Rainald of Dassel

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Portrait on the Shrine of the Three Kings, Cologne Cathedral Dreikonigenschrein, Ruckseite, Detail Buste Rainald von Dassel.jpg
Portrait on the Shrine of the Three Kings, Cologne Cathedral

Rainald of Dassel (c. 1120 14 August 1167) was Archbishop of Cologne and Archchancellor of Italy from 1159 until his death. A close advisor to the Hohenstaufen emperor Frederick Barbarossa, he had an important influence on Imperial politics, mainly in the Italian conflict of Guelphs and Ghibellines.

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.


An archchancellor or chief chancellor was a title given to the highest dignitary of the Holy Roman Empire, and also used occasionally during the Middle Ages to denote an official who supervised the work of chancellors or notaries.

Kingdom of Italy (Holy Roman Empire) Medieval kingdom on the Apennine Peninsula between 962 and 1024

The Kingdom of Italy was one of the constituent kingdoms of the Holy Roman Empire, along with the kingdoms of Germany, Bohemia, and Burgundy. It comprised northern and central Italy, but excluded the Republic of Venice and the Papal States. Its original capital was Pavia until the 11th century.



Rainald was a scion of the Counts of Dassel, who had inherited large estates in the Suilbergau of Saxony upon the extinction of the ducal Billung dynasty in 1106. A younger son of the affluent count Reinold I of Dassel, he was destined as such to be an ecclesiastic, while his elder brother Ludolf succeeded in the Dassel county.

County of Dassel

The County of Dassel emerged shortly after the turn of the 11th and 12th centuries when, after the extinction of the male line of the Billungs, its seat in Suilbergau, north of the Solling hills was divided into the domains of Einbeck and Dassel. Reinold of Dassel was able to secure rights similar to comital rights. The county lasted about 200 years, till it was abandoned in 1310 when there were no heirs. The most prominent member of the comital family was Rainald of Dassel, chancellor to Emperor Frederick Barbarossa and Archbishop of Cologne.

Suilbergau, also known as Suilbergi, and Sülberggau, was an early medieval county in the province of Eastphalia, in the Duchy of Saxony.

Duchy of Saxony 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.

Ecclesiastical career

Rainald's father sent him to the Hildesheim Cathedral school and at a later date he probably went to Paris in France, where he studied with Adam of Balsham. As early as 1130 he is said to have had a high reputation for classical learning, and to have been a member of the Hildesheim cathedral chapter. He started working as a subdeacon under Bishop Bernard about 1146 and accompanied Abbot Wibald of Stavelot to the Roman Curia. According to documentary evidence he was appointed provost in 1148.

Hildesheim Cathedral Church in Hildesheim, Germany

Hildesheim Cathedral, officially the Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary or simply St. Mary's Cathedral, is a medieval Roman Catholic cathedral in the city centre of Hildesheim, Germany, that has been on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list since 1985, together with the nearby St. Michael's Church.

Paris Capital of France

Paris is the capital and most populous city of France, with an area of 105 square kilometres and an official estimated population of 2,140,526 residents as of 1 January 2019. Since the 17th century, Paris has been one of Europe's major centres of finance, diplomacy, commerce, fashion, science, and the arts.

Kingdom of France kingdom in Western Europe from 843 to 1791

The Kingdom of France was a medieval and early modern monarchy in Western Europe. It was one of the most powerful states in Europe and a great power since the Late Middle Ages and the Hundred Years' War. It was also an early colonial power, with possessions around the world.

Modern statue of Rainald von Dassel, Hildesheim KalenbergerGraben 003.jpg
Modern statue of Rainald von Dassel, Hildesheim

Rainald became one of the most important dignitaries in Hildesheim, where had the first stone bridge built above the Innerste river. He represented the diocese at the 1148 Council of Reims, presided over by Pope Eugene III, openly opposing a canon concerned with clerical dress. [1] Particular attention was paid to his statements by John of Salisbury, who mentioned him in his Historia Pontificalis. In 1153 Rainald received the provostship of the St Maurice monastery in Hildesheim and St Peter's Abbey in Goslar. Soon after, he was also appointed provost of the Münster Cathedral chapter (in 1154), of the Maastricht Basilica of Saint Servatius (1156), and of Xanten Cathedral. However, when a new Bishop of Hildesheim was elected in 1153, he declined the see.

Innerste Sidestream of the river Leine

The Innerste is a river in Lower Saxony, Germany. It is a right tributary of the Leine river and 101 km (63 mi) in length.

Council of Reims (1148) 12th-century Roman Catholic Church council

In 1148, a Council of Reims was called by Pope Eugene III to consider a number of regulations, or canons, for the Church, as well as to debate some other issues. Originally the summons for the council went out in October 1147 and it was supposed to be held in Trier, which is now in Germany, but conditions in Trier were such that it was moved to Reims, in France, for February 1148. A number of the summoned bishops and other church officials did not attend and Eugene suspended many of the non-attendees, excepting the Italian ecclesiastics, who were excused. The council lasted 11 days, and convened on 21 March 1148. From 400 to 1100 ecclesiastics are considered to have attended, although this number does not include the various servants and officials of the attendees, who would have swelled the numbers.

Pope Eugene III pope

Pope Eugene III, born Bernardo Pignatelli, called Bernardo da Pisa, was Pope from 15 February 1145 to his death in 1153. He was the first Cistercian to become Pope. In response to the fall of Edessa to the Muslims in 1144, Eugene proclaimed the Second Crusade. The crusade failed to recapture Edessa, which was the first of many failures by the Christians in the crusades to recapture lands won in the First Crusade.


Frederick Barbarossa, elected King of the Romans in 1152, soon noticed Rainald's talents. As a member of the legation sent to Pope Eugene III at Rome he first revealed his political ability. After Frederick had been crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Adrian IV in 1155, he appointed Rainald his chancellor.

King of the Romans title used by medieval German monarchs (for the monarch of the ancient Roman kingdom, use Q55375123)

King of the Romans was a title used by Syagrius, then by the German king following his election by the princes from the time of Emperor Henry II (1014–1024) onward. The title was predominantly a claim to become Holy Roman Emperor and was dependent upon coronation by the Pope.

Rome Capital city and comune in Italy

Rome is the capital city and a special comune of Italy. Rome also serves as the capital of the Lazio region. With 2,872,800 residents in 1,285 km2 (496.1 sq mi), it is also the country's most populated comune. It is the fourth most populous city in the European Union by population within city limits. It is the centre of the Metropolitan City of Rome, which has a population of 4,355,725 residents, thus making it the most populous metropolitan city in Italy. Rome is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, within Lazio (Latium), along the shores of the Tiber. The Vatican City is an independent country inside the city boundaries of Rome, the only existing example of a country within a city: for this reason Rome has been often defined as capital of two states.

Holy Roman Emperor emperor of the Holy Roman Empire

The Holy Roman Emperor was the ruler of the Holy Roman Empire during the Middle Ages and the early modern period. The title was, almost without interruption, held in conjunction with title of King of Germany throughout the 12th to 18th centuries.

In the rising conflict between emperor and papacy, the Diet of Besançon in October 1157 left no doubt as to the drift of Rainald's policies. He issued a directive which insisted upon the rights and the power of the Emperor, especially in the Kingdom of Italy, the strengthening of the autonomus German Catholic clergy, and the reduction of the influence of the papacy. Full of life, at times rough and blunt and again careful and calculating, Rainald, who, in spite of his ecclesiastical dignities, knew how to wield the sword, henceforth influenced the policy of his Imperial master.

Catholic Church Christian church led by the Bishop of Rome

The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide as of 2017. As the world's "oldest continuously functioning international institution", it has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilisation. The church is headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the pope. Its central administration, the Holy See, is in the Vatican City, an enclave within the city of Rome in Italy.

The struggle with the Curia escalated at the Diet of Besançon, where Rainald entered into a fierce controversy with the papal legate Roland of Siena (later Pope Alexander III), vigorously rejecting Pope Adrian's use of the word beneficium, which might mean fief as well as benefit. In the expression used, that the pope would have been glad to grant the emperor even greater beneficia (or benefits), it was thought that the old desire of the Curia for the mastery of the world was to be found.

Though Rainald did not wish to separate Germany entirely from Rome and still held the medieval respect for the Church, his temperament carried Barbarossa much further than the latter desired, or then was advantageous in the circumstances. When Frederick finally submitted, it was Rainald who prevented him from making concessions which might have proved of advantage. In 1158 he and Duke Otto I of Bavaria undertook a diplomatic journey into Italy to prepare the way for the emperor's campaign.


Shrine of the Three Magi Koln Dreikonigsschrein.JPG
Shrine of the Three Magi

In January 1159 the imperial envoy Rainald entered the city of Milan, which had been peacefully conquered in 1158, however, he was expelled and almost murdered by the inhabitants. While still staying in an Imperial army camp, he was appointed Archbishop of Cologne and Archchancellor of Italy in absence, as successor of the late Frederick II of Berg. When Pope Adrian died in 1159, the double election of Pope Alexander III and Victor IV led to a schism, during which Rainald aimed at strengthening the Imperial antipope Victor. At the 1160 Council of Pavia, he served as the emperor's ambassador and was employed in diplomatic negotiations with Genoa, Pisa, as well as the courts of King Louis VII of France and King Henry II of England, whom he endeavoured to win to the side of the antipope but did not succeed.

In 1162 Emperor Barbarossa began a second siege of Milan, which would end with the destruction of the city. In 1163 Alexander III excommunicated Rainald, who had loudly proclaimed in these negotiations the right of the emperor to dispose of the papal see. Basing his action on the Roncalian decrees issued at the Diet of Roncaglia, near Piacenza, in 1158, Rainald was once more successfully employed in Italy in the affairs of the emperor. When Victor IV died, Rainald, of his own volition and without waiting for the consent of the emperor, elected at Lucca a new antipope, Paschal III. Frederick would hardly have continued the schism. Rainald knew this and therefore wished to force the emperor to continue the struggle for imperial supremacy.

Back in Germany in 1164, he brought the bones of the Three Magi with him to Cologne as loot from Milan and as a gift of emperor Frederick Barbarossa; today they are still in the Cologne Cathedral. In the meantime the number of the adherents against the lawful pope increased in Germany. Rainald finally won the consent of the English king to common ecclesiastico-political action in behalf of Paschal III and once more took up arms in defence of his one ambition, which he hoped the proposed canonization of Charlemagne at Aachen in 1165 would advance. The new alliance was sealed by the engagement of King Henry's daughter Matilda with the Saxon duke Henry the Lion. In this period Rainald was notably the patron of the Archpoet.

In 1167 he was again in Italy, actively engaged in preparing the way for the emperor. Together with Archbishop Christian I of Mainz, and under Rainald's guidance an army won a victory over a much larger force of Roman troops at the Battle of Monte Porzio on 29 May 1167 and laid siege to the city. His death soon after was likely of malaria; his mortal remains were transferred to Cologne and buried in the Lady Chapel of the Cathedral.

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  1. Haring, Nicholas (1966). "Notes on the Council and the Consistory of Rheims (1148)". Mediaeval Studies. XXVIII: 39–59.

Rainald von Dassel
Born: ca. 1120 Died: 14 August 1167
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Frederick II
Archbishop of Cologne
Succeeded by
Philip I