Born a pagan in the 10 th century Saint Stephen was baptized as a boy when his father converted
to Christianity. Saint Stephen married Gisela, daughter of Duke Henry II of Bavaria who would
become Saint Henry II. He succeeded his father as leader and began to transform the nation into
a Christian kingdom.
Pope Sylvester II proclaimed him the first king of Hungary in 1001, sending him a crown and
gold processional cross. The crown, made in the Byzantine style, has become a symbol of
King Stephen’s reign was a relatively peaceful and prosperous time. He outlawed paganism,
mandated church building, and tithing for support of the parish, and commanded all to marry
except clergy and religious. He founded a Benedictine monastery, and Hungary became an
important place along the route to the Holy Land for many pilgrims.
Unfortunately, Stephen’s son and heir died in a hunting accident, causing much conflict over the
succession when the saint died. Eventually the kingdom was won back for Christendom and
father and son were canonized in 1083 by Pope St. Gregory VII. Saint Stephen I is now patron
saint of Hungary.