Bertha of Savoy

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Henry IV and Bertha in Canossa by John Foxe (1563)

Bertha von Savoyen or Bertha von Turin (born September 21, 1051 ; † December 27, 1087 in Mainz ) was the wife of Henry IV. From July 13, 1066 until her death, Roman-German queen (crowned June 29, 1066 in Tribur) and from March 31, 1084 until her death, Empress of the Holy Roman Empire (crowned March 31, 1984). She was the daughter of Count Otto von Savoyen ( House of Savoy ) and the Adelheid von Turin ( Arduine ). Her grave is in the Speyer Cathedral .


Bertha was already as a child of Heinrich III. Taken after his journey to Italy to betroth her to his son Henry IV. This should help secure Northern Italy for the Salian imperial family. At the age of four Bertha was betrothed to Henry IV. This happened on December 25, 1055 in Zurich. Bertha was raised at the Salian court. She maintained a close relationship with Henry IV throughout her childhood and was often shown by his side in public.

Marriage to Henry IV.

Bertha was ordained and crowned queen in Würzburg at the end of June 1066. The wedding celebrations took place around July 13, 1066 in Tribur after the actual wedding in Würzburg. While Bertha, according to the sources, was devoted to her husband from the beginning, Heinrich allegedly met his wife with reluctance. Although she is said to have been a pretty young woman, the Saxon chronicler Bruno, an avowed opponent of Heinrich IV, reports of his continued infidelity.

Heinrich filed for divorce proceedings in 1069 and provided the following grounds for divorce:

“The king declared publicly (before the princes) that he was not on good terms with his wife; For a long time he had deceived people, but now he no longer wanted to deceive them. He could not accuse her of anything that justified a divorce, but he was unable to consummate the marital union with her. He therefore begs her, for God's sake, to release him from the fetters of this bad marriage and to tolerate the separation willingly so that he and she will open the way to a happier marriage for him. And so that no one could raise the objection that her once violated chastity was an obstacle to a second marriage, he swore that she was as he received her, unsullied and in unscathed virginity. "(From the Annals Lampert von Hersfeld )

The German episcopate did not dare to decide such a request for divorce and appealed to Pope Alexander II . He sent his legate Petrus Damiani to the synod in Frankfurt and rejected the divorce. The following year the couple's first daughter (Adelheid) was born.

Political activity

During Bertha's time as queen, Henry IV had a total of 67 documents issued on the intervention or intercession of his wife. However, this is only a quarter of the king's total documents, which is why, compared with the other Ottonian and Salic queens, she showed a more passive participation in politics. Often servants benefited from Bertha's influence as an advocate . This is an indication that Bertha endorsed her husband's ministerial policy and, like him, relied on a group that was dependent on the ruler. She also stood up for individual counts by even acting as jolly when it came to exchanging certificates .

The documents hardly reveal any preferred activities for religious institutions in Bertha's homeland in Northern Italy. Exceptions were also the privileges of monasteries such as the monastery of St. Blasien . Even if Bertha's political activity was rather reserved, she still stood by her husband Heinrich IV in various situations.

Bertha finally accompanied her husband on the dangerous journey to Canossa , carrying her three-year-old son Konrad in her arms. She and her husband held out in the freezing cold in front of the castle walls from January 25th to 28th, 1077 in order to achieve the solution of the papal ban . She also stood by him during other important events in the life of Henry IV. So she accompanied him to the Synod of Bressanone and possibly even on his Italian expedition. Then their common path led them to Rome , where Bertha was on March 31, 1084 by Clemens III . was ordained empress.


After Bertha's early death on December 27, 1087, her body was initially kept in an unknown location. After a short period of less than a year, Heinrich IV married his new wife Praxedis . This seems to be the reason that Heinrich IV was only four years (1091) after Bertha's death concerned with creating a venerable memory for her. For the salvation of souls, he donated to the cathedral church in Speyer, so that Bertha and two of her children, who died young, were taken to the family burial place. Even after that, Henry IV paid little attention to the remembrance of his wife's death.


The marriage to Heinrich had five children:

  • Adelheid (1070–4 June before 1079)
  • Heinrich (1071–2 August 1071)
  • Agnes von Waiblingen (1072 / 73–24 September 1143)
  • Konrad (III.) (February 12, 1074– July 27, 1101)
  • Henry V (January 8, 1086– May 23, 1125)


  • Bruno von Merseburg: Brunonis Saxonicum bellum . Bruno's Saxon War. Translated by Franz-Josef Schmale . In: Sources on the history of Emperor Heinrich IV. Darmstadt, 1968. (= Selected sources on German history in the Middle Ages. Freiherr vom Stein Memorial Edition, Vol. 12). Pp. 191-405.


predecessor Office Successor
Agnes of Poitou Roman-German Queen
July 13, 1066 to December 27, 1087
Adelheid of Kiev
Agnes of Poitou Roman-German Empress
March 31, 1084 to December 27, 1087
Adelheid of Kiev