Stephen I


son of: cheiftain Géza 
period of reign: 997-1000/1  - cheiftain
1000/1 -1038 - king
spouse: Gisela, daughter of Henry the Wrangler, Duke of Bavaria
children: Emeric
successor: Peter I (Orseolo)


(Saint) Stephen I was the first king of the Árpád Dynasty. He is considered to be the founder of the Christian Hungarian state, one of the most-renowned figures of Hungarian and European history.

He was born in about 975, having Vajk as his original name. He was Árpád’s, the grand chieftain’s great-grandson and Géza chieftain’s son. Based on the common Western European order of succession, the oldest male member of the family Koppány would have inherited the leadership after Géza’s death in 997. However, Stephen and the supporting German armies defeated Koppány in a battle near Veszprém, where Koppány got killed. This way Stephen became the ruling leader. It was important for him to exercise the power not merely according to pagan traditions, but also to the Grace of God. Therefore, in 999 he sent his emissary to Pope Sylvester II, who presented him with apostolic blessing, and a crown. Stephen was crowned in Esztergom at the turn of the years 1000 and 1001 that led to the foundation of the independent Hungarian Kingdom.

During his reign Stephen strengthened his empire against the Hungarian tribes of the Carpathian Basin either in diplomatic or military ways. He was in favour of the Christian conversion, and established the organization of the Church. With his donations of estates and privileges Stephen contributed to the building of the Benedictine Pannonhalma Archabbey.

He introduced regular minting of coinage, formed the system of counties, revolutionized the Hungarian system of estate and assigned donations and privileges to his followers. Concerning his foreign policy he supported peace with the neighbouring countries. He issued two Books of Laws which not only helped him strengthen Christianity, but also reform the regulations on the inheritance of private property.

His wife, Blessed Gisela of Hungary, was the daughter of Henry II, Duke of Bavaria. After the marriage, having an heir became important not only for the Hungarians, but also for the Holy Roman Empire. Prince Emeric, son of Gisela and Stephen died young during a boar hunting. The king could not overcome the grief, he became sick and could never fully regains his former health again. Since he had no lineal descendant, he appointed Peter Orseolo as his successor. He died on 15th August 1038 in Székesfehérvár, where he was also buried.