November 12


It is agreed that the first archbishop in Hungary was called Astrik, but there is a great deal of uncertainty about his identity. There are three "candidates", all associated with St Adalbert of Prague: viz. Anastasius, the first abbot of Brevnov in Bohemia, Astericus, one of Adalbert's clergy, and Radla, Adalbert's fellow student at Magdeburg and his close friend. The first two of these may be really one person.

On the whole it seems likely to have been Radla, a Czech or Croat from Bohemia who is known to have been a monk in Hungary. He probably received the habit at Brevnov, taking the name of Anastasius, of which Astrik seems to be an equivalent. Then, when St Adalbert failed to consolidate his position in Bohemia, and left Prague, Astrik Radla went to help the missionaries among the Magyars. He is known to have been in the service of the wife of Duke Geza in 997; and he was almost certainly the first abbot of St Martin's (Pannonhalma), the first ecclesiastical institution of Hungary, founded by Geza. On the duke's death and the accession of his son St Stephen I the evangelization of the Magyars was taken seriously in hand, and St Astrik was active in the work of preaching the gospel and establishing an ecclesiastical organization. In connection with this Stephen sent him to Rome to confer with Pope Silvester II, and soon after his return the sovereign was crowned with a royal crown, granted no doubt at the instance of the Emperor Otto III, in 1001. There is a good case for Radla being the Astrik who was now promoted to be archbishop of the new Hungarian church.

When Astrik attended a synod at Frankfurt in 1006 he was styled simply Ungarorum episcopus, and it seems that his seat was not at Esztergom, which before long became the primatial see; Veszprem is the first Hungarian diocese for which there is documentary evidence, but Astrik's see may have been at Kalocsa. Throughout the remainder of his long life he worked hand in hand with King St Stephen for the proper settlement of the Church in his dominions and for the conversion of the fierce Magyars to the faith of Christ. He died soon after his royal master, about the year 1040.

Of the personality and personal life of St Astrik nothing is known; but it is significant that St Adalbert of Prague had so much affection for and trust in him: Adalbert wrote to Geza's wife asking her to send "his master" back to him in Poland and to Astrik Radla himself he wrote saying that if the duchess would not release him, he should slip away secretly and rejoin "your Adalbert". But to Astrik his duty was clear that he must stay among the Magyars.

The best examination of the problem is doubtless that of F. Dvornik in his Making of Central and Eastern Europe (1949), pp. 159-166, which shows clearly how confused and uncertain is the history of the conversion of Hungary, even for scholars who are natives of Eastern Europe. Cf. C. Kadlec in the Cambridge Medieval History, vol. iv, p. 214. See also St Bruno's Life of St Adalbert in Fontes rerum Bohemicarum (1871), vol. i; the Life of St Stephen in MGH., Scriptores, vol. xi, and cf. vol. iv, pp. 547, 563; and Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, vol. i (1930), c. 394.

Back to the contents
(Butler's Lives of the Saints, Christian Classics, 1995)