Thursday, August 16, 2007

King and Saint

Monarchists, arise. Today is the feast day of St. Stephen of Hungary, Christian King and Saint exemplar.

Stephen divided Hungary into forty to fifty counties and continued the work of his father Géza by applying the decimal organizational system of his ancestors. He set up ten dioceses in Hungary, ordering every ten villages to erect a church and maintain a priest. He founded the cathedrals of Székesfehérvár and Esztergom, the Nunnery of Veszprém, the Benedictine Abbey of Pannonhalma, and the Monastery of Saint Peter and Paul in Óbuda. In the abbeys and monasteries, schools were established, and they became important centers of culture. Saint Astricus served as Stephen's advisor, and Stephen also had Saint Gerard Sagredo as the tutor for his son Imre.

Stephen discouraged pagan customs and strengthened Christianity with various laws, including ending the use of the old Hungarian runic alphabet and making Latin the official language of the royal court. Stephen donated generously to the churches, visited them often, and supervised their construction. He often disguised himself as a peasant whenever he traveled and freely gave money to any poor people he met (in one account, Stephen was beaten and robbed by a group of beggars to whom he was giving alms, but he forgave them and spared their lives).

St. Stephen's Holy Crown

The upper part of the crown, called Latin crown, which is cross-shaped and overarches the Greek crown in an angle of 90 degrees, indicates more modern and less exquisite workmanship, mediaeval implementing. Its denomination is due to the Latin inscriptions surrounding the figures. The four gold plates were fit to the sides of the middle square, which depicts Christ Pantokrator and is obviously part of the Greek crown though the symbols of the sun and the moon are present on it. The polychrome enamelled images of the standing figures of eighth apostles Peter, Paul, John, James, Bartholomew, Philip, Thomas and Andrew were set onto the cross-connecting bands. The pictures are lined with pearls and almandine and their sides are decorated with zoomorphic motifs. It is difficult to determine the place and age of the making of this crown, it may have been fashioned somewhere in Hungarian territory in the late 12th century.

The uniting of the two crown took place in a rather simple fashion, without any modification of the adjoining parts, using rivets whose points can still be seen on the smooth surface of the gold plate. This assemblage was probably done during the reign of Béla III (1171-1196), perhaps the Latin crown was meant for him. The cross on the top came into being later, presumably in the middle of the 16th century, replacing an earlier one, made in the time of Béla III or on the occasion of the coronation of Endre III in 1290, but this is still disputed. It is also uncertain exactly when the cross was damaged, which is now bent into an angle of 12 degrees, it might have happened between 1613 and 1793 .

St. Stephen's Right Hand

The king's right hand, known as "The Holy Right", is kept as a relic. His body was mummified after his death, but the tomb was opened and his hand was separated some years later. Except for this, only some bone fragments remained (which are kept in churches throughout Hungary). Catholics honour the first king of their country on annual processions, where the Holy Right is exhibited.

Stephen was also canonised by the Eastern Orthodox Church in 2000, thus became the first saint recognised both by Orthodoxy and Catholicism since the Great Schism.


Anonymous said...

fabulous post...

The Epiphany Artist said...

I don't know If I like the desecration of a body like that....

Jay said...

Saints belong to us....the relics are venerated by us and this is difference.