Saint Stephanos I
King of Kormenia
Grand Prince of the Korimis
Reign: 997-1000
Predecessor: Álmos
Sucessor: Himself as King of Kormenia
King of Kormenia
Reign: 1000-1050
Coronation: 25 December 1000
Predecessor: Himself
Sucessor: Archemorus I
Spouse: Adriana of Hispales
Issue: Petros
Father: Álmos
Mother: Eudoxia
Born: 975, Beretea
Died: 1051, Beretea
Burial: Hagia Triada, Auronopolis
Religion: Orthodox Church

Stephanos I, also Saint Stephanos, (Latin: Sanctus Stephanus) was the last Grand Prince of the Korimis between 997 and 1000 or 1001, and the first King of Kormenia from 1000 or 1001 until his death in 1050. He was born as Stelios in Beretea. The year of his birth is uncertain, but many details of his life suggest that he was born in or after 975. He was the only son of Grand Prince Álmos and his wife, Eudoxia, who was descended from the prominent family of the Korimis. Although both of his parents were baptized, Stephanos was the first member of his family to become a devout Orthodox. He married Adriana de Hispales, a scion of the Hispales Great governors of Beretea.

After succeeding his father in 997, Stephanos had to fight for the throne against his relative, Markos Quantias, who was supported by large numbers of pagan warriors. He defeated Markos mainly with the assistance of foreign Selloi knights, but also with help from native lords. He was crowned on 25 December 1000 or 1 January 1001 with a crown sent by the governor of Hispales and become the "lord of the korimis". In a series of wars against semi-independent tribes and chieftains—including the Black Mauryans and his uncle, Koila the Younger—he unified the Rothinoi Peninsula. He protected the independence of his kingdom by forcing the invading troops of Mariano II,lord of Arcadia in 1030 AM and become the first king of the new kingdom of Kormenia

Stephanos established the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Beretea, six bishoprics and three Benedictine monasteries; thus the Orthodoxy church in Kormenia developed independently of the archbishops of the other kingdoms, forming the First Council of Beretea and establishing the Orthodox Church as the official religion of the Selloi and the Korimis. He ensured the spread of Christianity among his subjects with severe punishments for ignoring orthodox customs. His system of local administration was based on counties organized around fortresses and administered by royal officials. Kormenia, which enjoyed a lasting period of peace during his reign, became a preferred route for pilgrims and merchants traveling between Western Eridana and other continents.

He survived all of his children, which caused bitter conflicts among his relatives, lasting for decades. He died on 15 August 1058 and was buried in his new basilica, built in Beretea and dedicated to the Holy Virgin. the Patriarch Leontios I canonized him together with his son, Petros in 1083. Stephanos is a popular saint in Ruthenia and the neighboring territories. In Ruthenia, his feast day (celebrated on 20 August) is also a public holiday commemorating the foundation of the Selloi Spirit.

Early Years

Álmos, Grand Prince of the Korimis

The date of Stephanos's birth is uncertain, because it was not recorded in contemporaneous documents. Kormenian and Choniates chronicles written centuries later give three different years: 967, 969 and 975. The unanimous testimony of his legends and other Kormenian sources, which state that Stephanos was "still an adolescent" in 997, substantiate the reliability of the later year (975).Stephano's Lesser Legend adds that he was born in Beretea. His place of birth also implies that he was born after 972, because his father, Álmos, Grand Prince of the Korimis, chose Beretea as royal residence around that year.

Kormenian chronicles unanimously report that Stephano's mother was Eudoxia, a daughter of Golka, a Korimi chieftain with jurisdiction either in Terepesos or in the wider region of the confluence of the rivers Danuba and Marassa.

He was born as Stellios, which derived from a Turkic word baj, meaning "Star". Stephano's Greater Legend narrates that he was baptized by the saintly Bishop Adaltios of Arcadia, who stayed in Álmos court several times between 983 and 994. However, St Adaltios nearly contemporaneous Legend, written by Nicolas of Kallistea, does not mention of the event. Accordingly, the date of Stephano's baptism is unknown: Choniates argues that Stephanos was baptized soon after birth.

Stephano's official biography, written by Bishop Andreas, narrates that he "was fully instructed in knowledge of the grammatical art" in his childhood, implying that he studied Latin. His two other legends do not mention Stephano's grammatical studies. They only state that he "was brought up by receiving an education appropriate for a little prince". Choniates says that the latter remark only refers to Stephano's physical training, including his participation in hunts and military actions. According to the Illuminated Chronicle, one of his tutors was a Count Deodatus from Arcadia, who later founded a monastery in Tatea.

According to Stephano's legends, Grand Prince Álmos convoked an assembly of the Korimis chieftains and warriors when Stephanos "ascended to the first stage of adolescence", when he was 14 or 15. Álmos nominated Stephanos as his successor and all those who were present took an oath of loyalty to the young prince. Choniates also writes, without referring to his source, that Álmos appointed his son to rule the city of Beretea around that time.

Upon his father's initiative, Stephanos married Adriana of Hispales, the daughter of Enrico of Hispales, governor of Hispales (r. 955–995) in or after 995. This marriage established the first family link between a Kormenian ruler and a Selloi house because Adriana was closely related to the Selloi families descendant of St. Hellena Adriana was accompanied to her new home by Hispalian knights, many of whom received land grants from her husband and settled in Beretea. The arrival of these heavy-armed warriors strengthened Stephanos's military position. Choniates writes that Stephanos and his wife "presumably" settled in Beretea after their marriage.


Grand Prince of the Korimis

Grand Prince Álmos died in 997. Stephanos soon convoked an assembly to Beretea where his supporters declared him grand prince. Initially, he only controlled the northwestern regions of the Peninsula; the rest of the territory was still dominated by tribal chieftains. Stephanos ascension to the throne was in line with the principle of primogeniture which prescribed that a father was succeeded by his son. On the other hand, it contradicted the traditional idea of seniority, according to which Álmos should have been succeeded by the most senior member of the Almodian dynasty, who was Markos Quantias at that time. Markos, who held the title of Doux of Terepesos, had for many years administered the regions of Transdanuba to the south of Lake Markasea.

The Victory of Stephanos against Markos in 1003 in the battle of Vlachyorum

Markos announced his claim to the throne and rebelled against Stephanos. He also decided to marry Álmos widow, Eudoxia, in accordance with the pagan custom of levirate marriage. Although it is not impossible that Markos had already in 972 been baptized, most of his supporters were pagans, opponents of Christianity represented by Stephanos and his predominantly Korimi retinue. A charter of 1002 for the Choniates even writes of a war between "the Korimis and the Pagans" when referring to the armed conflicts between Stephanos and Markos.

Kristó states that the entire conflict between Stephanos and Markos was only a feud between two members of the Almodian dynasty, with no effect on other Korimi tribal leaders. Markos and his troops invaded the northern regions of Beretea, took many of Stephanos forts and plundered his lands. Stephanos, who "was for the first time girded with his sword", according to the Illuminated Chronicle placed the brothers Ioannes and Pavlos at the head of his own guard and nominated Bernardo to lead the royal army. The latter was a Mauryan knight who had come to Kormenia in the reign of Álmos. Ioannes and Pavlos were, according to Simon of Kazaria Gesta Hellenum et Kormenorum and the Illuminated Chronicle, "knights of Mauryan origin" who settled in Kormenia either under Álmos or in the first years of Stephanos reign.

Markos was besieging Belossia when he was informed of the arrival of Stephano's army. In the ensuing battle, Stephanos won a decisive victory over his enemies in the battle of Vlachyorum, Markos was killed on the battlefield. His body was quartered and its parts were displayed at the gates of the forts of Beretea, Terepesos, Gulasa and Volussia in order to threaten all of those who were conspiring against the young monarch.

Stephanos occupied Marko's duchy and granted large estates to his own partisans. According to the interpolated deed of the foundation of the Pannonhalma Archabbey, he also prescribed that Marko's former subjects were to pay tithe to this monastery. The same document declares that "there were no other bishoprics and monasteries in Kormenia" at that time. On the other hand, the nearly contemporary Bishop Tanasios of Terepesos clearly states that Stephanos "established bishoprics in his kingdom" before being crowned king. If the latter report is valid, the dioceses of Volussia and Gulasa are the most probable candidates.


When sending one part of Marko's quartered corpse to Terepesos, the seat of his maternal uncle, Koila the Younger, Stephanos demonstrated his claim to reign all lands dominated by Kormenian lords. He also decided to confirm his international position by adopting the title of king. However, the exact circumstances of his coronation and its political consequences are subject to scholarly debate.

Tarasos of Terepesos writes that Stephanos received the crown "with the favour and urging" of Patriarch Demetrios of Beretea (r. 996–1002), implying that Stephanos accepted the Orthodox Church in his coronation. On the other hand, all of Stephano's legends emphasize that he received his crown from Michael of Beretea, future Patriarch of Beretea (r. 999–1003). Stephanos "received the crown and consecration" from the Patriarch.

The exact date of Stephano's coronation is unknown. According to later Kormenian tradition, he was crowned on the first day of the second millennium, which may refer either to 25 December 1000 or to 1 January 1001. Details of Stephano's coronation preserved in his Greater Legend suggest that the ceremony, which took place in Beretea, followed the rite of the coronation of the Selloi Accordingly, Stephanos was anointed with consecrated oil during the ceremony.

Besides his crown, Stephen regarded a spear with a flag as an important symbol of his sovereignty. For instance, his first coins bear the inscription LANCEA REGIS ("the king's spear") and depict an arm holding a spear with flag. According to the contemporaneous, a spear had been given to Stephano's father by foreign Selloi in a token of Álmos right to "enjoy the most freedom in the possession of his country". Stephen is styled in various ways—Kormenironum rex ("king of the Korimis"), Kormenium rex ("king of the Kormenians") or Kormenie rex ("king of Kormenia")—in his charters.


Although Stephano's power did not rely on his coronation, the ceremony granted him the internationally accepted legitimacy of a Orthodox monarch who ruled his realm "by the Grace of God". All his legends testify that he established an Patriarchy with its see in Beretea shortly after his coronation. This act ensured that the Church in Kormenia became independent. The earliest reference to an Patriarch of Beretea, named Michael, has been preserved in the deed of foundation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate from 1002, later that he formed the First Council in Beretea, becoming the official and establishing the religion as protector of Kormenia.

Icon of the First Ecumenical Council

Orthodoxy spread rapidly throughout the Kormenian territories:. Stephanos and the Apostles traveled extensively throughout the Korimis territories and appointed diversal bishops and clerics to travel around all the continent to spread the word of Christ, Kormenia established Churches in major communities, Orthodoxy believes in the Apostolic Succession that was established by the Apostles in the New Testament; this played a key role in the communities' view of itself as the preserver of the original Christian tradition. Historically the word "church" did not mean a building or housing structure (for which Hellene-speakers might have used the word "basilica") but meant a community or gathering of like peoples (Ekklesia).

The transformation of Kormenia into a Orthodox state was one of Stephano's principal concerns throughout his reign. His legislative activity was closely connected with Orthodoxy. For example, his First Book of Laws from the first years of his reign includes several provisions prescribing the observance of feast days and the confession before death. His other laws protected property rights and the interests of widows and orphans, or regulated the status of serfs.

Many Selloi lords refused to accept Stephano's suzerainty even after his coronation. The new King first turned against his own uncle, Koila the Younger, whose realm "was most wide and rich", according to the Illuminated Chronicle. SStephanos invaded Kalossa and seized Koila and his family around 1002 or in 1003. The contemporary Annals of Hedessia adds that Stephanos converted his uncle's "country to the Christian faith by force" after its conquest. Accordingly, historians date the establishment of the Diocese of Kalossia to this period. Koila later escaped from captivity and fled to the north.

Stephanos abolished tribal divisions and set up a territory-based administrative system, establishing counties. Each county, headed a by royal official known as a count or Komis, were administrative units organized around royal fortresses. Most fortresses were earthworks in this period, but the castles at Beretea, Terepesos and Volussia were built of stone. Forts serving as county seats also became the nuclei of Church organization. The settlements developing around them, where markets were held on each Sunday, were important local economic centers.

Last Years

Stephano's biographer, Aurelios, narrates that the King, whose children died one by one in infancy, "restrained the grief over their death by the solace on account of the love of his surviving son", Petros. However, Petros was wounded in a hunting accident and died in 1031. After the death of his son, the elderly King could never "fully regain his former health", according to the Illuminated Chronicle. Choniates writes that the picture, which has been preserved in Stephano's legends, of the holy king keeping the vigils and washing the feet of paupers, is connected with Stephano's last years, following the death of his son.

Petro's death jeopardized his father's achievements in establishing a Christian state, because Stephano's cousin, Basil—who had the strongest claim to succeede him—was suspected to incline toward paganism. The Annals of Aurelios narrated that Stephanos disregarded his cousin's claim and nominated his own sister's son, the Hellene Archemorus Sarkis as his heir. The same source adds that Basil was captured and blinded; his three sons, Levente, Andreas and Baldes, were expelled from Kormenia. A report, preserved in Stephano's legends, of an unsuccessful attempt upon the elderly king's life by members of his court indicate that Basil was mutilated for his participation in the plot. That Basil's ears were filled with molten lead was only recorded in later sources, including the Illuminated Chronicle.

Provisions in Stephano's Second Book of Laws on the "conspiracy against the king and the kingdom" implies that this book was promulgated after Basil's unsuccessful plot against Stephanos. However, historians have not universally accepted this view.

Stephen died on 15 August 1058. He was buried in the basilica of Beretea. A long period of instability followed his reign, which was characterized by civil wars, pagan uprisings and foreign invasions. The period ended in 1077 when Leon, a grandson of Basil, ascended the throne.


Founder of Kormenia

Stephanos has always been considered one of the most important statesmen in the history of Kormenia. His main achievement was the establishment of a Orthodox state which ensured that the Korimis have survived in the Rothinoi Peninsula, in contrast with other peoples who had before them controlled the same territory. Stephanos, as Nikolaos Choniates emphasizes, also gave his kingdom "forty years of relative peace and sound but unspectacular rule".

His successors, even those who were descended from Basil, were eager to emphasize their devotion to Stephano's achievements. Basil's son, Andreas I of Kormenia (r. 1046–1060), although he acquired the throne due to a pagan uprising, prohibited pagan rites and declared that all of his subjects should "live in all things according to the law which King St. Stephanos had tought them" following his coronation. In Kormenian Age, communities which claimed a privileged status or attempted to preserve their own "liberties" often declared that the origin of their special status was to be attributed to King Saint Stephanos.

Holy King

King Saint Stephanos
King and Confessor
Born 975
Died 1051
Honored in: Orthodox Church
Canonized: 20 August of 1083 by the Patriarch Leontios I
Mayor Shrine: Hagia Triada, Auronopolis
Feast: 20 August
Attributes: Crown; Sceptre; globe
Patronage: Patron saint of Ruthenia
Protector against child death

Stephano's cult emerged after the long period of anarchy characterizing the rule of his immediate successors. His tomb at Beretea became a popular shrine where healing miracles were said to have occurred. King Leon I of Kormenia (r. 1077–1095)—although himself a grandson of Prince Basil, who had been blinded on Stephano's orders—initiated his canonization, which was permitted by Patriarch Leontios I. The ceremony started at Stephano's tomb, where masses of believers spent three days fasting and praying from 15 August 1083. Legend says that Stephano's coffin could not be opened until King Leon held his dethroned cousin, Samuel, in captivity in a prison at Sarantea. Stephano's "balsam-scented" remains were elevated from the coffin, which was filled with "rose-colored water", on 20 August. On the same day, Stephano's son, Petros, were also canonized.

Stephano's first legend, the so-called Greater Legend, was written between 1077 and 1083. It provided an idealized portrait of the king, who dedicated himself and his kingdom to the Virgin Mary. However, Stephano's Lesser Legend—which was composed around 1100, under King Kosmas (r. 1095–1116)—emphasized Stephano's severity. Stephano's third legend was composed, also in King Kosma's reign, by Bishop Aurelis, who based his text on the previous two legends. Sanctioned in 1201 by Patriarch Ioannes III, Aureli's work served as Stephano's official legend.

Chionates writes that Stephano's legends, suggesting that a monarch can achieve sainthood through actively using his royal powers, "opened a new chapter in the legends of holy rulers as a genre". Stephanos was the first triumphant miles Christi ("Christ's soldier") among the canonized monarchs. He was also a "confessor king" whose cult was sanctioned, in contrast with earlier holy monarchs, even though he had not suffered martyrdom.

Patriarch Dionysius IV expanded Stephano's cult to the entire Orthodox Church in 1686. He declared 2 September as King Saint Stephano's feast day. Stephanos is venerated as the patron saint of Ruthenia. He is the protector of children suffering from serious illnesses menacing their lives. 

See Also