Coloman of hungary

For the saint and martyr, see Coloman of Stockerau and Saint Coloman.
King of Hungary[1][2]
Reign 1095–1116
Coronation 1095
Predecessor Ladislaus I
Successor Stephen II
King of Croatia
Reign 1097-1116
Predecessor Peter I
Successor Stephen II
Spouse Felicia of Sicily (1097–1102)
Eufemia of Kiev (1112–1113)
Stephen II
Dynasty Árpád dynasty
Father Géza I of Hungary
Mother Sophia
Born 1074
Székesfehérvár, Kingdom of Hungary
Died 3 February 1116 (aged 41–42)
Székesfehérvár, Kingdom of Hungary
Burial Székesfehérvár
Religion Roman Catholic

Coloman I the Book-lover[3] (Hungarian: I. (Könyves) Kálmán), also spelled Koloman (c. 1074 – 3 February 1116), King of Hungary (1095–1116) [1] and Croatia[4] (from 1108 full royal title "King of Hungary, Slavonia, Croatia and Dalmatia"[5]). Although Coloman was their father's elder son, during his reign Coloman had to fight against his brother, Duke Álmos who always disputed his right to the crown because Coloman probably had a physical deformity. Finally, Coloman ordered that his brother and his infant son were blinded which caused later chroniclers, who lived in the court of his brother's descendants, to accuse him of viciousness. However, he was one of the most educated rulers of his age, e.g. the Polish chronicler, Gallus Anonymus describes him as the king "who was more educated in literary sciences than any of the kings who was living in his age".[6] Coloman, as legislator, mitigated the austerity of his predecessor's decrees.


Early years

Coloman was the elder son of the future King Géza I and his first wife Sophia, daughter of Count Giselbert of Looz.[7][8] When his father died on 25 April 1077, in accordance with the Hungarian tradition which gave precedence to the eldest member of the royal family over the king's son, King Géza's brother, Ladislaus was proclaimed king. Coloman and his younger brother, Álmos were educated in the court of their uncle.

King Ladislaus wanted Álmos to succeed him as king of Hungary,[9] and wished to make Coloman a bishop. Therefore, Coloman was educated pursuant to the clerical traditions and acquired his subsequently famous learning, which earned him the appellation "the Book-lover".

Pursuant to the chronicles, King Ladislaus appointed Coloman to bishop of Eger or Nagyvárad. However, Coloman did not want to live an ecclesiastical life, and in 1095, when King Ladislaus named officially Álmos as his heir, Coloman escaped to Poland. When Coloman came back followed by Polish troops provided to him by Duke Władysław I Herman of Poland, King Ladislaus died on 29 July 1095. Shortly afterwards, Coloman made an agreement with his brother, under which Álmos acknowledged his reign but received "Tercia pars Regni" (i.e. one third of the Kingdom of Hungary) as appanage from the new king.[10] Coloman was crowned only in the beginning of 1096.

Facing the Crusaders

Shortly after his coronation, Coloman had to face the problems the Crusader armies caused while passing through Hungary. Although the armies led by Walter the Penniless passed peacefully through the country in May 1096, the next hordes led by Peter the Hermit occupied the fortress of Zimony withdrawing only when Coloman's armies were approaching them.

Shortly afterwards, the troops of a German knight named Folkmar were pillaging the territories of the Hungarian County of Nitra, while the German priest Gottschalk's hordes were ravaging the Transdanubian region of the kingdom. Coloman managed to rout both of the armies and he denied the entrance of the new armies led by Emicho of Leiningen and Guillaume de Melun, but the Crusaders laid siege to the fortress of Moson defended by Coloman. Coloman could only break out and win over the Crusaders just after a six-week-long defence.

On 20 September 1096, Coloman made an agreement with Duke Godfrey V of Lower Lorraine, the leader of the next army. Under their agreement, Coloman took hostages (including Godfrey's brother, Baldwin, who would become the first king of Jerusalem) and he mustered his own army to guard the progress; therefore the Crusader armies passed through the kingdom peacefully.

Campaigns in Croatia

Coloman changed Hungary's foreign policy. While his predecessor had asked for the Holy Roman Emperor's help (instead of the pope's) when waging war on Croatia, Coloman wanted to stay on good terms with the Holy See. In the spring of 1097, he married Felicia, a daughter of Count Roger I of Sicily who was a close ally of the popes.

Shortly afterwards, Coloman led his armies against Petar Svačić, who had been proclaimed king of Croatia, and won a decisive victory over Croatian armies at the Battle of Gvozd Mountain, and reoccupied the country.

In 1097, he made good Hungary’s claim to Croatia by overthrowing King Petar Svačić of Croatia, and by 1102 Coloman controlled the greater part of Dalmatia.[1]

According to the pacta conventa, King Coloman of Hungary created a personal union between the Kingdom of Croatia and Hungary. However, some historians dispute its authenticity and claim that the document is a forgery and that Hungary seized Croatia which became a province,[5][11][12] while other historiography generally accepts it as authentic. A Croatian proponent of the document being forgery is Nada Klaić. According to this "pacta", the coronation was preceded by an agreement between Coloman and the representatives of the greatest Croatian families, under which he and his successors would govern Croatia as a separate kingdom. They, in turn, would acknowledge the special privileges and customs of the kingdom. However, there is no undoubtedley genuine document of the personal union, and medieval sources mention the absorption into the Hungarian kingdom.[5]

The Pacta Conventa is most likely a late medieval forgery, not a twelfth-century source.[5] Its source of inspiration must have been the political and social developments that had taken place over a 300-year period following the conquest of Ladislav I and Coloman.[5]

While Coloman was far away in Croatia, his brother, Álmos, who had governed Croatia during the reign of Ladislaus I, rose against him in Hungary. However, the barons wanted to avoid the internal struggle and obliged Coloman and Álmos to confirm their former agreement under which Álmos could maintain his duchy while he accepted Coloman's rule. In 1105, Coloman led his armies to Dalmatia and occupied the Dalmatian towns and islands that had belonged to Venice.

Wars with the neighbouring countries

In the beginning of 1099, Coloman allied himself with his cousins, Duke Svatopluk of Moravia and Duke Otto II of Olomouc against Duke Břetislav II of Bohemia, but he had a meeting, on 29 May, with Břetislav II on the so-called Lucko Field (near present Uherský Brod) where they made a peace.

In the second half of 1099, Coloman led his armies against Prince Vasilko of Terebovl and laid siege to the fortress of Peremysl, but he was defeated by the Cuman allies of the prince.

Coloman as legislator

Coloman's court was a centre of learning and literature. Bishop Hartvik's Life of St. Stephen, a chronicle of Hungary, the shorter of the extant Legends of St. Gellért, and several collections of laws all stem from his reign.

In the synod of Tarcal, the prelates and barons of the kingdom revised the laws of the preceding kings, and Coloman issued new decrees. The new decrees reduced the severity of the laws of King Ladislaus I, but they also contained provisions against the Jews and the Muslims (böszörmény).

In popular culture, his most famous law contained De strigis vero quae non sunt, nulla amplius quaestio fiat, translated as "for the matter of witches, there is no such thing, therefore no further investigations or trials are to be held". In fact this law was aimed against strigis, here meaning pagan charmers of old nomad Hungarian traditions that were still holding strong, and as such, its goal was to strengthen Christianity. The same law also dealt with maleficas, common charmers, punishing their misdeeds.[13]

Internal wars with his brother

Coloman had his son, Stephen crowned in 1105, which resulted in the open rebellion of his brother, Duke Álmos, who went to the court of Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor. But the emperor was engaged with the rebellion of his own son, the future Emperor Henry V, thus Duke Álmos had to come back to Hungary and accept Coloman's rule.

But Álmos did not give up his claims, and escaped to Poland and made an agreement with Duke Bolesław III who declared war against Coloman. However, Coloman sent envoys to the duke of Poland and convinced him to make an alliance against the Holy Roman Empire; therefore Álmos was obliged to return to Hungary and ask for the king's pardon.

In 1107, Coloman and Bolesław III gave assistance to Duke Svatopluk of Moravia against Duke Borivoj II of Bohemia. In the next year, Bolesław III could overcome the rebellion of his brother, Zbigniew with Coloman's help. In the same year, taking advantage of his brother's pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Coloman occupied Álmos' duchy.

In 1108, Coloman visited Dalmatia and confirmed the privileges of Spalatum (Split), Iadera (Zadar), and Tragurium (Trogir).

When duke Álmos returned from the Holy Land and realised that his duchy had been incorporated into the royal domains, he escaped again to the court of the Holy Roman Emperor. Upon his request, the Emperor Henry V laid siege to Pozsony. Coloman sought the assistance of Duke Bolesław III of Poland, who attacked Bohemia. In November, the emperor made a peace with Coloman, who let his brother come back to his court, but the duchy of Álmos was not to be restored. Shortly afterwards, Coloman set up the bishopric of Nyitra.

Last years

In 1112, Coloman married Eufemia of Kiev, daughter of Grand Prince Vladimir II of Kiev. However, a few months later, she was caught in adultery and immediately divorced and sent back to her father. Eufemia bore a son in Kiev, named Boris in 1112, but Coloman refused to acknowledge him as his son.

Shortly afterwards, Coloman had a meeting with Bolesław III who was going on a pilgrimage to Székesfehérvár and Somogyvár because of having made his brother blind. In 1115, Coloman, who had become more and more ill, also ordered to have Álmos and his infant son, Béla blinded in order to secure his own son's inheritance.

In August 1115, Venice made an assault against Dalmatia and began to conquer the Dalmatian towns and isles. But Coloman was not able to answer to the aggression, because he died on 3 February 1116. He was buried in Székesfehérvár, next to St. Stephen.



King of Hungary, Slavonia, Croatia, Dalmatia"[5]

See also

  • Tercia pars regni



  • Kristó, Gyula - Makk, Ferenc: Az Árpád-ház uralkodói (IPC Könyvek, 1996)
  • Korai Magyar Történeti Lexikon (9-14. század), főszerkesztő: Kristó, Gyula, szerkesztők: Engel, Pál és Makk, Ferenc (Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, 1994)
  • Magyarország Történeti Kronológiája I. – A kezdetektől 1526-ig, főszerkesztő: Benda, Kálmán (Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, 1981)
Coloman, King of Hungary
House of Árpád
Born: c. 1070 Died: 3 February 1116
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Ladislaus I
King of Hungary
Succeeded by
Stephen II & III
Preceded by
Petar Svačić
King of Croatia
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