“A great many things keep happening, some good, some bad” (Gregory of Tours 539-594)
Rudolf II King of Burgundy
On this day, 12th of July 937 Rudolf II, king of Burgundy died. After a long career trying to gain the Italian crown, he had to finally accept defeat. In a final settlement between him, Berengar of Italy and Hugh of Provence, he abandoned claims on the Italian crown in exchange for inheritance of lower Burgundy (~today’s Provence + Piedmont).
He secured the support of king Henry I, the Fowler of East Francia by handing him the Holy Lance, the most revered of the Imperial insignia that is supposed to make its bearer invincible. Upon his death the previous agreements with Italy and Provence fell apart and Hugh of Provence invaded. Hugh in turn was sent packing by Otto I, king of East Francia and future emperor but took away Rudolf II’s daughter, the formidable Adelheid. Adelheid managed to outwit the whole lot and ended up as queen of Italy and empress.
Friedrich I King in Prussia
On this day, July 11th, 1657, Friedrich I, First King in Prussia was born. As would be tradition in the Hohenzollern family, he did not get on well with his father the “Great Elector” who tried to disinherit him and partition his lands amongst his five sons. If he had succeeded, no kingdom of Prussia would have ever come about! Friedrich’s great ambition was to be elevated to be king, something his neighbours to the south, the dukes of Saxony had achieved by acquiring the crown of Poland. To gain the royal title required consent from the Habsburg Emperor in Vienna, which came in 1700 against payment of vast sums of money and provision of soldiers. Moreover, the royal title was massively constrained in as much as the title had to refer to a territory outside the empire and would only apply there. That is why he did crown himself in Koenigsberg (today Kaliningrad in Russia), the capital of Prussia. Prussia was technically outside the empire but run by the Electors of Brandenburg. Because of the imperial constraints, Friedrich I could not call himself King of Prussia, but only King in Prussia. After the coronation he maintained a splendid court worthy of a king, which strained the modest finances of his land to breaking point. After his death, his son, Friedrich Wilhelm – who continued the tradition by hating his father – ended all the pomp and circumstance. He replaced it with a extraordinarily austere, militaristic household which his son, Friedrich II (The Great) hated..and so on and so on..
On this day, July 10th, 1956 the Frankfurter Kreuz, Europe’s busiest motorway junction was brought into service. Planning for the junction between the A5 (Frankfurt to Basel) and A3 (Cologne-Nuernberg) began in the 1920 and work began in 1933 but was interrupted when WWII broke out.
Today well over 300,000 cars drive across the structure every day.
Battle of Sempach 9th of July 1386
On this day, July 9th, 1386 an army of the Swiss Confederacy comprehensively beat the army of the Duke Leopold III of Austria who perished in the fighting. This battle broke Habsburg influence in Switzerland paving the way to an independent Switzerland. The Confederacy (Eidgenossenschaft) as it is still called today had been founded in 1291 through a pact between the three original Cantons, Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden. By 1386 a further five entities had joined, namely Lucerne, Zurich, Berne, Glarus and Zug. If this alliance between cities and rural confederations had already been quite unusual, the fact that it could expand through acquisition and sometimes violence was creating serious concerns amongst the local lords and princes. In 1386 Leopold III, duke of Austria gathered an army to put an end to this. Leopold’s family, the Habsburgs, were originally from around Zurich and held many fiefs in South-West Germany and Switzerland. He created an alliance of local rulers who all declared war on the Confederacy. In total 167 declarations of war were received. Battle was joined near the town of Sempach on July 9th, 1386. In a replay of the battles of Crecy, Poitiers and Agincourt, the arrogant aristocratic knights made no or little use of the infantrymen they had hired at vast expense and insisted on pursuing glory by direct attack. The result was quite similar. The knights got stuck within a sea of infantrymen, were outflanked and parboiled by the midday heat inside their heavy armour. A legendary hero, Arnold von Winkelried allegedly opened a breach for his compatriots by pulling in a bundle of lances into his chest (see picture). Leopold III and many of his knights fell. The losses weakened the Habsburg side such that the Confederacy could expand its territory with ease from there, creating today’s SwitzerlandA quick note to my Swiss friends, I hope I did get this right – I tried my best.
Giebichenstein castle near Halle on the Saale river is one of Germany’s oldest castles dating back at least to the 9th century if not earlier. It was originally constructed as a Burgward, a place for villagers to flee to in case of attacks by Slavs and Hungarians. Otto the Great gave the place to the archbishopric of Magdeburg he had established in 968. During the 11th century the castle became a kind of state prison where the most prominent -and hence most dangerous- prisoners would be held. Heinrich, count of Schweinfurth and Ernst II, duke of Swabia were some of the more famous inmates. Both had rebelled against their emperor, the first against Henry II and the second against Konrad II. Duke Ernst of Swabia (1012?-1039) became subject of folk legend. After his rebellion he was offered his old position back on condition that he would besiege, capture and hand over his close friend and stout supporter Werner (Wenzel) of Kiburg. Ernst refused and together with Wenzel became an outlaw. The legend says that the two of them travelled to the Holy Land and encountered weird and wonderful creatures along the way, including men with Crane heads, Lilliputians and giants etc. before ultimately reconciling with the emperor. Reality was more prosaic, he and Wenzel were killed in a minor skirmish in the black forest where they were hiding. Emperor Konrad commented that “vicious dogs rarely produce offspring”.In the 14th century Giebichenstein became the main residence of the archbishops of Magdeburg who, like many other bishops, had been expelled from their cities by the newly emerging bourgeois class. The archbishops stayed on Giebichenstein until the 16th century when their splendid new residence, the Moritzburg in Halle was completed. The third picture shows a reconstruction of the Giebichenstein by Alexander Boerner as it would have looked in 1382 when the archbishops moved in (check out his website, it is great).
DEath of Henry II
On July 13th, 1024 emperor Henry II dies without offspring. Henry II had spent his life consolidating royal and imperial power through an expansion of the Imperial Church System and a suppression of aristocratic power. Being childless he has made the church the heir to his personal fortune, most of which went to the bishopric of Bamberg, making it one of the richest bishoprics in Europe. To this day Henry II and his formidable wife Kunigunde are revered in “his” city and his splendid grave is one of the treasures of the cathedral.As for the kingdom/empire, Henry made no provisions for the time beyond his death. Having no sons or close male relatives, he did not have to protect his clan. And for the kingdom itself, he believed that what he created was a “House of God” and if it pleased God, he would choose a worthy successor, and if it did not, then good riddance.This could have gone terribly wrong and people feared civil war and unrest. As it happened the German magnates elected a competent ruler, Konrad II, founder of the Salian dynasty as his successor and major conflict could be avoided.Henry II would ultimately made a saint. One of the miracles associated with him happened at his death. when he arrived at the gate of heaven his actions were weighed and the balance was precariously tilting towards hell. At the last minute Saint Lawrence threw in his silver cup bringing the weight down on the side of heaven. The cup was kept at Merseburg cathedral and finally melted down to pay protestant soldiers in the 16th century.Pictures show the panels of the grave of Henry II and his wife Kunigunde in Bamberg Cathedral made by Tilman Riemenschneider in 1501More about this exciting period on the History of the Germans Podcast available on Spotify, Apple podcasts and wherever you get your podcasts from.
Death of henry the Fowler
On this day, July 2nd, 936 King Henry I, called the Fowler, founder of what would later become the Holy Roman Empire died in his palace in Memleben.His great achievement was to bring the stem duchies of Saxony, Franconia, Bavaria, Swabia and Lothringia together into one political entity that lasted until 1806. He achieved that not through the direct application of military power but through a combination of display of arms and diplomacy. He convinced his rival dukes to accept him as a First amongst Equals tied them to the new entity through agreements of friendship and participation in prayer associations.His other great achievement was a fundamental restructuring of the border. He encouraged the construction of large defensive structures against the bane of the times, the Magyars (=Hungarians) who had been raiding Western Europe almost annually. He ordered that of every 9 peasants, one should take up arms and move onto a castle to train to defend the country. He also supported the creation of units of armoured cavalry, who would later turn into the medieval knights. His great success over the Magyars at Ried (Riade) did prove that the Francian armies could defeat the fearsome Magyars as his son paving the way to Otto the Great’s comprehensive victory at the battle on the Lechfeld in 955. During the Nazi regime, the history of Henry the Fowler was cruelly twisted into a racist-nationalist narrative that has no connection with reality but meant that even today his memory is seen as problematic.More about this period of History in Season 1 of the History of the Germans Podcast available on Spotify, Apple podcast and anywhere else you get your podcasts from.
On this day, July 1, 1890 Germany and Great Britain signed the “Helgoland-Sansibar treaty”. This treaty delineated their respective colonial interests in Africa and transferred control over the island of Helgoland. In Germany the treaty is erroneously believed to have been a straight swap of Zanzibar (Tanzania) for the island of Helgoland (in the North Sea). That notion was coined by Otto von Bismarck who had just stepped down as Chancellor and wanted to diminish the achievement of his successor Leo von Caprivi. As it happens, Zanzibar had not been a German Colony. Germany controlled areas on the mainland of Tanzania thanks to the rather nefarious activities of Carl Peters, a private individual with ambitions to create a colonial empire and a side line in racism and excessive cruelty The island of Zanzibar was controlled by its Sultan. Germany had made some claims on the island but had no major influence. Britain wanted to get control of Zanzibar to intercept the slave trade going through it. The agreement on Africa was a smallish part of a larger agreement over zones of influence in East and Southern Africa.Helgoland on the other hand had been Danish until the British Navy took it over during the Napoleonic wars. It had a brief moment in the sun as a smuggler’s paradise circumventing the Continental Blockade. German interest in Helgoland was driven by Denmark’s use of the Island during the 1848 Danish/Prussian war as a base for a blockade of the harbour of Hamburg. What the inhabitants of Helgoland wanted was not a a significant component of the negotiations (nor was the interest of the Africans). The island became a navy base in the First and Second World War during which its civilian population was evacuated. After WWII the island was used for bombing practice at one point causing the largest non-nuclear explosion in history that changed the shape of the island.The island returned to German sovereignty in the 1950s and is today a holiday resort. One of the privileges the island received under the 1890 treaty was a tax free status that it still enjoys today.
Christoph Daniel ebeling
On this day June 30th, 1817 Christoph Daniel Ebeling died in Hamburg. Ebeling was most famous for his Geography and History of America published in 5 volumes between 1793 and 1816. It is a still readable and interesting work providing detailed analysis of each of the US states existing at the time, describing population, economy, history and governance in detail.One of his students was Alexander von Humboldt who became the great explorer, naturalist and geographer. Ebeling was also very interested in music and maintained close friendships with Klopstock and Carl Phillip Emmanuel Bach. The tragedy of his life was that he suffered from a severe hearing impairment that ultimately led to complete deafness, the reason he had to give up teaching and why he never travelled to America. Ebeling’s collection of books, maps and manuscripts was purchased by Israel Thorndike in the year after Ebeling’s death, and given by him to Harvard. As a result, Harvard’s library collections grew massively, virtually overnight. Through Thorndike, Ebeling’s maps became the founding gift that created the Harvard Map Collection.
Otto III Coronation
On this day, June 29th,984 one of the most dramatic stories of early medieval Germany concludes as Duke Henry “the Quarrelsome” of Bavaria has to hand over his 4-year old cousin, king Otto III to is mother the glamorous empress and Byzantine Princess Theophanu. The story begins on Christmas day 983, a day after Otto III coronation in Aachen. Messengers arrive announcing that his father, Emperor Otto II had died in Rome. The assembled nobles conclude that the child king needs a guardian and select his closest male relative, Henry of Bavaria as guardian. The fly in the ointment is that Henry had spent the last 10 years in prison for treason and rebellion against Otto III’s father. Despite some misgivings the magnates hand the little boy over to the rebellious duke who locks him up in one of his castles. With control of the realm in his hands, Henry begins to plot a way to put himself on the throne and make his little cousin disappear. Only through some smart manoeuvring did Otto III’s mother and grandmother supported by Gerbert of Aurilhac, later pope Sylvester II thwart these plans and save the little boy who would later be known as the Mirabilia Mundi (“Wonder of the World”).The whole story how Otto III was rescued by two empresses and a future pope is in Episode 11 of the History of the Germans Podcast (link in bio)The picture shows the so-called “child crown of Otto III” which was for a time believed to have been used at Otto III’s coronation. As it turns out, that was not quite true – he was probably crowned with the crown then in use, which may or may not be the crown currently held in the Kunsthistorische Museum in Vienna.
The Anabaptists of Muenster
On this day, June 24th 1535 the anabaptist dominion of Münster comes to an end as troops of the bishop Franz von Waldeck storm the city.
Between 1532 and 1535 the city of Münster had been taken over by anabaptists who established a radical theocracy. The anabaptist movement was a radical offshoot of the reformation that split into multiple communities with different sets of beliefs, some of which still exist today like the Amish, Mennonite and Hutterer. Whilst these groups are today most noticeable for their rejection of the modern world, strict discipline and pacifism, a very different splinter group of Anabaptist had taken hold of the city of Muenster under their leader Jan Mathys.
They drew inspiration from the apocalypse and believed that the coming of the antichrist was imminent as soon as the war between the emperor and the protestant princes had concluded. In preparation the faithful were expected to replicate the life of the apostles. That meant all property was held in common, archives and property records were burnt, the churches were cleared of false idols (i.e., everything).
In 1534 the bishop of Muenster began a siege of the city, which lasted almost a whole year. Under the strain of the siege the movement radicalised further. Jan Mathys expected the apocalypse for Easter 1534 and went before the gates to greet the antichrist who came in the form of a bullet that killed him instantly. His successor Johan van Leiden established a terror regime where he personally executed dissenters, including his wife who had criticised his life of luxury. Whether that criticism may have been fuelled by him introducing polygamy and taking a total of 16 wives is not recorded.
When the bishop’s troops finally stormed the city, they began a bloodbath that killed 650 people. The leaders of the movement were tortured to death over four hours and their bodies put into iron cages at the top of the church of St. Lamberti as an example. They stayed up there until 1881 when the tower was taken down and replaced with a new one. And the city put the cages back up onto the new tower where they are still today.
Though anabaptism had been condemned since the very beginning by both Catholics and Protestants, the excesses of the Muenster Anabaptist added further pressure on the religious movement. Anabaptists were not awarded religious freedom under the treaty of Westphalia concluded ironically in Munster, which resulted in ongoing persecution and ultimately emigration to the Americas.
The Battle of Capo Colonna
In 981 emperor Otto II gathered the largest army ever fielded in western Europe in the 10th century. The game plan was to take over the Byzantine lands in Southern Italy and thereby bottling up the popes in Rome for good. Once Puglia and Salerno are captured, part 2 was to secure that conquest against the Muslims in Sicily. Part one of the campaign went exactly to plan. Otto II and his huge army marched south. He conquered the Byzantine duchy of Salerno and stayed in its capital Taranto over the winter 981/982. As Otto expected, in the spring of 982 the Emir of Sicily brought his army across the straights of Messina to fight the German emperor. When the emir approached the Ottonian encampment near the small town of Rossano Calabro in the deep south he realised that the emperor’s army was a lot larger than he had bargained for. He turned his troops around and marched as fast as he could towards the straights of Messina with the plan to take ships back home. But he never made it.As the emir’s troops ran home along the coast, they were spotted by Byzantine merchant ships coming up the coast. They told Otto and Otto’s heavy cavalry began the pursuit. Somewhere near Capo Colonna, though that is disputed, the Emir realise that he would not make it back in time. He halted the flight and set up in full battle order. Otto’s heavily armoured knights crashed into the emir’s troops and pushed all the way to the centre. The emir’s bodyguard crumbled, and the emir was killed. Job done.No, not done at all. Whilst the German cavalry were busy slaughtering the emir, unbeknownst to them a reserve detachment of about 5’000 Muslim cavalrymen joined the fray. They encircled the fighting Germans and having restricted their room to manoeuvre began systematically massacring Otto’s army. Many senior nobles died including the duke of Benevento, the bishop Henry of Augsburg, the Margrave of Merseburg, the abbot of Fulda and a further 19 counts.
The Peasant’s War of 1524/25
On this day, the 23rd of June 1524 the German Peasant’s War began with peasants attacking the castle of Stuehlingen in the Black Forest. Their main grievance was the obligation to provide labour to their lord, in particular during the height of the harvest season. Allegedly the countess had asked the peasants to collect snail shells to be used by her maids for spooling thread. Over the next few months several large peasant bands emerged counting as many as 12,000 men, some led by impoverished imperial knights like Florian Geyer and Goetz von Berlichingen.In March 1525 delegates from the peasant bands had a meeting in Memmingen to write up their demands in 12 articles. They demanded amongst other things the free choice of their priests, the reduction of the tithe and its use for the public good, the end of serfdom, free hunting and fishing, return of the forests and other lands taken by the lords, the reduction of compulsory labour and taxes, and the end to arbitrary judgements. These demands for basic human rights were rejected outright. Though the reformation had a significant influence on the peasant’s demands, Martin Luther turned against them and wrote a pamphlet against the “murderous and thieving bands of peasants”, who should be “broken, strangled, stabbed, publicly or privately like rabid dogs” Equally Melanchthon stood on the side of the authorities. Amongst the prominent reformers only Thomas Müntzer supported the peasants.The war that lasted only 3 months but killed almost 75,000 people. The lords prevailed. There were no more significant peasant uprisings over the next 300 years. The situation of the peasants did improve over time partially thanks to improvement in judicial processes where peasants could claim their rights against lords in front of the Reichskammergericht as well as the general weakening of feudal structures in early modernity.
Trial by Combat
Trial by combat is seen as one of the classic Germanic traditions. However, there are not many records of actual fights, even if chroniclers mention them as a common practice amongst aristocrats. One of those records is the following fight taking place in 979 AD at the court of emperor Otto II (973-983): During the royal assembly, a certain Waldo accuses count Gero of Morazenigau (Alsleben) of treason against the emperor. The court of leading princes’ rules that the case should be resolved by single combat since there are no witnesses or other forms of proof available. In the fight Waldo receives two severe blows but soldiers on. Once he is upright again, Waldo manages to land a massive blow on Gero’s head. Gero goes down and has to concede. Waldo then steps out of the ring, lays down his weapons and gets a drink of water. The water is not half- way down his throat when he keels over dead. Now we have a problem. Gero lost the fight and is hence proven guilty. However, Waldo died almost instantly after the fight from Gero’s blows which must also mean something. Emperor Otto II as judge is in the unfortunate position of having to decide and states that since Gero had conceded whilst Waldo was still alive, Waldo’s claim stands. Gero is condemned to death even though many nobles intervened, including duke Otto of Swabia. Gero was beheaded in the morning. This judgement “pleased nobody” and further undermined Otto II’s popularity that had suffered due to a humiliating defeat by king Lothair of France.
King Louis IV of France
On this day the 19th of June 936 King Louis IV called d’Outremer was crowned as King of West Francia. He was called “from across the sea” because he grew up at the court of king Aethelstan of England, his uncle, after his father, king Charles the Simple had been captured and imprisoned. In his early years Louis was dependant of his most powerful magnate, Hugh the Great. Louis takes a significant role in German history when he intervenes on the side of Otto the Great’s brother Henry in the civil war of 938. Having the king of France on their side gave the rebels an overwhelming military might. Otto manages to prevent Louis IV’s from crossing the Rhine into Swabia, but finds himself marooned and near paralysed before the impregnable fortress of Breisach. Only by a massive stroke of luck did one of his supporters, Konrad Short’n’bold defeat and kill two of the rebellious dukes bringing the rebellion to the end.After that Otto gained the upper hand and played Louis IV against his major vassals, making sure that France remained divided. When Louis IV died, his son Lothar gradually extracted himself from the shackles of Ottonian control and even attacked the emperor Otto II’s palace in Aachen in 975.
What Rome looked like in 1000 AD
This is a reconstruction of what the antique Forum of Nerva in Rome would have looked like in the 10th century. The population of Rome at the time was maybe 30,000 souls living in the ruins of what had been a city of more than a million people. Rome was terribly unhealthy with malaria and other diseases being rampant during the summer months. The early German emperors tried to avoid going to Rome during the summer so that most coronations took place in the winter with Christmas the preferred date as Charlemagne had been crowned on Christmas day 800.Apart from health risks, the locals were anything but friendly. One of the famous episodes is when emperor Otto III tried to establish Rome as the capital of a renewed Western Roman Empire. Suffice to say he barely made it out alive.
10th century riders holding lances like Comanche Warriors
Armoured riders (later called Knights) held lances like Comanche warriors in the early middle ages. Here is an illustration from the Stuttgart Psalter made around 820 of fighting between a horse archers (like the the Magyars,) armed with bows on one side and early medieval “knights” having strong armour and carrying lances. On these illustrations you can see that the armoured knights hold their lances above their heads when attacking. Only later would they be standing up on their stirrups and holding a long lance forward. There is a discussion whether the armoured knights of Henry the Fowler and Otto the Great used their lances as shown here or whether they had stirrups and used their lances in the “modern” way we are more familiar with. In either case, armour was seen as crucial. Here is what Otto the Great is supposed to have said to his troops on the verge of the battle on the Lechfeld in 955:“As we all know they (=the Magyars) fight almost without any armour and, what is our greatest relief, without the help of the lord. Their only shield is their bravery, whilst we can hope for the protection of the lord. We, as masters of all Europe, would have to be ashamed were we to surrender now. We rather want to die in glory than being beaten by our enemies, taken away in servitude or even be strung up like feral animals” Basically he says – we have the better armour, we have the help of the lord and guys, if you do not get yourself in gear, we will all be strung up like rabid dogs.
King Henry the Fowler (919-936) introduced his “Burgenordnung” in 926. The Burgenordnung was part of a larger effort to end Magyar (=Hungarian) incursions into Germany, Italy and even France and Spain. The Magyars were a tremendous force of horse-based archers that the 10th century forces of the former Carolingian empires could not withstand. One element of the long term plan was to create defensive structures in the borderlands to protect the population and hold up the invaders. The picture shows the reconstruction of one of these defences based on the Haldenburg near Schwabmuenchen. The Burgenordnung requires that out of every 9 peasants one of them should move permanently into the castle, train with weapons and -should the need arise- defend the walls. It also orders that 1/3 of the harvest is to be kept at the castle, so that if the raiders burn the fields, there is enough seed to restart the following year. Apart from the construction of castles, Henry also began building a heavily armoured cavalry force that could break through the hail of arrows of the Magyars, and break their lines. When the Magyars came in 933 after Henry had ended a 7 year truce, the castles slowed down the invaders as intended and Henry’s troops beat them back at the battle of Riade (Ried) near Merseburg.This was not the all decisive battle, that would be the battle on the Lechfeld in 955, but Henry had laid the foundations for not only a successful campaign against the Magyars but for the Holy Roman Empire and at least made a major contribution to the rise of feudalism.
Queen EAdgith first wife of Otto the Great
Eadgith (910-946), daughter of king Edward the Elder of England and first wife of Emperor Otto the Great (912-962). According to the chronicler Widukind they had a very close relationship and Otto was devastated when she died in 946. Otto remarried in 952, a decision that destroyed the relationship with Liudolf his son with Eadgith. Eadgith was a major political operator within the future Holy Roman Empire, and like many royal consorts in this period were “sharing in the burden of rule”.
She was buried in the cathedral of Magdeburg, next to her husband. Her burial place was moved several times. A rather impressive funeral monument was create din the early 16th century, though it was generally believed that the actual bones had been lost. The grave was opened in 2008 and found to contain a lead box with an inscription stating that these were the actual remains of Eadgith. Further detailed analysis revealed that the body found had likely grown up in the South of England, had lived a life of relative luxury, eating well and riding a lot. From that was concluded that these were indeed the remains of Eadgith.
More on Eadgith in the History of the Germans Podcast, specifically episode 5 “The Father, the Son and the Uncle”
#podcast #history #historypodcast #historyfans #historylovers #historygeek #europeanhistory #historyiscool #historyfacts #früheneuzeit #Geschichte #historic #germany #germanhistory #oldeurope #german #geschichtspodcast #middleages #medieval #medievalworld #medievaltimes #medievalchurch #medievaleurope #medievalist #medievalhistory #ottonen #ottonian
POland under Boleslav the Brave
Poland under Boleslav the Brave (Polish: Bolesław Chrobry) 992-1025.In 966 duke Miesko I of Poland accepted baptism and begun getting involved in the politics of its western neighbour, the kingdom of East Francia, later known as Germany. His son Bolslvav’s reign began with a period of friendship and cooperation between the two polities, in particular under emperor Otto III (996-1002). Otto III even visited Poland and prayed in the cathedral of Gniezno. But under Henry II (1002-1024) the two countries began to compete aggressively. Bolelsav attempted to take over the marches of Meissen (Misnia)and Lausitz (Luzyce) as well as taking over the kingdom of Bohemia (Czechy). After 15 years of war he was partially successful, taking Silesia (Slask) and Moravia (Morawy) from the Bohemians. He failed to take Meissen but took the Lausitz as a fief from emperor Otto II. He also made conquests in the east and north, which is outside my expertise. When the two sides finally made peace Boleslav and married Richeza, the daughter of count Ezzo and granddaughter of emperor Otto II. In 1025 after his adversary Henry II had died, he finally crowned himself king of Poland, a title he believed to have had since Otto III’s visit in Gniezno in 1000.Source: Poznaniak “Ilustrowany Atlas Historii Polski”
The Basel Antependium
The Basler Antependium (made around 1019 AD) is one of the masterpieces of medieval sculpture in gold. It might have initially been created for the monastery of St. Michael in Bamberg as a donation by emperor Henry II (1002-1024) and his wife Kunigunde. The Antependium (an item covering the front of the altar) is pretty large (120cm x 175cm) and made from wood covered with sheets of gold. It shows from left to right, Benedict of Nursia, founder of western monasticism and one of Henry’s favourite saints, then the archangel Michael followed by a Christ Pantokrator holding the orb as King of kings and finally two more angels – Gabriel and Raphael.The interesting bit is at the feet of the Christ figure. It shows the emperor Henry II and his wife kneeling. The small size and depiction in extreme devotion is unusual, even in these very pious times. When handing over such a precious object, donors would usually want to have themselves shown in some prominence on the image. This extreme devotion ties in with the personalities of the couple as extremely devout rulers who wanted to transform their kingdom into a House of God, which inadvertently led to them establishing one of the strongest and most robust polities of the 11th century. How this piece had come to Basel is unclear. After being in Basel for centuries the Kanton Basel-Land ran out of money in the 1850s and sold the Antependium to the Musee Cluny in Paris, where it is today one of the highlights.Photo by User: Mattes Modified by User:Siren-Com – File:Basel 2012-10-06 Batch Part 5 (59).JPG – Commons file., CC BY 2.0 de
THE “Crown of Kunigunde”
The Empress Kunigunde was crowned on August 10th, 1002 in the cathedral of Paderborn. She was the first German female ruler who was crowned separately from her husband. The crown shown here may or may not have been used at the coronation. Until the 19th century this crown, together with another gothic lily crown was used to adorn the sculpture of Kunigunde who had become a saint in the year 1200. Kunigunde was one of the most impressive medieval female rulers, running the kingdom very much as a team together with her husband, emperor Henry II (1002-1024).Phote: David Liuzzo
Burg Plesse was the home of the immensely powerful Immedinger family who traced their line back to Widukind (c. 750-807?), the formidable guerrilla fighter who defended the pagan Saxon way against Charlemagne for 30 bloody years.One of his descendants, Meinwerk of Paderborn (975-1036) displayed equal fervour, though for Christianity rather than against. He was exceptionally wealthy thanks to the ruthlessness of her mother who married well and did not hesitate to poison her own sister to ensure her parental inheritance, including Plesse, remained intact. Meinwerk, though being the only son and sole heir of one of the great fortunes of the land joined the church and became bishop of Paderborn. And, instead of doing the usual thing of plundering church property in the interest of his wider family, he did the opposite. Like his patron and friend, emperor Henry II (1002-1024), he transferred all his personal property to his bishopric. That funded a massive building program including a new cathedral and a monastery (the Abdinghof). To top it off, he even sold his ancestral stronghold, the Burg Plesse to the benefit of the bishops of Paderborn. The castle was enfeoffed to the Lords of Plesse in the 12th century who died out in the 16th century. After serving as refuge to the Landgraves of Hesse during the Thirty Years war it was finally abandoned in 1660 becoming a quarry for the local villagers. The kingdom of Hannover restored parts of it between 1853 and 1864.Photos: Wikimedia Commons
The Ordeal of Kunigunde
The ordeal of Empress Kunigunde……never happened. The story goes that emperor Henry II had accused his wife, Kunigunde, of adultery and to prove her innocence she offered to walk over red hot ploughshares. When she passed the ordeal without any bruising to her feet, the emperor had to accept her innocence and apologised.That is very unlikely to have happened. Henry and Kunigunde, like previous members of the Ottonian dynasty were a formidable power couple. He owed his rise to the throne at least in part to the support of her family. She was herself crowned queen separately at Paderborn Cathedral, the first queen to do so in German history. Henry entrusted her with the duchy of Bavaria even during a period where he was in conflict with her family. She was his closest advisor and confidante throughout his reign and he referred to her as “consors regni” meaning they reigned together, hand in hand.The marriage between the two was childless, though the reasons were never explicitly stated. When both became saints in 1163 and 1200 respectively the hagiographies claimed they had both remained virgins to be closer to god. However, Henry issued charters stating that he had “recognised her in the flesh”, suggesting they had at least tried to have children. The most likely reason is with Henry’s poor general health, which may explain why he declared in 1007 at the age of 34 that he would never have children. Somewhat against our perception of behaviours in the middle ages, Henry did not blame the childlessness on Kunigunde, another sign of how strong that relationship was. All that makes it extremely unlikely Henry would have forced her through an ordeal to prove her innocence.The carving shown in the picture is from the funeral monument of Henry and Kunigunde in the cathedral of Bamberg. It was made by Tilman Riemenschneider, one of Germany’s greatest sculptors in around 1501(i.e., more than 450 years after her death).
From the Perikopenbuch of Emperor Henry II (973-1024)
The Announcement to the Shepherds
The Church of San Michele in Pavia
The Church of San Michele in Pavia where the Kings of the Lombards (=medieval Kings of Italy) were crowned. On May 14th, 1004 Henry II King of Germany and future Emperor had himself crowned there as King of Lombards. During the night the locals rebelled and besieged the new king in his palace next to the church. The king held out until his troops who were stationed outside the city walls had broken through the gates and rescued him. In the aftermath the German soldiers sacked the ancient capital of Italy and burned it to the ground.
The Cover of the perikopenbuch of henry II
The magnificent Bamberg cathedral was consecrated 1235 . It replaced the church Emperor Henry II built in 1020 as the crowning glory of his 20 year reign. Though all 45 German bishops had been summoned to the consecration of the initial church and it held extraordinarily valuable relics, that church sadly burned down or collapsed in an earthquake in the 12th century. Henry II was a deeply religious man who wanted to turn his kingdom into a House of God, led by ascetic monks and pious bishops. That did not stop him from entering into an alliance with the pagan Slavs against the Christian ruler of Poland.
The Rider of bamberg
The rider of Bamberg the first monumental equestrian statue since antiquity (made around 1230) is supposed to represent a ruler, potentially emperor Henry II (973-1024) who founded the bishopric of Bamberg and is buried in the cathedral.
Follow My Blog
Get new content delivered directly to your inbox.