of believers spent three days fasting and praying from 15 August 1083.[179] Legend says that Stephen's coffin could not be opened until King Ladislaus held his dethroned cousin, Solomon, in captivity in a prison at Visegrád.[179] Healing miracles followed the opening of Stephen's tomb, which are attributed by historian Kristó to mass psychosis and deception.[176] According to Stephen's legends, his "balsam-scented" remains were elevated from the coffin, which was filled with "rose-colored water", on 20 August.[179] On the same day, Stephen's son, Emeric, and the bishop of Csanád, Gerard, were also canonized.[175]

Stephen's cult emerged after the long period of anarchy characterizing the rule of his immediate successors.[171][172] However, there is no evidence that he became an object of veneration before his canonization.[173] For instance, the first member of his family to be named after him, Stephen II, was born in the early 12th century.[174] Stephen's canonization was initiated by King Ladislaus I of Hungary (r. 1077–1095) who was a grandson of Stephen's blinded cousin, Vazul.[175][176] His canonization was "decreed by apostolic letter, by order of the Roman see",[177] according to Bishop Hartvik, suggesting that the ceremony was permitted by Pope Gregory VII.[178]

King Saint Stephen
King and Confessor
Born c. 975
Esztergom, Hungary
Died 15 August 1038
Székesfehérvár, Hungary
Honored in
Roman Catholic Church
Eastern Orthodox Church
Canonized 20 August 1083, Székesfehérvár by Pope Gregory VII
Major shrine Saint Stephen's Basilica in Budapest, Hungary
Feast 16 August
20 August (in Hungary)
30 May (his Holy Dexter in Hungary)
Attributes Crown; Sceptre; globe
Patronage Patron saint of Hungary
Patron of kings, masons, stonecutters, stonemasons and bricklayers
Protector against child death

The Holy King

His successors, even those who were descended from Vazul, were eager to emphasize their devotion to Stephen's achievements.[167] Vazul's son, Andrew I of Hungary (r. 1046–1060), although he acquired the throne due to a pagan uprising, prohibited pagan rites and declared that all of his subjects should "live in all things according to the law which King St. Stephen had taught them".[168][167] In medieval Hungary, communities which claimed a privileged status or attempted to preserve their own "liberties" often declared that the origin of their special status was to be attributed to King Saint Stephen.[169] In a letter of 1347, for example, in their grievances against the Pannonhalma Archabbey to the king, the people of Táp stated that taxes levied upon them by the Abbot contradicted "the liberty granted to them in the time of King Saint Stephen".[170]

Stephen has always been considered one of the most important statesmen in the history of Hungary.[165] His main achievement was the establishment of a Christian state which ensured that the Hungarians have survived in the Carpathian Basin, in contrast with the Huns, Avars and other peoples who had before them controlled the same territory.[165] Stephen, as Bryan Cartledge emphasizes, also gave his kingdom "forty years of relative peace and sound but unspectacular rule".[166]

King St Stephen in the Illuminated Chronicle
A miniature of King Saint Stephen from the Illuminated Chronicle

Founder of Hungary


*A Khazar, Pecheneg or Volga Bulgarian lady.
**Samuel Aba might have been the son of Stephen's sister instead of her husband.

Gyula the Elder
Grand Prince Taksony
a "Cuman" lady*
Henry of Bavaria
Gisela of Burgundy
Gyula the Younger
Grand Prince Géza
two daughters
Doge Otto Orseolo
Samuel Aba**
Gisela of Bavaria
Stephen I
Peter Orseolo
Byzantine princess

The following family tree presents Stephen's ancestors and his relatives who are mentioned in the article.[159][164][159]

Be obedient to me, my son. You are a child, descendant of rich parents, living among soft pillows, who has been caressed and brought up in all kinds of comforts; you have had a part neither in the troubles of the campaigns nor in the various attacks of the pagans in which almost my whole life has been worn away.
—Stephen's Admonitions to his son, Emeric[126]

Emeric who received the name of his maternal uncle, Emperor Henry II, was born around 1007.[65] His Legend from the early 1100s describes Emeric as a saintly prince who preserved his chastity even during his marriage.[162] According to Györffy, Emeric's wife was a kinswoman of the Byzantine Emperor Basil II.[115] His premature death caused the series of conflicts leading to Vazul's blinding and civil wars.[120][163]

Although the Illuminated Chronicle states that Stephen "begot many sons",[161][162] only two of them, Otto and Emeric, are known by name.[65] According to Kristó, Otto was born before 1002 and was named after Emperor Otto III.[65] He died as a child.[162]

Stephen married Gisela, a daughter of Duke Henry the Wrangler of Bavaria, who was a nephew of Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor.[158] Gisela's mother was Gisela of Burgundy, a member of the Welf dynasty.[22][159] Born around 985, Gisela was younger than her husband, whom she survived.[22][159] She left Hungary in 1045 and died as Abbess of the Niedernburg Abbey in Passau in Bavaria around 1060.[160]

King St Stephen and his wife
King Stephen and his wife Gisela of Bavaria founding a church at Óbuda from the Chronicon Pictum


Stephen died on 15 August 1038.[154] He was buried in the basilica of Székesfehérvár.[150] A long period of instability followed his reign, which was characterized by civil wars, pagan uprisings and foreign invasions.[155][156] The instability ended in 1077 when Ladislaus, a grandson of Vazul, ascended the throne.[157]

Ten villages shall build a church and endow it with two manses and the same number of bondmen, a horse and mare, six oxen, two cows, and thirty small animals. The king shall provide vestments and altar cloths, and the bishop the priests and books.
Laws of King Stephen I[153]

In the view of some historians, provisions in Stephen's Second Book of Laws on the "conspiracy against the king and the kingdom" imply that the book was promulgated after Vazul's unsuccessful plot against Stephen.[151][76] However, this view has not been universally accepted.[76] Györffy states that the law book was issued, not after 1031, but around 1009.[152] Likewise, the authenticity of Stephen's decree on tithes is debated: according to Györffy, it is duly attributed to Stephen, but Berend, Laszlovszky and Szakács argue that it "might be a later addition".[152][48]

Emeric's death jeopardized his father's achievements in establishing a Christian state,[148] because Stephen's cousin, Vazul—who had the strongest claim to succeed him—was suspected of an inclination towards paganism.[149] According to the Annals of Altaich Stephen disregarded his cousin's claim and nominated his sister's son, the Venetian Peter Orseolo, as his heir.[150] The same source adds that Vazul was captured and blinded, and his three sons, Levente, Andrew and Béla, were expelled from Hungary.[150] Stephen's legends writes of an unsuccessful attempt upon the elderly king's life by members of his court.[147] According to Kristó, the legends refer to a plot in which Vazul participated and his mutilation was a punishment for this act.[147] That Vazul's ears were filled with molten lead was only recorded in later sources, including the Illuminated Chronicle.[147]

Stephen's biographer, Hartvic, narrates that the King, whose children died one by one in infancy, "restrained the grief over their death by the solace on account of the love of his surviving son",[144] Emeric.[145] However, Emeric was wounded in a hunting accident and died in 1031.[120] After the death of his son, the elderly King could never "fully regain his former health",[146] according to the Illuminated Chronicle.[145] Kristó writes that the picture, which has been preserved in Stephen's legends, of the king keeping the vigils and washing the feet of paupers, is connected with Stephen's last years, following the death of his son.[147]

King St Stephen and his son
King Stephen at the funeral of his son, Saint Emeric

Last years (1031–1038)

At this same time, dissensions arose between the Pannonian nation and the Bavarians, through the fault of the Bavarians. And, as a result, King [Stephen] of Hungary made many incursions and raids in the realm of the Norici (that is, of the Bavarians). Disturbed on this account Emperor Conrad came upon the Hungarians with a great army. But King [Stephen], whose forces were entirely insufficient to meet the Emperor, relled solely on the guardianship of the Lord, which he sought with prayers and fasts proclaimed through his whole realm. Since the Emperor was not able to enter a kingdom so fortified with rivers and forests, he returned, after he had sufficiently avenged his injury with lootings and burnings on the borders of the kingdom; and it was his wish at a more opportune time to complete the things he had begun. His son, King Henry, however, still a young boy entrusted to the care of Eigilbert, bishop of Freising, received a legation of King [Stephen] which asked for peace; and solely with the counsel of the princes of the realm, and without his father's knowledge, he granted the favor of reconciliation.
Wipo: The Deeds of Conrad II[143]

Emperor Conrad personally led his armies to Hungary in June 1030 and plundered the lands west of the River Rába.[138][140] However, according to the Annals of Niederalteich, the emperor, suffering from consequences of the scorched earth tactics used by the Hungarian army,[141] returned to Germany "without an army and without achieving anything, because the army was threatened by starvation and was captured by the Hungarians at Vienna".[140] Peace was restored after Conrad had ceded the lands between the rivers Lajta and Fischa to Hungary in the summer of 1031.[142]

Stephen's brother-in-law, Emperor Henry, died on 13 July 1024.[134] He was succeeded by a distant relative,[135] Conrad II (r. 1024–1039), who adopted an active foreign policy.[136] Conrad II expelled Doge Otto Orseolo—the husband of Stephen's sister—from Venice in 1026.[136][122] He also persuaded the Bavarians to proclaim his own son, Henry, as their duke in 1027, although Stephen's son, Emeric had a strong claim to the Duchy of Bavaria through his mother.[135] Emperor Conrad planned a marriage alliance with the Byzantine Empire and dispatched one of his advisors, Bishop Werner of Strasbourg, to Constantinople.[117][137] The bishop seemingly travelled as a pilgrim, but Stephen, who had been informed on his actual purpose, refused to let him enter into his country in the autumn of 1027.[117][137] Conrad II's biographer, Wipo of Burgundy narrated that the Bavarians incited skirmishes along the common borders of Hungary and the Holy Roman Empire in 1029, causing a rapid deterioration in relations between the two countries.[138][139]

Stephen's conflict with Ajtony, a chieftain in the region of the river Maros—which is described in the Long Life of Saint Gerard—is also dated by many historians to the very end of the 1020s, although Györffy[86] and other scholars put it at least a decade earlier.[130] The conflict arose when Ajtony, who "had taken his power from the Greeks", levied tax on the salt transported to Stephen on the river.[131] The king sent a large army led by Csanád against Ajtony, who was killed in battle.[132] His lands were transformed into a Hungarian county and the king set up a new bishopric at Csanád (Cenad, Romania), Ajtony's former capital, which was renamed after the commander of the royal army.[132] According to the Annales Posonienses, the Venetian Gerard was consecrated as the first bishop of the new diocese in 1030.[133]

Stephen convinced some pilgrims and merchants to settle in Hungary.[120][123] Gerard, a Benedictine monk, who arrived in Hungary from the Republic of Venice between 1020 and 1026 initially planned to continue his journey to the Holy Land, but decided to stay in the country after his meeting with the king.[122] Stephen also established a number of Benedictine monasteries—including the abbeys at Pécsvárad, Zalavár and Bakonybél[128]—in this period.[129]

Saints Gerard and Emeric
Modern statute of Bishop Gerard of Csanád and his disciple, Prince Emeric (both were canonized along with King Stephen in 1083)

In addition to pilgrims, merchants often used the safe route across Hungary when travelling between Constantinople and Western Europe.[120] Stephen's legends also wrote of 60 wealthy Pechenegs who travelled to Hungary, but were attacked by Hungarian border guards.[126] The king sentenced his soldiers to death in order to demonstrate his determination to preserve internal peace.[126] Regular minting of coinage also began in Hungary in the 1020s.[127] Stephen's silver dinars[120] bearing the inscriptions STEPHANUS REX ("King Stephen") and REGIA CIVITAS ("royal city") were popular in contemporary Europe, as demonstrated by their counterfeited copies unearthed in Sweden.[127]

[Almost] all those from Italy and Gaul who wished to go to the Sepulchre of the Lord at Jerusalem abandoned the usual route, which was by sea, making their way through the country of King Stephen. He made the road safe for everyone, welcomed as brothers all he saw and gave them enormous gifts. This action led many people, nobles and commoners, to go to Jerusalem.
Rodulfus Glaber: The Five Books of the Histories[125]

Bishop Leodvin also wrote that Stephen collected Saint Nicholas of Myra.[116] He donated them to his triple-naved, new basilica dedicated to the Holy Virgin[117] in Székesfehérvár.[118] He also set up a cathedral chapter here.[119] Stephen transferred his capital from Esztergom to Székesfehérvár. His decision was influenced by the opening, in 1018 or 1019, of a new pilgrimage route, connecting Western Europe and the Holy Land through Hungary, which bypassed his old capital.[120][121] Stephen often met the pilgrims, contributing to the spread of his fame throughout Europe.[122] Abbot Odilo of Cluny, for example, wrote in a letter to Stephen that "those who have returned from the shrine of our Lord" testify to the king's passion "towards the honour of our divine religion".[123] Stephen himself also established four hostels for pilgrims in Constantinople, Jerusalem, Ravenna and Rome.[124]

Poland and the Holy Roman Empire concluded the Peace of Bautzen in January 1018.[112] Later in the same years, 500 Hungarian horsemen accompanied Boleslav the Brave to Kiev, suggesting that Hungary had been included in the peace treaty.[112] The historian Ferenc Makk says that the Peace of Bautzen obliged Boleslav the Brave to hand over all the territories he had occupied in the Morava valley to Stephen.[111] According to Leodvin, the first known Bishop of Bihar (r. c. 1050 – c. 1060), Stephen allied with the Byzantines and led a military expedition to assist them against "barbarians" in the Balkan Peninsula.[114] The Byzantine and Hungarian troops jointly took "Cesaries", a town identified with Ohrid by Györffy[115] and other historians. Leodvin's report suggests that Stephen joined the Byzantines in the war ending with the their conquest of Bulgaria in 1018.[116] However, the exact date of his expedition is uncertain.[115] Györffy argues that it was only in the last year of the war that Stephen led his troops against the Bulgarians.[115]

[S]uddenly awakaned by some revelation, [Stephen] ordered a courier to hasten in one day and night to Alba in Transylvania, and gather all those living in the country within the fortifications of the city as fast as he could. For he foretold that the enemies of Christians would come upon them, the Pechenegs, who then threatened the Hungarians, in order to plunder their estate. Scarcely had the messenger completed the orders of the king, when behold the unexpected onslaught of the Pechenegs devastated everything by burning and plundering. Through the revelation of God, which was granted because of the merits of the blessed man, the souls of everyone were saved by the shelter of the fortifications.
Hartvic, Life of King Stephen of Hungary[113]

Stephen's brother-in-law, Henry II, became King of Germany in 1002 and Holy Roman Emperor in 1013.[59] Their friendly relationship ensured that the western borders of Hungary experienced a period of peace in the first decades of the 11th century.[106][59] Even when Henry II's discontented brother, Bruno, sought refugee in Hungary in 1004, Stephen preserved the peace with Germany and negotiated a settlement between his two brothers-in-law.[59][107] Around 1009, he gave his younger sister in marriage to Otto Orseolo, Doge of Venice (r. 1008–1026), a close ally of the Byzantine Emperor, Basil II (r. 976–1025), which suggests that Hungary's relationship with the Byzantine Empire was also peaceful.[108] On the other hand, the alliance between Hungary and the Holy Roman Empire brought her into a war with Poland lasting from around 1014[109] until 1018.[110] The Poles occupied the Hungarian posts along the river Morava.[111] Györffy and Kristó write that a Pecheneg incursion into Transylvania, the memory of which has been preserved in Stephen's legends, also took place in this period, because the Pechenegs were close allies of Boleslav the Brave's brother-in-law, Grand Prince Sviatopolk I of Kiev (r. 1015–1019).[109][112]

Pécsvárad Abbey
Ruins of the Pécsvárad Abbey

A statue of the king in Miskolc

Active foreign policy (c. 1009–1031)

[104] The settlements developing around them, where markets were held on each Sunday, were important local economic centers.[104]

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