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HUNGARIAN HISTORY Part 2. – The first kings of Hungary

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 province of Pannonia under the Roman Empire through the Barbarian Invasion to the Settlement of the Magyars in Hungary. In this piece we will write about the era of the Hungarian Kings until the Mongolian Invasion in 1241.

HUNGARIAN HISTORY Part 1. - The origins of the Hungarians

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Álmos, the first out of the seven chieftains of the Magyars, was followed by his son Árpád, who was known as the second Grand Prince of the Magyars and who reigned in the early 10th century. He was considered as a great warrior and played a key role in the establishment of Hungary. Árpád Bridge, the bridge located at the northern end of the Margaret Island, is named after him. His descendants ruled Hungary for three centuries, until 1301.

Margaret Island

1138 Budapest, Margitsziget

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Géza, the great grandson of Árpád, ruled between 972 and 997 is known to be a cruel leader, who killed his own relatives so his heirs could reign. However, he was said to be kind and welcoming with Western European Christian Missionaries and he made peace with the Holy Roman Empire. Through his reign Christianity found its way to Hungary.

In 1001, Géza’s descendant Stephen I of Hungary (originally named as Vajk) became the first King of the country and he was canonized as Saint Stephen. He was the first devout Christian leader in the country, who established Christianity amongst the nomad Magyars. He received the crown from Pope Sylvester II. The crown, known as the Holy Crown of Hungary had an adventurous life during the centuries, it was returned from the US in 1978. They   can be visited at the Parliament. This 23rd October there will be an Open Day at the House of Parliament.

Hungarian Parliament

1055 Budapest, Kossuth tér 1-3.

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During his reign Stephen I. implemented sweeping reforms to turn Hungary into a Western feudal state using Christianism as a tool. He ordered to build churches, monasteries and cathedrals and he invited Gerard (Gellért in Hungarian), an Italian monk to spread Christianity in Hungary. Soon Gerard was given the title of Bishop of Csanád and he became the tutor of Stephen’s son, Emeric too. After the death of Stephen I. he was killed in a pagan uprising in 1046. There are various stories about his death, according to one he was put on a two-wheel cart, hauled to the hilltop and rolled down a hill, now named Gellért Hill. The famous bath house Gellért Thermal Bath and Hotel, built in 1918 in secession style, was named after the monk and martyr as well.

Gellért Hill

1118 Gellért-hegy

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Gellért Thermal Bath and Swimming Pool

1118 Budapest, Kelenhegyi út 4.

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In honour to the first Christian King, the Hungarians built the Saint Stephen’s Basilica, which took 54 years to build and was completed in 1905. The Basilica, built in Neo-Classical style, is one of the main attractions of the city. Besides the Basilica, you can also find the statue of Saint Stephen at Heroes’ Square.

St. Stephen’s Basilica

1051 Budapest, Szent István tér 1.

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Heroes’ Square

1146 Budapest, Hősök tere

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After the death of Stephen I. there were internal fights among descendants and heirs of the Árpád dynasty but no external threat was on the horizon up until 1241, when the Mongolian Invasion reached the Kingdom of Hungary. The then Hungarian King, IV. Béla lost a significant battle at Muhi and hundreds of thousands were killed, however major cities such as Győr, Veszprém, Fehérvár and Pannonhalma that all had a fort, could not been occupied by the Mongolians. King Béla IV. could escape to Dalmatia until the Mongolians left the area in 1242. He decided to move the capital of Hungary from Esztergom to Buda, now Buda Castle Hill, which became the home of the royals over the centuries.

Buda Castle

1014 Budapest, Szent György tér 2.

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We hope you enjoyed this brief introduction to the Patrimonial Kingdom and the Mongolian Invasion in Hungary. In the third part of the series you can read about Saint Margaret of Hungary and Matthias Corvinus the beloved king of the Hungarians among others.

Cover Photo: Wikipedia

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