Today marks the 100th post in this series. It has been roughly two years since I started, and I have enjoyed it thus far. Unfortunately, certain letters are less well represented than others in the names of Saints. This means that I won’t be able to continue this series as I have been. Once I finish with the alphabet in this iteration, I will change how I run this series. I haven’t decided yet what method to follow, but when I do I will mention it in one of these posts.
The letter for today is “S”, and this gives us Saint Stephen I of Hungary:
Stephen I, also known as King Saint Stephen (Hungarian: Szent István király; Latin: Sanctus Stephanus; Slovak: Štefan I. or Štefan Veľký; c. 975 – 15 August 1038 AD), 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 Holy Roman Empire. He encouraged the spread of Christianity with severe punishments for ignoring Christian customs. His system of local administration was based on counties organized around fortresses and administered by 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.
Much, much more can be learned about this saint at his wiki, found here.