Adelheid of Burgundy

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Adelheid of Burgundy,
"Path of the Ottonians", Magdeburg Cathedral Square

Adelheid (French Adélaïde de Bourgogne , Italian Adelaide di Borgogna * 931 or 932 in Upper Burgundy , † December 16 999 in Selz Abbey in Alsace ) was as the wife of Lothar of Italy 947-950 Queen of Italy and as the wife of Otto the Great of 951-973 East Frankish queen and again Queen of Italy and 962-973 Empress of the East Frankish-German kingdom . Adelheid was canonized in 1097 .


Adelheid was the daughter of King Rudolf II of Burgundy and the duke's daughter Berta of Swabia . Your exact date and place of birth are not known for certain; It is probably the year 931 or 932 and a place in the stronghold of Burgundy (about today's Franche-Comté to western Switzerland), where her parents lived as wandering kings .

As a child, Adelheid was betrothed to the bosonid Lothar of Italy , the son of Hugos von Arles , and was married to him in 947, presumably 16 years old. She was soon seen as an exemplary Christian: She cared for the poor and those on the margins of society with great dedication.

The actual rule, however, lay with Margrave Berengar von Ivrea , who is often associated with the sudden death of Lothar after only three years of marriage on November 22, 950. The latter had the young widow Adelheid, when she refused to marry his son Adalbert , imprisoned in the tower of his castle over Lake Garda . However, after an adventurous escape, she was able to reach Canossa Castle with her daughter Emma (who later became the wife of King Lothar of France ) and called the German King Otto I , a friend of her family, for help.

Margrave Berengar von Ivrea was Lothar's opponent and successor and had to face Otto I in 951 . Otto conquered Pavia and married Lothar's widow Adelheid, but he was also refused the imperial crown and in turn pledged Berengar with Italy. It was not until 962 that he succeeded in being crowned emperor, the German Empire and Imperial Italy were permanently united, and Berengar was expelled from Bamberg.

The uprisings and revolts against German rule in Rome and northern Italy continued, even if the rule of the three Ottonians remained undisputed.

Adelheid and Otto had four children together:

  • Heinrich (952–954)
  • Bruno (* 953; †)
  • Mathilde (Abbess of Quedlinburg) (954–999)
  • Otto II (later Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire) (955–983)

Reign of the Empresses (983-994)

After Otto II's early death, Adelheid and her daughter-in-law Theophanu took over the reign of Otto III, who was still underage . In this way they wanted to keep the power and the crown of the empire for the Ottonian dynasty. Together with Archbishop Willigis von Mainz, they ran the affairs of state for the minor emperor until Adelheid withdrew to Italy. There she became governor of Italy. In 991 she returned to the imperial court when her daughter-in-law Theophanu died at the age of 30. Until her grandson Otto III came of age. the empress ran the affairs of state.

The enmity between the two women often described in earlier literature cannot be proven and is only described by Odilo von Cluny . Adelheid continued to run government in Italy and sometimes even held court days with Theophanu.

After Otto III. Having taken over the government, Adelheid devoted himself more to charitable tasks and supported the founding of monasteries. She strongly supported the Cluniac reform . Eventually she retired to the Seltz monastery she had founded in northern Alsace, where she died in 999. Nothing is left of her grave today.

In the resin an extensive coinage, which next to the name of the young emerged after 983 Otto III. on the other hand, his grandmother Adelheid's can be read as Athalhet, the so-called Otto-Adelheid-Pfennige . The legal basis on which this originated has not yet been finally clarified, but the coinage based on the silver deposits in the Harz Mountains had a very large scope and was imitated in many places.

Later meaning

Adelheid was revered by the people even after her death because of her charity. Pope Urban II canonized them in 1097 (→ canonization ). The day of remembrance of St. Adelheid is in the Catholic , Protestant and Greek Orthodox calendars on December 16. Until the Reformation there was a lively pilgrimage to the grave of Adelheid in Seltz , which ended with the disappearance of the relics .

The following peasant rules apply to the feast day of the saints :

  • Adelheid loves white flakes, so the earth rarely stays dry.
  • Around the time of Adelheid, winter likes to spread.

The representation of Adelheid in art

Empress Adelheid next to her husband Emperor Otto I in the Meissen Cathedral

Saint Adelheid is usually depicted in princely garb with a scepter and a crown. From the 14th century, a church model or a ship (with which she is said to have escaped from captivity) is also added as an attribute.

The most famous representation in German art belongs to a group of sandstone figures in the choir of the Meissen Cathedral , which was created around 1260. She is shown here next to her not canonized husband, because he founded the diocese of Meißen together with her .

Adelheid of Burgundy was a popular opera figure, especially in the Baroque period. She is the eponymous figure in L'Adelaide (1672) by Antonio Sartorio based on a libretto by Pietro Dolfino . The joyful play Die Schaubühne des Glückes or Die insuperachliche Adelheide (1684) by Johann Christian Hallmann is based on Dolphino's libretto , which in turn formed the basis for Georg Philipp Telemann's Singspiel Adelheid or Unforced Love (1724).
Also Antonio Salvi wrote an opera libretto Adelaide on the Empress, which for the first time in 1722 by Pietro Torri was set to music, and then, among others, Nicola Porpora (1723), Giuseppe Maria Orlandini (1729), Antonio Vivaldi (1735), and also from Georg Friedrich Handel (1729), who renamed the opera Lotario .
In 1817 Gioachino Rossini composed his opera Adelaide di Borgogna based on a libretto by Giovanni Schmidt .

In the literature, Adelaide is a central figure in Gertrud Bäumer Adelheid - Mother of the kingdoms (1936) and in 2017 published novel The strange queen of Rebecca Gablé .


Web links

Commons : Adelheid von Burgund  - Collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. See Hans-Werner Goetz : Europe in the early Middle Ages 500-1050 . Stuttgart 2003, p. 86 f.
  2. ^ Herbert Zielinski and Günther Binding : Adelheid (hl.), Ksn . In: Lexicon of the Middle Ages (LexMA). Volume 1, Artemis & Winkler, Munich / Zurich 1980, ISBN 3-7608-8901-8 , column 145 f.
  3. ^ Search for operas by Adelheid von Burgund (search term in the Autore field : "Salvi Antonio") in the Corago information system of the University of Bologna
predecessor Office successor
Willa of Burgundy Queen of Italy
947–950 / 951–973
Edgitha Queen of Eastern Franconia
Oda Empress of the Holy Roman Empire
962–973 (guardian 985–994)
Theophanu and Cunegonde of Luxembourg