Saint Stephen the Great

Feast Day - August 16

Patron Saint Hungary

Saint Stephen I (977-1038) was born under the pagan name "Vajk", but was baptized a Christian and given the name "Stephen" in his childhood.


St Stephen the GreatStephen the Great , was the son of the Magyar chieftain Geza, who succeeded his father as leader in 997.


Stephen consolidated his rule by defeating his relative Koppany, who held a rival claim to the throne.  Shortly afterwards, he received a crown from the pope and thus became the first King of Hungary.  He maintained peace with the Holy Roman Empire during the first three decades of his reign, and later he could withdraw the attacks of Henry III, Holy Roman Emperor.


Stephen established ten dioceses in his kingdom and he issued severe decrees against pagan customs and in favor of the Christian faith in order to strengthen Christianity among his subjects.  He organized several counties in Hungary and his decrees could ensure the internal peace in his kingdom.


He helped build churches, and was a proponent of the rights of the Holy See. Stephen also crushed the pagan counter reaction to Christianity, forcibly converting the so-called Black Hungarians after their failed rebellion.


Saint Stephen is generally considered as the founder of Hungary.  Following the death of his son, Emeric, Stephen wanted to ensure the maintenance of the Christianity in his kingdom and therefore he named his sister's son, the Venetian Peter Urseolo as his heir instead of his cousin, Vazul whom he suspected following pagan customs and ordered him blinded.


Stephen's crown and regalia became beloved symbols of the Hungarian nation, and Stephen was venerated as the ideal Christian king.  Canonized in 1083 by Pope St. Gregory VII, he became the patron saint of Hungary.

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