Urban Legends about Szt. István / St. Stephen

Anni Oroszlány 

Among the misconceptions relating to our first king, St. Stephen, are the following:

- He did not follow the supposed Hungarian law of succession, according to which the oldest member of the family succeeds as ruler.

But:  There was no such a law at the time.  They would choose the most suitable person for the office.  At times the rule passed from father to son.  However, the candidate had to undergo intellectual as well as physical tests.

- He persecuted the followers of the ancient Hungarian religion and its shamans.

But:  There is no official written record of such persecution.  Had he persecuted them, there would not have been so many shamans left by the 13th and 14th centuries (much later than St. Stephen’s time!), when the Church and the medical “establishment” DID persecute them, considering them as competition.

- He defeated and had Koppány, the chieftain of Somogy, follower of the old religion, drawn and quartered.

But: This too is incorrect.  Young Prince István (he was not yet king) and his allied troops defeated Koppány, who defended himself valiantly in a hard-fought battle. But there was no drawing and quartering!  The Hungarians never shamed their adversaries, and paid their tribute of respect even to their enemies.  (The writer of the Illuminated Chronicle – see the February issue of Magyar News Online – had to write about certain things the way his employer expected.)

- St. Stephen ordered Vazul, grandson of  Chieftain Taksony, to be blinded.

But:  When King Stephen’s son Imre died, he wanted to make his cousin Vazul his successor.  When Stephen’s enemies learned of the king’s plan, they sent someone to put out his eyes, and pour molten lead into his ears.  By the time Stephen arrived, he found only a sorely suffering man, and Stephen cried bitterly, as recorded in the 13th century Gesta Hungarorum.  To save the lives of the three sons of another cousin, Stephen sent them abroad, to Poland.

Excerpted from ┼Ésmagyar Egyház, 2019

Anni Oroszlány was a public school teacher in Hungary, and a county consultant for education.  She is the author of two teachers’ manuals dealing with health instruction. She contributed numerous articles on various topics to newspapers in Szeged.  In the US, her articles and poetry appeared in the now defunct Magyar Szó formerly published in New York.