Stephen of Hungary.Founder of the state and apostle of the nation
By the Péter Pázmány Catholic University and the Studium Centre, Gorizia
If one asks a Hungarian catholic how he sees his nation and his sense of belonging to it, he will answer that the Hungarian people are the people of Saint Stephen and that Hungary is the Nation of the Virgin Mary. In fact the millennial history of the State of Hungary is characterised, from its foundation, by a Catholic context imposed upon it by its first king, Vajk, later baptised by Saint Adalbert with the name Stephen. In fact it was around the year 1000 that King Vajk united a league of nomadic tribesmen to form the state of Hungary, establishing the Christian faith as the foundation key and decisive force of aggregation among the people. Thus with the help of Saint Gerard, a Venetian Benedictine abbot, royal counsellor and precept of his son, and assisted by the bishops and the Italian and Slavic religious orders, he divided the Hungarian territory into diocese, built monasteries and churches and initiated a lifestyle in the faith that in short time spread throughout the land.
Pope Sylvester II not only gave his blessing to this work, but as a sign of his friendship and support, sent from Rome the royal crown to Saint Stephen. With the death of his son, Emeric, in a hunting accident, king Stephen mourned the loss of his natural heir and, convinced of the regality of Christ as the supreme font of all temporal kingship, committed to the intercession the Virgin Mary that the task of furthering Catholic education, then in its early stages in the young state of Hungary, would continue under the guidance of the heirs to the throne. As a sign of this entrusting of the nation, he committed to the Madonna the imperial symbols: the crown, the sceptre and the sword.
The following years passed in the midst of many troubles and alternating rulers, several of whom very little Christian, yet despite this Hungary counts several Saints and Blessed amongst the members of the royal families.
Hungary has had a great influence on the history of all of Europe specifically by virtue of its method of government initiated by King Stephen: Openness to neighbouring peoples, establishing with them peaceful relationships, an attitude of hospitality toward all who ventured to cross its territory, convinced that there was much to learn from everyone; and a great sense of morality derived from the catholic faith. In short, today’s Hungarian People, although tried by devastation (invasions by the Tartars, the Turks, totalitarian regimes, etc.), has maintained an attachment to the state and its origins which render it unique.
To date, in fact, Hungary is the only country where the crown of a Christian king, St. Stephen, is kept in parliament and is mentioned in the nation’s constitution. The exhibition, composed of large images and several artefacts (including a copy of the Crown of Saint Stephen kept in the Matthias Church in Budapest) presents this great figure of King, Apostle and Saint, the first to be so declared by both the Catholic and Orthodox churches.