Ottonian dynasty

Last updated
Ottonian dynasty
Country Duchy of Saxony, Kingdom of Germany, Holy Roman Empire
Founded9th century: Liudolf, Duke of Saxony
Final ruler Henry II, Holy Roman Emperor
Dissolution1024 (after the death of Emperor Henry II)
Cadet branches Brunonids
    Depiction of the Ottonian family tree in a 13th-century manuscript of the Chronica sancti Pantaleonis
. The founder of the dynasty Liudolf, Duke of Saxony is at the top center StammtafelOttonen0002.jpg
    Depiction of the Ottonian family tree in a 13th-century manuscript of the Chronica sancti Pantaleonis . The founder of the dynasty Liudolf, Duke of Saxony is at the top center

    The Ottonian dynasty (German : Ottonen) was a Saxon dynasty of German monarchs (919–1024), named after three of its kings and Holy Roman Emperors named Otto, especially its first Emperor Otto I. It is also known as the Saxon dynasty after the family's origin in the German stem duchy of Saxony. The family itself is also sometimes known as the Liudolfings (Liudolfinger), after its earliest known member Count Liudolf (d. 866) and one of its primary leading-names. The Ottonian rulers were successors of the Germanic king Conrad I who was the only Germanic king to rule in East Francia after the Carolingian dynasty and before this dynasty. [1]



    Gandersheim Abbey Church Bad-Gandersheim-Stiftskirche-Seite-vorn.JPG
    Gandersheim Abbey Church

    In the 9th century, the Saxon count Liudolf held large estates on the Leine river west of the Harz mountain range and in the adjacent Eichsfeld territory of Thuringia. His ancestors probably acted as ministeriales in the Saxon stem duchy, which had been incorporated into the Carolingian Empire after the Saxon Wars of Charlemagne. Liudolf married Oda, a member of the Frankish House of Billung. About 852 the couple together with Bishop Altfrid of Hildesheim founded Brunshausen Abbey, which, relocated to Gandersheim, rose to a family monastery and burial ground.

    Liudolf already held the high social position of a Saxon dux , documented by the marriage of his daughter Liutgard with Louis the Younger, son of the Carolingian king Louis the German in 869. Liudolf's sons Bruno and Otto the Illustrious ruled over large parts of Saxon Eastphalia, moreover, Otto acted as lay abbot of the Imperial abbey of Hersfeld with large estates in Thuringia. He married Hedwiga, a daughter of the Babenberg duke Henry of Franconia. Otto possibly accompanied King Arnulf on his 894 campaign to Italy; the marriage of his daughter Oda with Zwentibold, Arnulf's illegitimate son, documents the efforts of the Carolingian ruler to win the mighty Saxon dynasty over as an ally. According to the Saxon chronicler Widukind of Corvey, Otto upon the death of the last Carolingian king Louis the Child in 911 was already a candidate for the East Frankish crown, which however passed to the Franconian duke Conrad I.

    Upon Otto's death in 912, his son Henry the Fowler succeeded him as Duke of Saxony. Henry had married Matilda of Ringelheim, a descendant of the legendary Saxon ruler Widukind and heiress to extended estates in Westphalia.

    Ottonian kings and emperors

    German royal dynasties
    Ottonian dynasty
    Henry I
    919 936
    Otto I
    936 973
    Otto II
    973 983
    Otto III
    983 1002
    Henry II
    1002 1024
    Family tree of the German monarchs
    Category:Ottonian dynasty
    Preceded by Conradine dynasty
    Followed by Salian dynasty

    The Ottonian rulers of East Francia, the German kingdom and the Holy Roman Empire were: [1]

    Henry I

    Although never Emperor, Henry the Fowler was arguably the founder of the imperial dynasty. While East Francia under the rule of the last Carolingian kings was ravaged by Hungarian invasions, he was chosen to be primus inter pares among the German dukes. Elected Rex Francorum in May 919, Henry abandoned the claim to dominate the whole disintegrating Carolingian Empire and, unlike his predecessor Conrad I, succeeded in gaining the support of the Franconian, Bavarian, Swabian and Lotharingian dukes. In 933 he led a German army to victory over the Hungarian forces at the Battle of Riade and campaigned both the land of the Polabian Slavs and the Duchy of Bohemia. Because he had assimilated so much power through his conquest, he was able to transfer power to his second son Otto I. [1]

    Otto I

    Former collegiate church of St. Servatius in Quedlinburg, founded in 936 by King Otto I, at the request of his mother Queen Matilda, in honour of her late husband, Otto's father, King Henry the Fowler, and as his memorial Quedlinburg - Stiftskirche ReiKi.JPG
    Former collegiate church of St. Servatius in Quedlinburg, founded in 936 by King Otto I, at the request of his mother Queen Matilda, in honour of her late husband, Otto's father, King Henry the Fowler, and as his memorial

    Otto I, Duke of Saxony upon the death of his father in 936, was elected king within a few weeks. He continued the work of unifying all of the German tribes into a single kingdom, greatly expanding the powers of the king at the expense of the aristocracy. [1] Through strategic marriages and personal appointments, he installed members of his own family to the kingdom's most important duchies. This, however, did not prevent his relatives from entering into civil war: both Otto's brother Duke Henry of Bavaria and his son Duke Liudolf of Swabia revolted against his rule. Otto was able to suppress their uprisings, in consequence, the various dukes, who had previously been co-equals with the king, were reduced into royal subjects under the king's authority. His decisive victory over the Magyars at the Battle of Lechfeld in 955 ended the Hungarian invasions of Europe and secured his hold over his kingdom. [1] [2]

    The defeat of the pagan Magyars earned King Otto the reputation as the savior of Christendom and the epithet "the Great". He transformed the Church in Germany into a kind of proprietary church and major royal power base to which he donated charity and for the creation of which his family was responsible. By 961, Otto had conquered the Kingdom of Italy, which was a troublesome inheritance that none wanted, and extended his kingdom's borders to the north, east, and south. In control of much of central and southern Europe, the patronage of Otto and his immediate successors caused a limited cultural renaissance of the arts and architecture. He confirmed the 754 Donation of Pepin and, with recourse to the concept of translatio imperii in succession of Charlemagne, proceeded to Rome to have himself crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope John XII in 962. He even reached a settlement with the Byzantine emperor John I Tzimiskes by marrying his son and heir Otto II to John's niece Theophanu. In 968 he established the Archbishopric of Magdeburg at his long-time residence. [1]

    Otto II

    Co-ruler with his father since 961 and crowned emperor in 967, Otto II ascended the throne at the age of 18. By excluding the Bavarian line of Ottonians from the line of succession, he strengthened Imperial authority and secured his own son's succession to the Imperial throne. During his reign, Otto II attempted to annex the whole of Italy into the Empire, bringing him into conflict with the Byzantine emperor and with the Saracens of the Fatimid Caliphate. His campaign against the Saracens ended in 982 with a disastrous defeat at the Battle of Stilo. Moreover, in 983 Otto II experienced a Great Slav Rising against his rule. [1]

    Otto II died in 983 at the age of 28 after a ten-year reign. Succeeded by his three-year-old son Otto III as king, his sudden death plunged the Ottonian dynasty into crisis. During her regency for Otto III, the Byzantine princess Theophanu abandoned her late husband's imperialistic policy and devoted herself entirely to furthering her own agenda in Italy. [1]

    Otto III

    When Otto III came of age, he concentrated on securing the rule in the Italian domains, installing his confidants Bruno of Carinthia and Gerbert of Aurillac as Popes. In 1000 he made a pilgrimage to the Congress of Gniezno in Poland, establishing the Archdiocese of Gniezno and confirming the royal status of the Piast ruler Bolesław I the Brave. Expelled from Rome in 1001, Otto III died at age 21 the next year, without an opportunity to reconquer the city. [1]

    Henry II

    Detail of Henry II's tomb, Bamberg Cathedral Heinrichsgrab Ausschnitt.JPG
    Detail of Henry II's tomb, Bamberg Cathedral

    The childless Otto III was succeeded by Henry II, a son of Duke Henry II of Bavaria and his wife Gisela of Burgundy, thereby a member of the Bavarian line of the Ottonians. Duke of Bavaria since 995, he was crowned king on 7 June 1002. Henry II spent the first years of his rule consolidating his political power on the borders of the German kingdom. He waged several campaigns against Bolesław I of Poland and then moved successfully to Italy where he was crowned emperor by Pope Benedict VIII on 14 February 1014. He reinforced his rule by endowing and founding numerous dioceses, such as the Bishopric of Bamberg in 1007, intertwining the secular and ecclesiastical authority over the Empire. Henry II was canonised by Pope Eugene III in 1146. [1]

    As his marriage with Cunigunde of Luxembourg remained childless, the Ottonian dynasty became extinct with the death of Henry II in 1024. The crown passed to Conrad II of the Salian dynasty, great-grandson of Liutgarde, a daughter of Otto I, and the Salian duke Conrad the Red of Lorraine. When King Rudolph III of Burgundy died without heirs on 2 February 1032, Conrad II successfully claimed also this kingship on the basis of an inheritance Emperor Henry II had extorted from the former in 1006, having invaded Burgundy to enforce his claim after Rudolph attempted to renounce it in 1016. [1]

    Other notable members

    Ottonian family tree Ottonian Salian dynasty.png
    Ottonian family tree

    See also

    Related Research Articles

    Henry the Fowler King of East Francia

    Henry Ι the Fowler was the duke of Saxony from 912 and the elected king of East Francia from 919 until his death in 936. As the first non-Frankish king of East Francia, he established the Ottonian dynasty of kings and emperors, and he is generally considered to be the founder of the medieval German state, known until then as East Francia. An avid hunter, he obtained the epithet "the Fowler" because he was allegedly fixing his birding nets when messengers arrived to inform him that he was to be king.

    Matilda of Ringelheim German queen consort and duchess consort of Saxony

    Saint Matilda was Duchess of Saxony from 912 and German queen from 919 by her marriage with Henry the Fowler, the first king of the Ottonian dynasty. Upon her husband's death in 936, she founded Quedlinburg Abbey to commemorate the late king. Matilda lived to see Western Imperial rule restored when her eldest son Otto was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 962. Her surname refers to Ringelheim, where her comital Immedinger relatives established a nunnery about 940.

    Duchy of Carinthia

    The Duchy of Carinthia was a duchy located in southern Austria and parts of northern Slovenia. It was separated from the Duchy of Bavaria in 976, and was the first newly created Imperial State after the original German stem duchies.

    Lotharingia former medieval kingdom (855-959)

    Lotharingia was a medieval successor kingdom of the Carolingian Empire and a later duchy of the Ottonian Empire, comprising the present-day Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany), Rhineland-Palatinate (Germany), Saarland (Germany), and Lorraine (France). It was named after King Lothair II who received this territory after the kingdom of Middle Francia of his father Lothair I was divided among his sons in 855.

    Duchy of Saxony German duchy

    The Duchy of Saxony was originally the area settled by the Saxons in the late Early Middle Ages, when they were subdued by Charlemagne during the Saxon Wars from 772 and incorporated into the Carolingian Empire (Francia) by 804. Upon the 843 Treaty of Verdun, Saxony was one of the five German stem duchies of East Francia; Duke Henry the Fowler was elected German king in 919.

    Conrad I of Germany King of East Francia

    Conrad I, called the Younger, was the king of East Francia from 911 to 918. He was the first king not of the Carolingian dynasty, the first to be elected by the nobility and the first to be anointed. He was chosen as the king by the rulers of the East Frankish stem duchies after the death of young king Louis the Child. Ethnically Frankish, prior to this election he had ruled the Duchy of Franconia from 906.

    Duchy of Bavaria Former duchy in Germany

    The Duchy of Bavaria was a frontier region in the southeastern part of the Merovingian kingdom from the sixth through the eighth century. It was settled by Bavarian tribes and ruled by dukes (duces) under Frankish overlordship. A new duchy was created from this area during the decline of the Carolingian Empire in the late ninth century. It became one of the stem duchies of the East Frankish realm which evolved as the Kingdom of Germany and the Holy Roman Empire.

    East Francia Former country in Europe

    East Francia or the Kingdom of the East Franks was a precursor of the Holy Roman Empire. A successor state of Charlemagne's empire, it was ruled by the Carolingian dynasty until 911. It was created through the Treaty of Verdun (843) which divided the former empire into three kingdoms.

    Otto I, Duke of Saxony Duke of Saxony

    Otto, called the Illustrious by later authors, a member of the Ottonian dynasty, was Duke of Saxony from 880 to his death.

    Liudolf, Duke of Saxony Carolingian office bearer

    Liudolf was a Carolingian office bearer and count in the Duchy of Saxony from about 844. The ruling Liudolfing house, also known as the Ottonian dynasty, is named after him; he is its oldest verified member.

    Liudolf, Duke of Swabia German noble

    Liudolf, a member of the Ottonian dynasty, was Duke of Swabia from 950 until 954. His rebellion in 953/54 led to a major crisis of the rising German kingdom.

    Judith, Duchess of Bavaria politician

    Judith, a member of the Luitpolding dynasty, was Duchess consort of Bavaria from 947 to 955, by her marriage with Duke Henry I. After her husband's death, she acted as regent of Bavaria during the minority of her son Henry the Wrangler.

    Kingdom of Germany 10th-century kingdom of Germany

    The Kingdom of Germany or German Kingdom developed out of Eastern Francia, the eastern division of the former Carolingian Empire, over the 9th to 11th centuries. East Francia was formed by the Treaty of Verdun in 843, and was ruled by the Carolingian dynasty until 911, after which the kingship was elective. The initial electors were the rulers of the stem duchies, who generally chose one of their own. After 962, when Otto I was crowned emperor, East Francia formed the bulk of the Holy Roman Empire along with Italy; it later included Bohemia and Burgundy.

    Duchy of Swabia former country

    The Duchy of Swabia was one of the five stem duchies of the medieval German kingdom. It arose in the 10th century in the southwestern area that had been settled by Alemanni tribes in Late Antiquity.

    The Brunonids were a Saxon noble family in the 10th and 11th centuries, who owned property in Eastphalia and Frisia.

    Conrad I, Duke of Carinthia duke of Carinthia from 1004

    Conrad I, a member of the Salian dynasty, was Duke of Carinthia from 1004 until his death.

    Duchy of Franconia

    The Duchy of Franconia was one of the five stem duchies of East Francia and the medieval Kingdom of Germany emerging in the early 10th century. The word Franconia, first used in a Latin charter of 1053, was applied like the words Francia, France, and Franken, to a portion of the land occupied by the Franks.

    The Conradines or Conradiner were a dynasty of Franconian counts and dukes in the 8th to 11th Century, named after Duke Conrad the Elder and his son King Conrad I of Germany.

    Liutgard of Saxony (died 953) Duchess consort of Lotharingia

    Liutgarde of Saxony, a member of the Ottonian dynasty, was Duchess consort of Lorraine from 947 until her death by her marriage with Duke Conrad the Red. She and Conrad became progenitors of the Salian dynasty.

    Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor Holy Roman Emperor

    Otto I, traditionally known as Otto the Great, was German king from 936 and Holy Roman Emperor from 962 until his death in 973. He was the oldest son of Henry I the Fowler and Matilda.


    1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 World monarchies and dynasties. Middleton, John. London. ISBN   9780765680501. OCLC   910553517.CS1 maint: others (link)
    2. Bachrach, David (2011). "Early Ottonian Warfare: The Perspective from Corvey". Journal of Military History: 393–409.