Adolf of Nassau

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Small throne seal of Adolf von Nassau from 1298

Adolf von Nassau (* before 1250; † July 2, 1298 near Göllheim ) from the Walram line of the Nassau noble family was Roman-German king from 1292 to 1298 . He is considered to be the second in the line of so-called Count Kings and was the first mentally and physically healthy ruler of the Holy Roman Empire , whom the electors deposed without the pope's spell . Adolf died in the battle of Göllheim in a fight with the opposing king Albrecht of Austria .

Family and offspring

Timely portrait of King Adolf and his wife Imagina. Wall painting in Klarenthal Abbey , mid-14th century, destroyed in the 17th century, signed in 1632

Adolf was the second son of Count Walram II of Nassau and Adelheid von Katzenelnbogen . He married Imagina von Isenburg-Limburg around 1270 .

Adolf's brother was Diether von Nassau , who became Archbishop of Trier after Adolf's death . Agnes von Isenburg-Limburg, Imagina's sister, was married to Heinrich von Westerburg. This was the brother of the Archbishop of Cologne , Siegfried von Westerburg . According to recent research, the mystic Christina von Retters, venerated as a blessed woman, was very likely one of Adolf's sisters.

Adolf's marriage to Imagina has at least eight children:

  • Heinrich (died young)
  • Imagina (died young)
  • Ruprecht VI. , Count of Nassau (* before 1280; † November 2, 1304)
  • Mechthild (before 1280–1323), married Rudolf the Stammler
  • Gerlach I , Count of Nassau (* before 1288; † January 7, 1361)
  • Adolf (* 1292; † 1294)
  • Adelheid, abbess of Klarenthal Abbey since 1311 († 1338)
  • Walram III, Count of Nassau-Wiesbaden (* 1294 - May 15, 1324)

Acting as Count of Nassau

Adolf became Count of Nassau in 1277. His legacy included the Nassau countries south of the Lahn im Taunus . To his rule belonged as a fiefdom of the kingdom of Wiesbaden and Idstein as well as on behalf of the diocese of Worms the bailiwick over Weilburg . Furthermore, he had part of the common property of the Nassau ancestral land around the Nassau Castle and the Laurenburg .

Around 1280 he was involved in the Nassau-Eppstein feud , as a result of which the Eppsteiner destroyed the city of Wiesbaden and Sonnenberg Castle . After three years a settlement was made in 1283. The city of Wiesbaden and Sonnenberg Castle were rebuilt. Besides Idstein, Sonnenberg became the residence of Count Adolf. Adolf obtained city rights for Idstein in 1287 and expanded the fortifications.

Through the mediation of his uncle Eberhard I. von Katzenelnbogen , Adolf came to the court of King Rudolf I of Habsburg, in whose vicinity he is repeatedly attested. In 1286, King Rudolf enfeoffed Adolf with the office of governor at Kalsmunt Castle in Wetzlar . A year later, Adolf was enfeoffed with the office of governor at Gutenfels Castle near Kaub ; thereby he also became feudal lord of the Count Palatine near Rhine .

Adolf was in his early forties when he was elected king. Until then, his political activities had been limited to his role as ally of the Archbishop of Cologne. Adolf did not have his own office, but due to his relationships with the archbishops of Cologne and Mainz, he was probably familiar with the political situation in the Middle Rhine region and Mainz. He spoke German, French and Latin , which was rare among aristocrats at the time.

After the king's election, Adolf von Nassau was rarely in his home country. The government there he had transferred to his castle men. One of the most important events on January 17, 1294 was the purchase of the Weilburg estate for 400 pounds sterling from the diocese of Worms. On December 29, 1295 he granted the town of Weilburg town rights.

Election to king

Princely alliance in favor of Adolf

Adolf's predecessor, the Roman-German King Rudolf I of Habsburg, did not succeed in persuading the Bohemian King Wenceslaus II to approve the election of his son Albrecht as his successor as ruler of the Holy Roman Empire. After Rudolf's death, Wenceslas and the other electors' doubts about Albrecht persisted. Only Count Palatine Ludwig the Strict promised Albrecht to elect him. According to a source from the 14th century, resentment against Albrecht went so far that the Archbishop of Cologne, Siegfried von Westerburg, made rejection a principle by arguing that it was wrong for the son to succeed his father on the throne .

Furthermore, Wenzel and Siegfried came to an agreement with Gerhard II von Eppstein , the Archbishop of Mainz , that a future king should mainly serve their interests. Wenzel succeeded in getting the Brandenburg and Saxon electors on his side. The Saxon Duke made a written commitment on November 29, 1291 that he would vote in the same way as Wenzel. The Brandenburg margrave may have made a similar commitment. The Count Palatine and the Archbishop of Trier then bowed to the majority of the Electoral College.

Adolf's election promise

Initiation of a document by Adolf from 1292: Adolphus dei gratia Romanorum rex semper augustus , German: Adolf by God's grace, Roman king who was always exalted

Therefore, the Archbishop of Cologne suggested Adolf von Nassau as king to the Electoral College. In the event of his election, the latter declared himself ready to make extensive concessions to the electors and to follow their political demands.

A few days before the election, on April 27, 1292, the Archbishop of Cologne was the first to have a certificate issued in which Adolf provided him with a long list of confirmations of ownership, pledges of imperial cities and imperial castles and a sum of 25,000 marks in the event of his election Silver pledged. Furthermore, Adolf promised assistance against specifically listed opponents, but also general assistance; moreover, he should not include an enemy of the archbishop in his council. After the election, Adolf should give the archbishop sufficient security to keep his promises, otherwise he would lose his throne. The last clause proves the fact that at the end of the 13th century the coronation as king was still very decisive as a constituent element of rule. Because Adolf promised the archbishop that he would not ask for his coronation until he had brought the mentioned securities.

The other electors had Adolf confirm similar concessions, but only after the election. The most far-reaching were the concessions made to the Bohemian King Wenceslaus on June 30, 1292. Adolf promised Wenzel to withdraw the two duchies of Austria and Styria from the Habsburg Albrecht. This should be done in the same way as the previous King Rudolf had taken imperial territories from the Bohemian King Ottokar II , the father of Wenceslas. Albrecht should first be invited to a court hearing. If he does not bow, the court's decisions should be enforced by force within a year. Wenzel will then get back his father's former territories.

The imperial cities of Mühlhausen and Nordhausen were transferred to Archbishop Gerhard II of Mainz, which corresponded to the Mainzer's interests in the Thuringian region. The Archbishop also received financial benefits. Similar to his Cologne counterpart, the Elector of Mainz also forbade people who were undesirable to him to be included in Adolf's council.

Compared to the benefits that the Mainz, Cologne and Bohemian electors received, the donations to the Count Palatinate and the Archbishop of Trier were more modest.

On May 5, 1292 Adolf was elected and on June 24 he was coronated in Aachen. However, due to the commitments he had made, his power was limited from the start.


Breach of election promises

As agreed with the Archbishop of Cologne, Adolf stayed four months after his election in his territory. The archbishop expected the king to revise the results of the Battle of Worringen in 1288. He hoped to regain greater influence in the city of Cologne. Despite the strict guidelines, Adolf quickly emancipated himself from his voters and formed alliances with their opponents. For example, he confirmed the rights of nobles and the city of Cologne, who had turned against their sovereign, and even extended these rights.

Adolf also broke the promises regarding the duchies of Austria and Styria very quickly. As a clever diplomat, Albrecht avoided a dispute with the new king and in November 1292 received a formal enfeoffment with Austria, Styria, the Windischen Mark and the rule of Pordenone in exchange for the regalia that he still owned from his father . The disposal of the prestigious regalia and relics of the empire was an additional and important indicator of the legitimacy of the king's rule, but not a mandatory requirement. With each new copy of the certificate, Adolf moved a little further away from his promises without being accused of openly breaching the contract.

Adolf also acted as a self-confident ruler in other ways. His court was a magnet for everyone who sought protection from the empire's territorial lords, which were becoming more powerful. He held numerous court days , already at the beginning of his rule renewed the general peace of Rudolf I for another ten years and founded at least two regional peace.

Adolf used the feudal system as one of his most important instruments of rule. He demanded a payment from the ecclesiastical imperial princes for the loan with regalia , the so-called feudal goods, and increased this demand to the point of annoyance. Contemporaries saw simonist tendencies in this approach . However, historians today see it more as an innovative way of tapping new sources of government income, as other Western European kings did. The recovery and administration of the imperial property was also important to him. Through a clever marriage policy he succeeded in bringing former imperial property back into the hands of the empire.

Alliance with England

In 1294 his rule was at its height. Adolf made an alliance against France with King Edward I of England and received 60,000 pounds sterling, which corresponded to 90,000 gold marks. The alliance, perceived as mercenary, and the fact that Adolf did not meet his obligations, damaged his reputation, but initially had no consequences.

The treaty was preceded by attempts by France to conquer the Duchy of Burgundy and the county of Flanders . As a result of the Flemish War of Succession , Philip the Fair tried to expand France to include Flanders. Count Guido von Dampierre therefore brokered the alliance between Eduard I and Adolf for his protection. Adolf had troops advertised in the empire for a war against France. Pope Boniface VIII , however, ordered peace in 1295 and threatened Adolf with excommunication if the war began .

Politics in Thuringia

A little later he intervened in Thuringia, which was torn by fighting, by buying the Landgraviate of Albrecht the Degenerate . Adolf used the fighting that had broken out between Albrecht and his sons Friedrich and Dietrich . He made the purchase in his capacity as king and probably with the help of payments from England. From a legal point of view, this was permissible because Adolf persuaded the fiefdom to renounce his fiefdom and returned the land to the empire. Furthermore, he moved the Margraviate of Meißen in as an imperial fiefdom, since after the extinction of a branch line of the Wettins, it was ownerless in the literal sense and occupied by a son of Albrecht the Degenerate.

This purchase and the confiscation of the Mark Meissen affected the interests of four electors. So the Archbishop of Mainz was able to assert that part of Thuringia was not an imperial fief, but a church fief of Mainz. Bohemia could not be enthusiastic about the increase in power of the king on its northern border, especially since Adolf Wenzel II had promised the enfeoffment with the Mark Meissen. All the electors also hoped to make a profit out of the turmoil in Thuringia. In addition to the ostensible return of imperial fiefs to the empire, it cannot be ruled out that Adolf endeavored to build up a domestic power , albeit a small one . First Adolf managed to secure his acquisitions diplomatically and to persuade the Brandenburg margrave to act actively and the Archbishop of Mainz and the Duke of Saxony at least to tolerate the purchase.

Two bloody campaigns were necessary to secure the acquisitions, a peace in the country secured the gains. Two years later, in the summer of 1296, when he was invited to a court day, Adolf proudly announced that his measures had significantly increased the property of the empire.

Deposition and death

Princely alliance against Adolf

After a careful discussion about what has been said before with all the electors, bishops, prelates, dukes, counts, landlords and wise men who were present, we declare on general advice with the will of all and with the unanimous consent of those present that the above Mr. Adolf, who has proven himself so unworthy of kingship and who, because of his injustices and the reasons mentioned above, was expelled from God so that he would no longer rule, the kingship he had previously held was withdrawn by the Lord God; We announce that it has been withdrawn from him, and furthermore We withdraw it from him at the instigation of the unanimous verdict of the aforementioned electors; by using the proverb and by permanently detaching all those who were bound to it by the oath of allegiance from this oath, We firmly forbid that anyone in the future obeys or is inclined to be king.

From the document on the deposition of King Adolf, June 23, 1298

The reason for the dispute with the electors was Adolf's previously accepted Thuringian policy. At Pentecost 1297, the ruling margraves of both Brandenburg lines, the Saxon duke and the Bohemian king joined forces to assert their interests. The Archbishop of Mainz, Gerhard II, was close to this group.

In February 1298, the situation for Adolf became threatening, because Wenzel II and Albrecht of Austria settled their long-standing disputes over Austria and Styria and made agreements in the event that Adolf was deposed and Albrecht was elected in his place. It is possible that there was already a meeting of the electors on June 2, 1297 when Wenceslas was crowned King of Bohemia, which has been postponed for years. In January 1298, the Archbishop of Mainz, Albrecht of Austria, summoned an imperial court to force Albrecht and Adolf to compromise. But this did not succeed; there were even heavy fights between the two in the Upper Rhine Valley, which, however, brought no decision. In May 1298, the Archbishop of Mainz summoned the king to court so that the dispute could be resolved there. However, as the feuding party, the king could not also be a judge; on the other hand, he must have felt this summons as a provocation, since Albrecht had taken up arms against him, the rightful king. The first meeting on May 1st and another on June 15th, at which the disputes were to be resolved, did not take place accordingly.

A meeting between the Archbishop of Mainz, the Duke of Saxony and the Margraves of Brandenburger (Otto IV. The one with the arrow , Heinrich ohne Land and Hermann the Long ) on June 23, 1298 led to a trial against the king himself The Archbishop and the Bohemian King had previously authorized the Archbishop of Mainz to act on their behalf. In these proceedings, Adolf was charged with numerous crimes, including the continued breach of the peace in Thuringia and the breach of promises to the Archbishop of Mainz. Adolf was declared unworthy of his office and lost his royal dignity.

Legal tricks

Deposition of Adolf of Nassau and election of Albrecht I as king, illustration from the Chronicle of the Würzburg Bishops

Remarkably, Adolf was not excommunicated by the Pope before he was deposed. The Pope was probably not even included in the deposition process. The princes tried to formulate their arguments in a similar way to Innocent IV when Frederick II's declaration of deposition was given , but the process was monstrous for this time. Because Adolf had been chosen as ruler through the election and the coronation according to the contemporary understanding by God, and the princes broke their oath in which they had sworn allegiance to the king. That is why the list of charges also includes acts of outrage that seem strange at first glance, such as the desecration of hosts and the simonist extortion of money. Furthermore, there was no imperial law for the deposition of the king. The princes therefore invoked their right to vote, from which the right to depose a king was derived. This line of argument was problematic in that there was already a precedent with the dismissal of Frederick II. According to this canonical regulation, however, only the Pope was authorized to dismiss.

Election of Albrecht and death of Adolf

Following the deposition, Albrecht of Austria was elected the new king. How the election went can no longer be clarified precisely today, as the chroniclers hardly report anything about it. For example, the question remains whether Albrecht actually initially did not want to accept the election, as he later asserted to Pope Boniface VIII .

The removal of Adolf was one thing, the enforcement of the decision against Adolf was another. But the conflict between King Adolf and the princely opposition was soon decided on the battlefield. On July 2, 1298, the armies of Adolf and Albrecht met in the battle of Göllheim . The small town is located in the northern Palatinate between Kaiserslautern and Worms near the Donnersberg massif . After violent attacks, Adolf fell together with his standard bearer and some loyal followers. Thereupon his army turned to flee and disbanded.

Albrecht prevented Adolf's followers from burying the fallen king in the Speyer Cathedral . Therefore Adolf was buried near Göllheim in the Cistercian convent Rosenthal and only later transferred to Speyer. At his place of death in Göllheim reminiscent King Cross at him. It is the oldest field cross in the Palatinate .


Statue of the king on the tomb in Speyer Cathedral; created in 1824 by Landolin Ohmacht based on a design by Leo von Klenze

On August 29, 1309, King Heinrich VII had Adolf's coffin transferred to the Speyer Cathedral. Here he was buried next to Albrecht, who had been murdered in 1308.

In 1824, Duke Wilhelm von Nassau donated a monumental grave monument to his ancestor in the choir of the cathedral, which is now placed in the vestibule. It shows King Adolf in armor, kneeling down in prayer. The planning of the monument was entrusted to Leo von Klenze ; the design was carried out by the sculptor Landolin Ohmacht . In a wall niche in the vestibule there is also a large statue of Adolf von Nassau, made by the sculptor Anton Dominik Fernkorn , 1858.

Probably in the 19th century the legend arose that Adolf was a count from the Nuremberg area. This error was probably based on the mistake made for his cousin Emich I von Nassau-Hadamar , who had become the owner of Kammerstein Castle around 1300 after his marriage to Anna of Nuremberg .

In 1841 Duke Adolph zu Nassau had a portrait of King Adolf made by the Düsseldorf painter Heinrich Mücke , which was hung in the Römer in Frankfurt's Kaisersaal in 1843 . The picture shows King Adolf with breastplate and white cloak. On his head he wears an iron crown with an "implied spiked hat ", in his right hand he holds a sword, in his left a shield with an eagle . In addition to the signature of the name, the picture shows the Latin saying “Praestat vir sine pecunia quam pecunia sine viro.” (Better a man without money than money without a man). The portrait is an idealized representation in the spirit of historicism by the artist, which was not based on previous portraits. Heinrich Mücke did not have any contemporary pictures of the king available, other representations, for example the one attributed to Georg Friedrich Christian Seekatz , he rejected as too mediocre.

With reference to him, the fifth stanza of the Dutch national anthem, the Wilhelmus , praises the father of the fatherland Willem van Oranje that he was “of imperial tribe”.


The composer Heinrich Marschner reworked Adolf's life story in 1844 in his opera Kaiser Adolph von Nassau op. 130 based on a libretto by Heribert Rau . The premiere took place on January 5, 1845 at the Royal Saxon Court Theater in Dresden .


Web links

Commons : Adolf von Nassau  - Collection of Images


  1. A description of the seal can be found on Wikisource: The Seal of the German Emperors and Kings, Seal of Otto I, No. 3.
  2. "Retters, Christina von". Hessian biography. (As of February 26, 2013). In: Landesgeschichtliches Informationssystem Hessen (LAGIS).
  3. Quoted from Malte Prietzel: The Holy Roman Empire in the late Middle Ages. Darmstadt 2004, p. 33.
  4. ^ Franz Klimm: The Imperial Cathedral of Speyer. Speyer 1930, p. 44.
  5. ^ Pierre Even: The portrait of King Adolf of Nassau in the Frankfurt Imperial Hall . In: Nassauische Annalen, Vol. 109, Wiesbaden 1998, pp. 73-89.
  6. Song text : "Noble and high-born, of keyserlicher stem".
predecessor Office successor
Rudolf I of Habsburg Roman-German king
Albrecht I of Austria
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on March 2, 2006 .