A Politician-Saint?! St. Stephen of Hungary

It’s not often that a politician is canonized as a saint, is it?

Thursday, August 16 is the Memorial of St. Stephen of Hungary.  Son of the Magyar chieftain Geza, Stephen succeeded his father as leader of the Magyars in 997. 

A devout Christian, Stephen used his power to promote the Christian faith throughout the region near the Danube River.   He crushed a series of pagan revolts against Christianity—forcing the conversion of the Black Army, the mercenary forces under King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary, after their failed rebellion.  

Stephen required that one in every ten towns must build a Catholic church; and he provided for the support of the local priests by instituting a tithe to assist churches and pastors, and to help the poor. 

In recognition of his efforts to defend and spread the Catholic faith, Stephen was crowned King of Hungary on Christmas Day in the year 1000.  The coronation is commemorated in this sculpture of Stephen receiving the cross and crown from Pope Sylvester II.

Stephen had hoped that his son Emeric might succeed him to the throne; but the young man died in 1031, leaving Stephen to grieve for the remainder of his life.   Both Stephen and his son Emeric were canonized by Pope St. Gregory VII in 1083.

Following are some of Stephen’s words of counsel to his beloved son. 

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.

…Finally be strong lest prosperity lift you up too much or adversity cast you down.  Be humble in this life that God may raise you up in the next.  Be truly moderate and do not punish or condemn anyone immoderately.  Be gentle so that you may never oppose justice.  Be honorable so that you never voluntarily bring disgrace upon anyone.  Be chaste so that you may avoid all the foulness that so resembles the pangs of death.

–St. Stephen I of Hungary

In his admonitions to his son Emeric

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  • Corrigator

    “He crushed a series of pagan revolts against Christianity—forcing the conversion of the Black Army, the mercenary forces under King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary, after their failed rebellion.”

    With all due respect, this is an erroneous statement (if the word conversion as changing faith refers to the Black Army). King Istvan ruling the country in the early 11th century had no business with the Black Army whatsoever, as the Black Army was formed under King Mathias, in the second half of the 15th century.

    • Kathy Schiffer

      I will revisit my original sources. Thank you.


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