Friday, August 22, 2014

Gisela of Hungary

Window at Cathedral of St. Michael
in Veszprém, Hungary, where Gisela is buried
Gisela (985 - 1065) was mentioned as the wife of King (later Saint) Stephen I, founder of Hungary. She was an important person in the christianization of Hungary and, as the daughter of Duke Henry II  of Bavaria, she was a link to Western Europe, becoming a part of which was one of Stephen's political goals.

She also had an interesting connection to England. When Edmund Ironside was defeated by King Cnut, his sons were sent abroad for safety and wound up in Hungary under the protection of Gisela. One of the sons died young, but the other, Edward Ætheling, was considered a rightful heir to the throne of England. (Known in England as Edward the Exile, he was recalled to England by the childless Edward the Confessor, who hoped to have in him a clear successor; within days of his arrival in 1057, he was dead, possibly killed by the powerful Godwins, who wanted their Harold to take the throne.)

When Stephen died in 1038, Gisela was forced to leave Hungary in the civil strife that followed. She became the abbess of a convent in Passau, in southern Bavaria in Germany. She lived there until her death in 1065.

She was buried in St. Michael's in Veszprém, Hungary, and venerated as a saint. An attempt at canonization failed in the 1700s, but she was labeled Beatus, Blessed Gisela. 

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