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HUNGARIAN HISTORY Part 3. – St. Margaret & King Matthias

One of the best ways to understand a country’s culture is through getting to know its history. Are Hungarians the descendants of Attila the Hun, whose portraits are on the Hungarian banknotes, how many and which wars Hungarians fought, what did Hungarians invent and give to the world – instead of reading numerous books to answer these questions, through this series we aim to introduce you Hungarian history in a nutshell.

In our previous article we guided you from the Grand Princes of Hungary to the Mongolian Invasion, while in this piece we will write about the daughter of King Béla IV., Margaret of Hungary (saint), the death of the Árpád dynasty and King Matthias the beloved kings of the Hungarians, who was the last to succeed in protecting his people from the Turkish invasion.

HUNGARIAN HISTORY Part 2. - The first kings of Hungary

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After the lost battle at Muhi (1241) King Béla IV. managed to escape to Dalmatia. According to a legend it was then, when he promised to offer his unborn child to God, if he saved Hungary from the barbarian Mongol Tatars. As the Tatars did not stay long in Hungary, King Béla IV. returned and reconstructed the country from the ruins the Tatars left behind. He moved the capital from Esztergom to Buda and started the construction of the Castle district.

He also kept his promise, he offered his daughter, Margaret to the convent. He acquired a nunnery on the Rabbits’ Island, today called Margaret Island and sent her daughter to be raised by the local nuns. Margaret was said to be hard-working and devoted to God, she often prayed and performed miracles such as calming the Danube and healing the ill with her spiritual power. She died young and was canonised such as King Stephen and Bishop Gerard. The ruins of the convent, where she lived are located near the middle of the island.

Margaret Island

1138 Budapest, Margitsziget

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Soon after the death of King Béla IV. the Árpád dynasty, who ruled three hundred years in Hungary, died out in 1301. After the death of the last king various other dynasties including the French Anjou, the Luxemburg and the Habsburg ruled the country. The last and perhaps one of the most well-known king before the Ottoman Empire was King Matthias. He didn’t inherit the throne by dynastic ancestry but he became a king thanks to his father, John Hunyadi a great military leader. According to a legend he was crowned on the ice of the Danube River when he was only 15 years old.

The Hungarians loved him and they considered him as their greatest king. During his reign Hungary was an important commercial region in Europe. He created Central Europe’s first standing army, known as the Black Army, once Europe’s greatest army, so he did not have to rely on nobility for military support. On the contrary, he weakened the power of the nobles by taxing them and shared the money with the poor. He often dressed as a beggar and visited villages to see how peasants live, the reason why he was called the “people’s king.” Due to this legend and stories around him there is a cartoon series, “Tales of King Matthias” that was made in 1980’s.

Matthias Church

1014 Budapest, Szentháromság tér 2.

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According to another legend he had a raven as a pet, who guided him in difficult times. The raven can be seen on the top of the beautiful Matthias Church, located in the Buda Castle District. His reign lasted 32 years and his death caused the Ottoman Empire taking control of the country for 150 years.

We hope you enjoyed this brief introduction to the life of St. Margaret and King Matthias of Hungary. In the fourth part of the series you can read about the 150 years of Ottoman Empire.

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