Adolf of Altena

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Adolf of Altena, Adolf of Berg or Adolf of Cologne, (c. 1157 15 April 1220 in Neuss) was Archbishop of Cologne from 1193 to 1205.

Neuss Place in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

Neuss is a city in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It is located on the west bank of the Rhine opposing Düsseldorf. Neuss is the largest city within the Rhein-Kreis Neuss district. It is primarily known for its historic Roman sites, as well as the annual Neusser Bürger-Schützenfest. Neuss and Trier share the title of "Germany's oldest city"; and in 1984 Neuss celebrated the 2000 year anniversary of its founding in 16 BCE.

Archbishop of Cologne Wikimedia list article

The Archbishop of Cologne is an archbishop representing the Archdiocese of Cologne of the Catholic Church in western North Rhine-Westphalia and northern Rhineland-Palatinate in Germany and was ex officio one of the electors of the Holy Roman Empire, the Elector of Cologne, from 1356 to 1801.



Adolf was born about 1157 as the second son of Count Eberhard of Berg-Altena and his wife Adelheid von Arnsberg.

<i lang="de" title="German language text">Graf</i> historical title of the German nobility

Graf (male) or Gräfin (female) is a historical title of the German nobility, usually translated as "count". Considered to be intermediate among noble ranks, the title is often treated as equivalent to the British title of "earl".

Duchy of Berg former German state and dukedom

Berg was a state – originally a county, later a duchy – in the Rhineland of Germany. Its capital was Düsseldorf. It existed as a distinct political entity from the early 12th to the 19th centuries.

Altena Place in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

Altena is a town in the district of Märkischer Kreis, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. The town's castle is the origin for the later Dukes of Berg. Altena is situated on the Lenne river valley, in the northern stretches of the Sauerland.

About 1177 he became a canon in Cologne. Later, in 1183, he became Dean of the Cathedral, and in the year 1191 Cathedral Provost. After the abdication of his uncle Bruno III of Berg he became Archbishop of Cologne in 1193, as Adolf I, or Adolf I von Altena.

Canon (priest) Ecclesiastical position

A canon is a member of certain bodies subject to an ecclesiastical rule.

A provost is a senior official in a number of Christian churches.

Bruno III of Berg Roman Catholic archbishop

Bruno III of Berg was Archbishop of Cologne and Duke of Westphalia from 1191 until 1193.

In March 1194 he received his episcopal consecration by Hermann II of Katzenelnbogen, Prince-Bishop of Münster. In the same year Adolf was instrumental in arranging the release of King Richard I of England, whom he received with considerable solemnity in Cologne shortly afterwards, at the beginning of February 1194. He was a declared opponent of the plans for a hereditary empire of Emperor Henry VI and at Christmas 1195 refused Henry's wish for the election of his son Frederick Roger. He gave up his opposition in August 1197 for the secondary election of the candidate chosen in the meantime by the other Electors in Boppard. However, after the death of Henry VI, Adolf declared the election invalid, as the candidate was not baptised and the Emperor had put the Electors under pressure.

Prince-Bishopric of Münster

The Bishopric of Münster or Prince-Bishopric of Münster was an ecclesiastical principality in the Holy Roman Empire, located in the northern part of today's North Rhine-Westphalia and western Lower Saxony. From the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries, it was often held in personal union with one or more of the nearby ecclesiastical principalities of Cologne, Paderborn, Osnabrück, Hildesheim, and Liège.

Richard I of England 12th-century King of England and crusader

Richard I was King of England from 1189 until his death. He also ruled as Duke of Normandy, Aquitaine and Gascony, Lord of Cyprus, Count of Poitiers, Anjou, Maine, and Nantes, and was overlord of Brittany at various times during the same period. He was the third of five sons of King Henry II of England and Duchess Eleanor of Aquitaine. He was known as Richard Cœur de Lion or Richard the Lionheart because of his reputation as a great military leader and warrior. He was also known in Occitan as: Oc e No, because of his reputation for terseness.

The Erbreichsplan was a plan formed by the Emperor Henry VI to change the Holy Roman Empire from an elective to a hereditary monarchy. Such a move would have drastically changed the character of the Empire, but Henry was unable to garner sufficient support for the plan and it was ultimately forgotten.

In the ensuing dynastic struggle for the throne between the Hohenstaufen and the Welfs, he crowned on 12 July 1198 the Welf Otto of Brunswick in Aachen as King of the Romans (or German king). Shortly afterwards, Pope Innocent III, who had an interest in weakening the Hohenstaufen and in breaking their power (particularly in Italy), confirmed the election of Otto. On 6 January 1205 however Adolf then crowned the Staufen competitor for the crown, Philip of Swabia, as German king. Philip had already been crowned in 1198, although only in Mainz Cathedral, but he had nevertheless been crowned with the genuine Imperial Regalia and especially the Imperial crown. [1]

The German throne dispute or German throne controversy was a political conflict in the Holy Roman Empire from 1198 to 1215. This dispute between the House of Hohenstaufen and House of Welf was over the successor to Emperor Henry VI who had just died. After a conflict lasting 17 years the Hohenstaufens gained the upper hand in the guise of Frederick II.

Hohenstaufen organization

The Hohenstaufen, also known as Staufer, were a dynasty of German kings (1138–1254) during the Middle Ages. Before ascending to the kingship, they were Dukes of Swabia from 1079. As kings of Germany, they had a claim to Italy, Burgundy and the Holy Roman Empire. Three members of the dynasty—Frederick I (1155), Henry VI (1191) and Frederick II (1220)—were crowned emperor. Besides Germany, they also ruled the Kingdom of Sicily (1194–1268) and the Kingdom of Jerusalem (1225–1268)

House of Welf noble family

The House of Welf is a European dynasty that has included many German and British monarchs from the 11th to 20th century and Emperor Ivan VI of Russia in the 18th century.

The Pope, who had reserved himself the king's question himself, was irritated by the rumor of the page change and asked Adolf himself for a report. Since Adolf did not want to sacrifice his just hard-won right of the decisive vote in the royal election, a papal presentation, he did not respond to the papal request. However, he overestimated its importance by far.

On 19 July 1205 Adolf was excommunicated by Pope Innocent III and declared deposed. Already in July, a new archbishop was elected in Cologne. Since one was still in the Rhineland but still in the Hohenstaufen line, his successor could barely prevail against him, so that it came to a schism in the archbishopric of Cologne.

Anathema, in common usage, is something or someone that is detested or shunned. In its other main usage, it is a formal excommunication. The latter meaning, its ecclesiastical sense, is based on New Testament usage. In the Old Testament, anathema referred either to something that was consecrated or to something denounced as evil or accursed and set aside for sacrificial offering.

In 1207 Adolf von Altena was in Rome, where he tried against his successor and fought for his reinstatement as archbishop - without success. Only the murder of Philip of Swabia (21 June 1208) and the changed political situation led to a submission to the pope and a recognition of his successor for himself and his followers, for which he received an annual pension of 250 marks. Adolf, from then until his death, was active in the archdiocese of Cologne as an auxiliary bishop. However his see was not returned to him.

Dietrich I von Hengebach was deposed by the papal legate, and in March 1212 he was appointed to head the diocese. While initially holding this to be reinstated, he soon realized that it was just a provisional lead. In fact, the Archdiocese was again in the schism, especially since Adolf now argued with Dietrich von Hengebach before the Pope for reinstatement. The verdict was in 1216 and in Cologne it came again to the election of the bishop. The new archbishop became his successor as cathedral provost, Engelbert II of Berg. He was one of his relatives and had always supported him during the time of the schism, including by handing over goods from the cathedral chapter.

Until his death, in 1220, Adolf was again active as auxiliary bishop in the archbishopric of Cologne. He died on 15 April 1220 in Neuss.

Adolf of Altena
Counts of Altena
Born: c. 1157 Died: 15 April 1220 in Neuss
Catholic Church titles
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Bruno III of Berg
Archbishop of Cologne and
Duke of Westphalia and Angria

Succeeded by
Bruno IV von Sayn


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  1. [Hugo Stehkämper: The Cologne Archbishop Adolf von Altena and the German Electoral Election (1195-1205), in: Theodor Schieder (ed.): Contributions to the History of the Medieval German Royalty, Historical Journal, Supplement NF 2, 1973, p. 5 -83.]