The first King of Hungary was born a pagan in 975, the son of the Hungarian chieftain Géza. Together with his father, he was baptized in 985 by St. Adalbert, the Archbishop of Prague, on which occasion he changed his heathen name Vaik (Vojk) to Stephen.
In 995, he married Gisela, a sister of Henry, the Duke of Bavaria, the future Emperor St. Henry II, and in 997 he succeeded his father as chief of the Hungarian Magyars.
In order to make Hungary a Christian nation and to establish himself more firmly as ruler, Stephen sent the Abbot Astricus to Rome to petition Pope Sylvester II for the royal dignity and the power to establish episcopal sees. The pope acceded to his wishes and, in addition, presented Stephen with a royal crown in recognition of his sovereignty.
The new King of the Hungarians endeavored above all to establish his nation on a sound moral foundation and to that end he suppressed blasphemy, murder, adultery and other public crimes, and established a feudal system throughout Hungary. To this day, King Stephen is universally recognized as the architect of the independent realm of Hungary.
He founded a monastery in Jerusalem and hospices for pilgrims at Rome, Ravenna, and Constantinople. A close friend of St. Bruno, he also corresponded with St. Odilo of Cluny. The last years of his life were embittered by illness and family troubles. When late in 1031 his only son, Emeric, lost his life on a bear hunt, his cherished hope of transferring the reins of government into the hands of a pious Christian prince were shattered.
During his lifetime a quarrel arose among his various nephews concerning the right of succession, and some of them even took part in a conspiracy against his life. He was buried beside his son at Stuhlweissenburg, and both were canonized together in 1083.