BISHOP HARTVIC ON ST. STEPHEN OF HUNGARY


The Life of King Stephen of Hungary was written by Bishop Hartvic under King Coloman (1096-1116), between 1112 and 1116. This was in fact the third of St. Stephen. The first Life was composed between 1077 and 1083 (Vita Maior), shortly before the canonization of St. Stephen (1083). A second one appeared at the beginning of Coloman's reign (Vita Minor). Hartvic's work received the approval of Pope Innocent III in 1201 and became the basis of liturgical readings. Hartvic's Stephen is a king offering himself and his kingdom to the Virgin Mary, who successfully protected her patrimony against an attack from the German emperor Conrad II in 1030. Translation from Nora Berend, "Hartvic: Life of King Stephen of Hungary," in Medieval Hagiography. An Anthology, ed. by Thomas Head (New York/London, 2000), pp. 379-396.


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Nor should it be passed over in silence that, to dispel all doubt, lest perchance the above-mentioned vision, having appeared only to the husband, should seem to lack credibility, divine grace wished also to console his wife, who was near giving birth, by a similar vision. For there appeared to her the blessed Stephen, Levite and protomartyr, adorned in the distinctive Levitical habit, who began to talk to her thus: "Woman, trust in the Lord, and be assured, for you will give birth to a son, to whom first from this people a crown and kingdom is due; and give him my name." To whom the astonished woman responded: "Who are you, my lord, and futhermore by what name are you called?" "I am," he sadi, "Stephen protomartyr, who was the first to suffer martyrdom for the name of Christ." And, having said that, he disappeared.

4. In the meantime, as foretold bt the Lord, the son of the ruler was born, whom, according to the prophet, the Lord had known before he was conceived in the womb, and to whom, before he was born, He had given the name of His protomartyr. Bishop Adalbert, beloved by God, anointed him with the baptismal chrism according to the truth of his belief. The name Stephen was given him, which we do not believe to have been contrary to the purpose of God. Indeed "Stephanus" in Greek means "crown" in Latin. For God wanted to crown him in this world to royal power, and determined to redeem him in the future one by the crown of everlasting beatitude, that he might receive unfailing glory after the yoke of this life.

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5. After the death of his father, Stephen, still an adolescent, by the favor of the princes nad common people was laudably raised to the seat of his father and began with an ardent spirit to be the defender of truth, because although he was in the bloom of his adolescence, he did not have his heart in his mouth, but his mouth in his heart [Sir 21:26]. Not forgetting the Holy Scriptures, for which he was zealous above all, he kept judgment and justice before his eyes, according to the words of Solomon: "The wise man also may hear discipline and increase in learning, and the man of understanding acquire government" [Prov 1:5]. Thus showing himself to be God's faithful steward [Lk 12:42] in all his mandates, he began to consider in his own mind how he could deliver the people subject to him to the worship of one God. But because he considered that without the alliance of neighboring peoples he could not do this, he faithfully strengthened the peace established with the people of surrounding provinces, so that whatever he pondered in his mind, he would be able to complete more securely in the young implantation of Christianity.

6. But the enemy of all good things, the devil, full of envy and malice, stirred up an internal war against him, in order to disturb the holy plan of Christ's champion, for at his instigation the pagan commoners, refusing to submit their necks to the yoke of the Christian faith, tried with their leaders to withdraw themselves from his rule. They began to destroy his cities, lay waste his estates, plunder his lands, chase away the servants of the Church, and taunt--I should be silent about the rest--even [the king] himself. And when they did not want to shun their perverse way, and their fury was not satiated, the leader himself [King Stephen], trusting in eternal virtue, advanced with a multitude of his armt under the banner of the prelate Martin [St. Martin of Tours, ca. 316-397, who was born in Pannonia, modern-day Hungary], beloved by God, and of the holy martyr George, in order to overcome the madness of the enemy. By chance in those days they besieged the city called Veszprem in the vernacular, turning this into his shame, that is, they established themselves in the place where there used to be access to communication with the leader's court, so that entering the other fortifications they were to occupy would be found easier. But he rose against them, led by divine mercy, and they fought, he trusting in faith, they only in arms. Finally, defeating the enemy, some of them having been killed and others captured, the victorious leader took home the gifts of the victory with his troops. [...]

But because Pannonia gloried in the birth of the blessed prelate Martin, and it was under the protection of his merits that the man faithful to Christ, as I already said, wrought a victory over the enemy, reserving nothing of their things for his own needs, and keeping counsel with those beloved by God, he began to build a monastery dedicated to him [St. Martin of Tours], next to the patrimony of the holy prelate, in the place called the Holy Mountain [Pannonhalma], which St. Martin, when he still lived in Pannonia, assigned to himself as a place of prayer; he enriched it by lands and revenues and all the necessary things, and made it similar to bishoprics by his own judgment with a tithe from the victors, ordering that tithes be given from all their means in such a strict way that if someone should have happened to have ten children, he was to give the tenth offspring to the monastery of Saint Martin.

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23. [...] Thus that auspicious day arrived, very soon made more auspicious through his death, and the congregation of bishops and clergy, the foremost troops of stewards and important attendants stood encircling the place where the king, beloved by God, lying in their midst, having accepted the sacrament of spiritual unction, restored his holy sould by the viaticum of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the year 1033 of the Incarnation of the Lord, and gave it into the hand of the perpetual Virgin and holy angels, to be brought to the peace of eternal celestial beatitude. [...] People assembled for his funeral procession from every region of Pannonia, the body was taken to the royal seat, that is Alba [Székesfehérvár] and because the church, built by him to the honor of the blessed Virgin was not yet consecrated, the prelates, having deliberated, decided first to consecrate the basilica, and then to commit the body [of Stephen] to the earth. having accomplished the ceremony of consecration, the holy body was placed in a sarcophagus of white marble in the middle of the building, where for several years the Lord exhibited countless favors for his merits to many who suffered troubles, had fever, proclaimed their affliction and misery, and endured judgment. Often at night, the melody of the song of angels was heard by many, and even more often the sweetness of the most pleasant scent spread to all corners of the church.

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25. A certain youth, all his limbs weakened, suffering paralysis for twelve years who was without the use of his hands and feet, who was carried there with the aid of his parents, having received the cure of all his body, was the first of the signs [i.e., the first miracle taking place at St. Stephen's tomb]. Running to the altar far from sluggishly, he increased the joy of all those shouting praises to Christ. And another seven-year-old boy, who had crawled on his hands and knees from birth, because of contracted sinews, was brought by his parents, full of faith, to be helped by the blessed man; they prostrated themselves next to the tomb and laid him down with them, to ask for grace. They immediately obtained it; they marveled that the contraction of the sinews stretched in their son, and everyone seeing him walking with his knees and soles having become firm, glorified the name of Christ in the merits of the blessed man by praiseworthy acclamation.

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27. A certain monk, by the name Mercurius, who, in the clerical order was the guardian of the treasury of the perpetual Virgin [the treasury of the Basilica of the Holy Virgin in Székesfehérvár], and for the love of the heavenly home renounced the world, was sent away far from there by royal rebuke in that hour when the tomb [of St. Stephen] was opened, lest he carry off something from the holy relics. As he was sitting in the choir with a sad face, a certain young man dressed in white clothes gave him a rolled up piece of cloth, saying: "I entrust to you to preserve, and when the time comes to reveal." After the completion of the sacred office, the monk unfolded the cloth in the corner of the building, and seeing the intact hand of the man of God [St. Stephen] with the ring of marvelous craftsmanship, he got frightened; and without anyone's knowledge, he brought it with him to the monastery which had been commended to his governing, awaiting the time foretold to him from Christ by the youth. Here for a long time he alone undertook the guarding and watching of the treasure buried in the field, afterward he made the founder of that monastery aware of it, finally at the approach of the time when it had to be declared, he brought it to the notice of the king. The king immediately, joined by bishops and the chief lords of Hungary, obtaining there many favors of miracles from Christ, appointed the day of celebration for elevating the right hand of God's man [The hand of St. Stephen is now the main relic in the basilica dedicated to him in Budapest]