Otto I. (Brandenburg)

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Monument to Otto I., Siegesallee, Berlin

Otto I of Brandenburg (* 1125/26, † March 1184 ) from the gender of Askanier was from 1170 to the second his death Margrave of Brandenburg . Otto promoted the expansion of the German state and founded the influential Lehnin Monastery in Lehnin in der Zauche .



Otto I was the eldest son of Albrecht the Bear , who later acquired the Mark Brandenburg , and Sophie von Winzenburg . Brothers included Siegfried von Bremen , Bishop of Brandenburg and Archbishop of Bremen and Bernhard , Duke of Saxony. The Christian Prince of Heveller and soon-to-be Lord of Brandenburg, Pribislaw-Heinrich , was Otto's godfather. As a baptism gift, he bequeathed the Zauche south of the Havel to the Ascanians .

Until the death of the father

Otto was first mentioned in a document in 1138. Since 1144, like his father, he was sometimes referred to as marchio (margrave) without any further addition. (The title Margrave of Brandenburg in some alleged royal documents of this time are probably forgeries from later times.) The son was documented, involved in numerous acts on the side of the father and took part in meetings of princes at the imperial level, where he is named as a witness . In many cases accompanied and supported by other Otto brothers, especially by the next older Hermann.

Around 1148 Otto married Judith , a daughter of the Polish Duke Bolesław III. "Crooked mouth". The marriage date was possibly on January 6, 1148, when Otto with the brothers Bolesław IV. And Mieszko III. met in Magdeburg. It meant strategic support for the Polish Piasts.

On August 16, 1170 Otto was listed for the first time in the Havel area at the consecration of the Havelberg Cathedral and, in contrast to his brothers, who were granted their own rulers, was mentioned as Margrave of Brandenburg. Alleged legal decisions for citizens of Havelberg and the old town of Brandenburg in an alleged document from the same year are probably based on a forgery from a later time.

Sole government

Since his father's death in 1170, Otto ruled independently. He did not continue his father's active imperial policy in the same way. Four times during the years of his reign he was chartered at the emperor's side. The oldest document in which the royal chancellery designated Otto as Margrave of Brandenburg has been preserved from July 21, 1172 . This is remarkable because his father Albrecht was never referred to as such by them. He seemed to be devoting himself particularly to the development of the country, which presumably had already been given special attention under his father's reign. In particular, the expansion of the left Elbe areas was continued vigorously with the influx of further Flemish and Rhenish colonists. The first groups of settlers, supported by noble houses from the Altmark, moved to the right-Elbe areas.

In the long-term battles against the Guelph Duke, Otto did not take part. In 1177 he even took part with him in a campaign against Duke Casimir I and besieged Demmin. In 1180 he moved again against Demmin and Stettin, where Casimir was killed. Otto was accompanied by Burggraf Siegfried von Brandenburg and other nobles. This campaign was probably connected with the Pomeranian incursions against the Lausitz and Jüterbog regions in the previous year. In that year his brothers Siegfried became Archbishop of Bremen and Bernhard Duke of Saxony, which significantly increased the importance of the family in the empire.

Foundations of monasteries

Altar steps in Lehnin Monastery with embedded oak in memory of the founding legend of Otto's dream

Shortly after his victory, Otto founded the first monastery in the Mark in Lehnin . According to the founding legend, he fell asleep under an oak tree after an exhausting hunt. In his dream a deer kept appearing to him that threatened to spear him with its antlers and that he could not fend off with his hunting spear. In his distress Otto called on the name of Christ, whereupon the dream apparition finally disappeared. When Otto told his companions the strange dream, they interpreted the doe as a symbol for the pagan Slavic tribes and advised him to build a castle at this point in honor of the Christian god against the pagan deities. But it should be a castle of God, a monastery. An oak trunk from this period is embedded in the altar steps of the monastery church, reminding of the founding legend. Otto furnished the monastery with property and made it the home monastery of the Ascanians. It remained the most important monastery of the Mark Brandenburg until its dissolution.

In 1183, shortly before his death, Otto founded a Benedictine monastery in Arendsee in the Altmark. He died in 1184 and was buried in the Lehnin monastery.

Marriages and offspring

Otto was first with Judith , daughter of Duke Bolesław III. von Poland and Salome von Berg , married. She was the widow of the Hungarian king Laszlo II. Children were

Before 1176 Otto married an Adelheid of unknown origin. From marriage came out


Otto inherited some properties from his father

  • Left Elbe: The Altmark around Salzwedel , Stendal and Gardelegen without advertising, which went to his brother Dietrich as a separate county
  • Right-Elbe: The Zauche , the Havelland up to the Spandau in the east, Havelberg and the western parts of the Prignitz.

From then on, these parts were combined to form a principality, although in the rest of Brandenburg's history, Altmark repeatedly went to younger lines of the margraves as part of inheritance divisions, and this resulted in temporary separations.

Monument to Otto I in Berlin's Siegesallee

Sibold, Otto I., Pribislaw-Heinrich

A monument to Otto stood in the former Siegesallee in the Tiergarten in Berlin , the "splendid boulevard" commissioned by Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1895 with monuments from the history of Brandenburg and Prussia.

Between 1895 and 1901, under the direction of Reinhold Begas , 27 sculptors created 32 statues of the Brandenburg margraves, each 2.75 m high. Each statue was flanked by two smaller busts depicting people who had played an important role in the life of the respective ruler or in the history of Brandenburg. For monument group 2 , these were the busts of his godfather Pribislaw-Heinrich and the first Lehnin abbot Sibold, who was slain. The monumental boulevard was controversial shortly after its completion and was widely ridiculed - the Berlin population created the term Puppenallee . As the only woman, Elisabeth von Bayern-Landshut, the wife of the first Brandenburg margrave from the house of Hohenzollern, Friedrich I of Brandenburg, is dedicated to a relief on the back of the statue base.

Richard George described Otto's monument in 1900: “Margrave Otto I is the second statue in the row of monuments to the rulers on Sieges-Allee, which Berlin owes to the grace of Kaiser Wilhelm II. The monument is a creation of the sculptor Max Unger, and a free fantasy creation, as portraits of the Ascanian princes and their contemporaries ... do not exist. The artist has portrayed Otto I as a powerful young man. The youthful warrior gazes into the distance, his right hand leaning on the crossguard of the sword, the left one leaning on his hip. The hip horn that hangs down from the belt identifies the margrave as a wicker. The prince is dressed in a mesh mail shirt and armor trousers, which are kept in the character of the 12th century; a wrinkled cloak flows down to the feet. The reliefs on the base represent Otto I's dream and the church of the Lehnin monastery. "

See in detail on the disputes about the foundation of the Mark Brandenburg and the struggle of the Ascanians for Saxony : Albrecht the Bear


Lexicon article

Further literature

  • Lutz Partenheimer : Albrecht the Bear . 2nd Edition. Böhlau Verlag, Cologne 2003, ISBN 3-412-16302-3
  • Stephan Warnatsch: History of the Lehnin Monastery 1180–1542 (= studies on the history, art and culture of the Cistercians; 12.1). Lukas Verlag, Berlin 2000, ISBN 3-931836-45-2 (also: Berlin, Free University, dissertation, 1999)

Web links

Commons : Otto I.  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. cf. Partenheimer, Albrecht the Bear
  2. cf. Johannes Schultze: The Mark Brandenburg . Volume 1. Berlin 1969, p. 97.
  3. The office had apparently refused to recognize Albrecht's rule in Brandenburg. The historian Lutz Partenheimer is considering whether the mark was finally recognized as a new independent "principality in the feudal association of the German kingdom" in 1172, Partenheimer, Albrecht der Bär, p. 193
  4. Hans-Peter Richter: On the power-political background and goals of the Pomeranian migrations from 1178 to 1180 to Lausitz and the Jüterbog region. In: Yearbook for the History of Feudalism, 11: 83-104, Berlin 1987.
  5. In older research up to around 1900 she was assumed to be Ada von Holland , daughter of Count Floris III. But this was probably the wife of Otto II.
  6. Ricard George, p. 71
predecessor Office successor
Albrecht I. Margrave of Brandenburg
Otto II.