History of Hungary
Kingdom of HungaryHungary
The Kingdom of Hungary came into existence in Central Europe when Stephen I, Grand Prince of the Hungarians, was crowned king in 1000 or 1001. He reinforced central authority and forced his subjects to accept Christianity. Although all written sources emphasize only the role played by German and Italian knights and clerics in the process, a significant part of the Hungarian vocabulary for agriculture, religion, and state matters was taken from Slavic languages. Civil wars and pagan uprisings, along with attempts by the Holy Roman emperors to expand their authority over Hungary, jeopardized the new monarchy. The monarchy stabilized during the reigns of Ladislaus I (1077–1095) and Coloman (1095–1116). These rulers occupied Croatia and Dalmatia with the support of a part of the local population. Both realms retained their autonomous position. The successors of Ladislaus and Coloman—especially Béla II (1131–1141), Béla III (1176–1196), Andrew II (1205–1235), and Béla IV (1235–1270)—continued this policy of expansion towards the Balkan Peninsula and the lands east of the Carpathian Mountains, transforming their kingdom into one of the major powers of medieval Europe.
Rich in uncultivated lands, silver, gold, and salt deposits, Hungary became the preferred destination of mainly German, Italian, and French colonists. These immigrants were mostly peasants who settled in villages, but some were craftsmen and merchants, who established most of the cities of the Kingdom. Their arrival played a key role in the shaping of an urban lifestyle, habits, and culture in medieval Hungary. The location of the kingdom at the crossroads of international trade routes favored the coexistence of several cultures. Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance buildings and literary works written in Latin prove the predominantly Roman Catholic character of the culture; but Orthodox, and even non-Christian ethnic minority communities also existed. Latin was the language of legislation, administration and the judiciary, but "linguistic pluralism" contributed to the survival of many tongues, including a great variety of Slavic dialects.