This website uses cookies to provide a rich user experience. Please consult our Cookie Policy to learn about what cookies this website uses, or to control the cookies you receive. You need do nothing if you are happy to receive cookies.
Look and Learn History Picture Library License images from £2.99 Pay by PayPal for images for immediate download Member of British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies (BAPLA)

A Pope’s gift – King Stephen’s crown

Posted in Art, History, Religion on Sunday, 29 April 2007

Click on any image for details about licensing for commercial or personal use.

King Stephen's coronation

Stephen, son of the Duke of Geza, Ruler of the Magyars, was born AD 975 in Pannonia, which was situated between Hungary and Yugoslavia. Stephen wanted more than simply to inherit his father’s title. When the duke died, Stephen made a special request to Pope Sylvester II, asking to be made king of Hungary. The Pope was agreeable to this request, especially as Stephen was married to Gisela, the daughter of The Holy Roman Emperor.

Stephen’s wish therefore was granted, and he received not only the title of “Apostolic Majesty” from the Pope, but also the gift of a unique crown. The king of Hungary was crowned with great solemnity in AD 1000.

Stephen was a much respected monarch and was canonised in 1083. His crown has become a national symbol of Hungary, though the country has long since ceased to be a monarchy. The crown is made in two tiers, each decorated with hand-enamelled panels. In the first tier the panels show Christ as Ruler of the Christian World, the Byzantine Ruler, Emperor Michael VIII and the Emperor Constantine Porphyrogeneto.

Precious stones are set between the panels and the circle formed by this tier is bordered, top and bottom, with matching pearls. In the centre of the circle is a large sapphire. The second tier consists of eight more enamelled plates, each one surmounted by a precious stone, forming a semicircle in the front of the crown. At the back are 18 pearls set on gold pins. The four gold chains hanging from each side of the base are one of the most unusual features of this crown. The ends of these chains are decorated with emeralds, rubies and sapphires. Anyone looking at the crown cannot fail to notice the lopsided cross at the top. Some historians say the cross was put on in this way, but the general belief is that it was damaged when, in order to ensure its safety, it was buried in a hillside in 1611. This would certainly seem to be a more likely explanation.

During the Second World War, Adolph Hitler seized the crown and ordered that it be hidden in a wall, which was then cemented up. He was determined that no-one else would possess the treasure he coveted so much. St. Stephen’s crown could have been lost forever, but after the war an American intelligence officer who knew something of the crown’s history decided to try to find it. Much research and investigation finally led to the historic crown’s recovery and it was sent to the United States for safe-keeping. There it remained despite repeated protestations from the Hungarian government.

In 1978 the Americans consented to the return of St. Stephen’s crown to Hungary, and it can now be seen in the capital, Budapest.

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.