Vajk of Hungary was born in Esztergom sometime around 970 A.D. He received the name Stephen when he was baptized at the age of ten. His father was Geza, Grand Prince of the Magyars (945-997). His mother was a Transylvanian noblewoman named Sarolt (950-997). Geza was a pagan and although Sarolt had been baptized, she was rather decadent.
Towards the end of the 10th century, Stephen married Blessed Gisela of Bavaria (985-1065). It is unknown how many children the couple had. However, they at least had a daughter named Algithe who became the mother of Saint Margaret of England and a son named Emeric who was later canonized a saint.
Stephen succeeded his father after the latter’s death in 997. He was immediately thrown into war with a pagan uncle who claimed seniority. Stephen, however, felt that he had a right given to him by God. After defeating his uncle, he was declared Grand Prince of the Hungarians and was later crowned the first king of Hungary. Pope Sylvester II (946-1003) sent a golden crown to Stephen, thus recognizing him as Hungary’s first Christian monarch. In return, Stephen dedicated the crown to the Blessed Virgin Mary so that whoever wore it would be the servant of her and her Son. The crown of Saint Stephen is considered a valuable relic/artifact and can still be seen to this day.
Stephen and his wife did much to promote Christianity in their predominantly pagan country and it was the king’s fondest wish that he be succeeded by a faithful member of the Church. When Emeric died during a hunting accident in 1031, Stephen sorrowfully realized that his throne was now available to possibly pagan successors. Several of these candidates did not even wait for the king’s death. Vazul, a duke of the Arpad family, led an assassination conspiracy in 1037 which was, thankfully, unsuccessful.
On his deathbed, Stephen held the royal crown in his right hand and asked the Blessed Virgin to watch over his country and be its queen. Technically, Mary is still considered the queen of Hungary. Stephen died on August 15, 1038. His prayers were not left unanswered. His successor, Peter the Venetian (1010-1059), was not nearly as faithful a Christian as Stephen had been. However, he did not greatly harm the Christian community.
Stephen’s right arm remained incorrupt. Unfortunately, the upper arm has since been separated. The Holy Right Hand is kept in the Basilica of Saint Stephen in Budapest and is in surprisingly good condition for being nearly one thousand years old!
Saint Stephen was canonized by Pope Gregory VII (1015-1085) on August 20, 1083. Although, traditionally, his feast is celebrated on September 2, many places honor him on the anniversary of his canonization. In fact, August 20 is considered a national holiday in Hungary. In North American dioceses, his feast day is usually observed on August 16.
Saint Stephen of Hungary is the patron saint of his country and also of kings and stone masons. He is often invoked to prevent the death of children.
Source: Butler’s Lives of the Saints