St. Ladislaus - King of Hungary

Born: 1031 - Died: 1095
Feast Day - June 27th

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. This king was Ladislaus. He extended his country’s borders, kept its enemies at bay, and made it a great state politically. But it is not for such activities that men are canonized. Vastly different from most worldly monarchs, who aspired only to passing grandeur, Ladislaus concerned himself mainly with the true grandeur—the acquisition of virtue. Even from his youth he was admired by all for his chastity, his modesty, his piety, and his kindness toward the poor. He had not only the soul of a saint but indeed all the qualities of a king. It is for his private life and his work for Christianity that reverence is due to his memory.

After a childhood colored by political intrigue and dynastic violence, Ladislaus (Laszlo), came to the Hungarian throne by the free choice of the people in 1077. The young prince was said to be the embodiment of the outward graces and the inner virtues of the ideal knight. Towering head and shoulders over the crowd, he had the strength and courage of a lion, combined with a courteous affability that endeared him to all.

Since he received all with the greatest affability, the most humble of his subjects came to him confident of his justice. His prudent judgements, acceptable to all, were more those of a father than of a judge. For this reason, his people called him “the pious one.” His piety, which was as fervent as it was well balanced, expressed itself in his zeal for faith, in the punctilious fulfillment of his religious obligations, in the strictness of his morals, and in the austerity of his life. No one in all of Hungary was more majestic or more impressive than he. True, his table was royally furnished, but he himself took from it only what was necessary. He fasted frequently, refused the use of wine, slept on the floor, mortified his body, and by these means overcame the perils to which kings of a softer character were easy to succumb to in the less guarded atmosphere of their courts.

Entirely devoid of personal ambition, he accepted the dignity thrust upon him from a sense of duty. An enemy to unbridled amusements, he devoted himself to exercises of piety and the duties of his state, seeking in all things the glory of God. In his personal life, religion was of prime concern. He would have nothing of half-measures when it came to the rights of his church or the defense of his country. In pursuance of a policy dictated by his religious and patriotic instincts alike, Ladislaus allied himself closely with Pope Gregory VII and the other opponents of the German Emperor, Henry IV. Within the boundaries of Hungary itself, he had to face repeated invasions from the Kumans and others, but he successfully repulsed all of them and did his best to win barbarian tribes to Christianity and civilization. At the same time, though, he allowed civil and religious liberty to the Jews and the Mohammedans.

Pope Urban II called 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. It was at this time that God called him to Himself. Ladislaus died suddenly at Nitra in Bohemia in 1095, at the age of 55.

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