Tuesday, April 16, 2013

N is for the Nun Princess

Straying more than a little bit from folktales, here is one of the most famous Catholic legends of Hungary.

About a real princess who was also a nun. And a saint.

St. Margaret of Hungary was born as the daughter of King Bela IV in 1242, just months after the Hungarian army was beaten and the kingdom devastated by the Mongolian invasion. The king and his family fled to Klis in Croatia - the baby princess was born in that castle. The king offered her to God in exchange for liberating the kingdom from the Tartars.

The Mongolian invasion ended. The royal family returned home. Princess Margaret was raised from the age of three to become a nun. She spent most of her life on the island that was later named after her - Margaret Island on the Danube, now the green heart of Budapest.

Everyone in Hungary knows about St. Margaret. We learn about her in school. She was devout, religious, humble, and apparently, more than a little bit overachieving when it came to torturing herself. To pray for her country and her father she offered herself to God, in all kinds of disturbingly painful ways, ranging from whips and beatings to hedgehog-skin belts. She did not wash, she did the dirtiest jobs in the monastery, and she never knew anything in life except devotion.

The King himself tried to marry her off more than once, but she always refused. She remained a nun until she died at the young age of 28.

The process to make her a saint of the Catholic church was put in motion practically at the moment of her death; testimonies were collected and written. She was beatified in 1276, but she only became a saint in 1943.

My personal reason for including this princess is because her legend has the only mention of a namesake of mine. Csenge, although very old, was not a popular name through the ages - but apparently there was one noble girl who was a nun the same time as Princess Margaret who bore this name. My infamous namesake was recorded in the saint's legend for one reason only: she beat the princess in the face with the dishwashing rag.
Go figure.


  1. I do love your writing style!

  2. Hedgehog-skin belts? I've never heard of such a thing. I bet it takes a slew of them to make anything.

    From princess to nun? Man, she really needed more options, didn't she?

    You've found yet another fascinating princess.

    ~Tui, from A to Z challenge
    Twitter: @mentalmosaic
    blog: Tui Snider's Texas, Travel, Photos & Reviews

  3. My daughter and I walked the length of Margit Island, and back again, some years ago, because we didn't have a bus token to ride back (the way we planned!) and couldn't buy one anywhere because it was Sunday
    (I think that's the story!) Did not know the story of St. Margaret. Thanks for including her in our alphabet list!

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  5. A nun and a princess all rolled into one - it really seems like an odd combo to me. ;)

  6. This is one of the most unique posts you've created about princesses. Very interesting!

    #atozchallenge, Kristen's blog: kristenhead.blogspot.com