Before St. Stephen was born, his mother, the duchess Sarolt, had a vision of the original St. Stephen, the first martyr of the Church. He told her that she would have a son, and he would evangelize the land. Sarolt and her husband, Duke Geza, converted and were baptized by St. Adalbert of Prague. He also baptized their son.

Stephen shared his father’s desire to bring Catholicism to Hungary, and when he came to power, he built a monastery and launched massive conversion efforts. Pope Sylvester II proclaimed him king, and Stephen devoted himself to the poor and sick. He built many churches dedicated to the Virgin Mary, established a monastery in Jerusalem, and spread the faith everywhere he could.

Stephen’s only living son, Emeric, was a strong Catholic and was expected to succeed him, but he died in a hunting accident in 1031. Emeric was canonized as a saint, but his family was left devastated and his death led to a succession dispute that marked Stephen’s final years.

St. Stephen died in Hungary on August 15, 1038. He was buried next to his son, and they were both canonized in 1083.