The celebration day of saints is almost always the day of their death - their birth in heaven. But this was not exactly the case in the case of King Stephen. The legend of Bishop Hartvig, the former biographer of our first king, tells us that the monarch, who offered Hungary to the Virgin Mary on his deathbed, died on 15 August 1038, the day of the Assumption.
This date was also in the mind of King Saint Ladislas when he asked Pope Gregory VII in 1083 to canonise King Stephen - along with his son Prince Emeric and the martyred Bishop Gellért - and received permission from the head of the Catholic Church to proceed. In accordance with the custom of the time, the tomb of the former mortal was opened, the ashes and remains were placed on an altar. An attempt was also made to open King Stephen's tomb on 15 August, but without success.
For days, the stone weighing down the coffin could not be moved by force by the people who had gathered for the ceremony or those that came because the monarch held court at the same time. The celestial help came through the vision of a nun: the release of Solomon, the ruler's cousin in captivity, would secure the moving of the stone. King St. Ladislas ordered it, and after a three-day fast, the tomb was easily lifted from the ashes.
This is how it happened that Stephen's remains were raised on the altar on 20 August 1083, and the canonisation of the king was also declared the new date for St. Ladislas holding court. Centuries later, the day was also added to the ecclesiastical feasts. The cult of St Stephen, spanning ages, enjoyed a renaissance between the two world wars and again after the fall of communism. The date of King Stephen's canonisation, even if it is celebrated by millions nearly a thousand years later as well on the fifth day after the anniversary of his death.