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 Saint Ladislas of Hungary

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Melisende
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PostSubject: Saint Ladislas of Hungary   Tue Oct 28, 2008 4:20 pm

Saint Ladislas of Hungary

If Hungary owed the establishment of its monarchy and the organization of its church to St Stephen I, it was almost equally indebted to another sainted king of the same house of Arpad. For Ladislaus extended its borders, kept its enemies at bay, and made it politically a great state. But it is not for such activities that men are canonized (if, indeed, Ladislaus ever was formally canonized, which appears to be doubtful); and it is for his private life and work for Christianity that reverence is due to his memory.

After a childhood and youth whose background was political intrigue and dynastic violence, Ladislaus (Laszlo) came to the Hungarian throne in 1077; but his rights were contested by his kinsman Solomon, whom eventually he defeated in battle. The young prince was said to be the embodiment of the outward graces and inner virtues of the ideal knight of chivalry. Towering head and shoulders above the crowd, he had the strength and courage of a lion, combined with a courteous affability that endeared him to all. His piety, which was as fervent as it was well balanced, expressed itself in his zeal for the faith, in the punctilious fulfillment of his religious obligations, in the strictness of his morals, and in the austerity of his life. Entirely devoid of personal ambition, he accepted the dignity thrust upon him from a sense of duty.

In pursuance of a policy dictated alike by his religious and his patriotic instincts, Ladislaus allied himself closely with Pope Gregory VII and the other opponents of the German emperor, Henry IV. He espoused the cause of Henry's rival, Rupert of Swabia, and married Adelaide, the daughter of Rupert's chief supporter, Duke Welf of Bavaria. Within the boundaries of Hungary itself he had to face repeated invasions from the Kumans and others, but he successfully repulsed them all and did his best to win barbarian tribes to Christianity and civilization; at the same time he allowed civil and religious liberty to the jews and the Ishmaelites (i.e. Mohammedans or Muslims). It was at his solicitation that King Stephen I, his son Emeric, and the martyred bishop Gerard were recognized by the Holy See as worthy of veneration as saints.

Ladislaus governed with a firm hand in both civil and ecclesiastical affairs, as was seen at the Diet of Szabolcs and when, in 1091, his sister Helen, the widowed queen of Croatia, appealed to him for help against the murderers of her husband. He marched in, restored some sort of order, and established the see of Zagreb. But when Helen died childless he annexed Croatia and Dalmatia, in the face of remonstrances from the emperor at Constantinople, the republic of Venice and the Holy See. Nevertheless Blessed Urban II looked for his help in organizing the First Crusade, and it was Ladislaus who was chosen by the kings of France, Spain and England to be the commander-in-chief of that expedition. However he was not destined to march with the rest, for he died rather suddenly at Nitra in Bohemia in 1095. He was fifty-five years old.

The body of St Ladislaus was taken for burial to Nagy Varad (Oradea Mare in Transylvania) -- to the city and the cathedral which he had founded. From the moment of his death he was honoured as a saint and a national hero, and his deeds have formed the theme of many popular Magyar ballads and tales. His relics were solemnly enshrined in 1192.


Reference:
C. A. Macartney "The Medieval Hungarian Historians" (1953).

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