Feast Day: 16 August
Born in 975, St Stephen was crowned King of Hungary in 1001 and set about establishing Christianity as the religion of his country. He established various episcopal seas and monasteries and sought to create a genuine Christian culture within the realm, founded on the laws to protect orphans, widows and the impoverished.
He was an archetypical benign ruler who reduced the powers of nobles, abolished tribal divisions and set up a system of counties with local governors, whilst forming the Hungarians into a single kingdom. He justly treated the poor and oppressed and often used to distribute arms in disguise.
In later life, he suffered ill-health as well as political intrigues for those who angled to take over the throne. In 1038, on the feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, Stephen delivered his final words to leaders of the Church and state, telling them to protect and spread the Catholic faith.
To the Virgin Mary, the king directed one of his final prayers:
After his death in 1038, miracles were claimed at his tomb. His coronation is celebrated by Hungarians as the birth of their nation.