Henry II, Holy Roman Emperor: Wikis


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Saint Henry II, Holy Roman Emperor
Henry II in an illuminated miniature from an Imperial Sacramentary.
Emperor and Confessor
Born May 6, 973(973-05-06), Bavaria, Germany
Died July 13, 1024 (aged 51), Göttingen, Germany
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Canonized 1146, Rome by possibly Pope Clement II
Major shrine Bamberg Cathedral
Feast July 13
July 15 (General Roman Calendar, 1668-1969)[1]
Patronage Basel, Switzerland; St Henry's Marist Brothers' College, Durban, South Africa.

Henry II (6 May 973– 13 July 1024), called the Holy or the Saint, was the fifth and last Holy Roman Emperor of the Ottonian dynasty, from his coronation in Rome in 1014 until his death a decade later. He was crowned King of Germany in 1002 and King of Italy in 1004. He is the only German king to have been canonized.

He was the son of Henry II, Duke of Bavaria. As his father had rebelled against two previous emperors, he was often in exile. This led the younger Henry to turn to the Church at an early age, first finding refuge with the Bishop of Freising, and later being educated at the cathedral school of Hildesheim. He succeeded his father as Duke of Bavaria in 995 as Henry IV.


Disputed succession

Henry was on his way to Rome to save his besieged cousin the Emperor Otto III when the emperor died in January 1002. Knowing that opposition to his succession was strong, Henry quickly seized the royal insignia from his dead cousin's companions. Rival candidates for the throne — such as Ezzo of Lotharingia, Eckard I of Meissen, and Herman II of Swabia — strongly contested Henry's succession, but with the aid of Willigis, Archbishop of Mainz, he was able to secure his royal election and coronation on June 7, 1002 in Mainz, though it would be a year before he was universally recognized.

Henry spent the next several years consolidating his political power on his German borders. He waged a successful campaign against Boleslaus I of Poland and then moved into the Kingdom of Italy to confront Arduin of Ivrea, who had been elected King of Italy by a faction opposed to Henry. Arduin had previously defeated a German army sent against him by Henry and commanded by Otto I of Carinthia. Now he tried to block the German king in the Adige valley, as he had previously done with Otto, but Henry entered Italy at the Valsugana. Arduin's vassals fled in disarray at Henry's approach and their king was forced to return to the March of Ivrea. Henry occupied Verona and was crowned rex Italiae (King of Italy) at Pavia on May 15, 1004, by the Archbishop of Milan, Arnulf II, with the famous Iron Crown.

War against Poland

After bloodily suppressing a revolt of the citizens of Pavia, Henry remained there until May 25, when, feeling that Italy could be considered settled, he decided to return to Germany through the Saint Gotthard Pass. From Germany he launched a second campaign against Boleslaus, allying with the pagan Liutitians against the Christian Poles and waged successful campaigns that culminated in a lasting compromise peace with the Poles in 1018: Boleslaus was allowed to retain Lusatia and Meissen as fiefs, but had to give up Bohemia, which he had recently conquered.

Italian campaigns


Rebellion of Arduin

Henry II crowned Holy Roman Emperor

Henry was called to Italy by the clergy for another campaign in 1013. Arduin had risen in revolt again. At first he tried to resist Henry from his palace in Ivrea, but then resigned to become a monk. Subsequently Henry went straight to Rome, where Pope Benedict VIII crowned him Holy Roman Emperor on February 14, 1014. He took his duties in Italy seriously and appointed German officials to administer the country. He returned in Germany in May.

Invasion of southern Italy

In 1020, the pope visited him at Bamberg and consecrated his new cathedral there. After settling some controversies with the bishops of Mainz and Würzburg, Pope Benedict VIII convinced him to return to Italy for a third (and final) campaign to counter the growing power of the Byzantine Empire in the south, where the Lombard princes had made submission to the Greeks. In 1022, he set out down the Adriatic coast for southern Italy commanding a large force. He sent Pilgrim, Archbishop of Cologne, ahead with a slightly smaller army along the Tyrrhenian littoral with the objective of subjugating the Principality of Capua. A third army, smaller still, under the command of Poppo, Patriarch of Aquileia, went through the Apennines to join Henry in besieging the Byzantine fortress of Troia. Pilgrim did capture Pandulf IV of Capua and extract oaths of allegiance from both Capua and the Principality of Salerno, but all three divisions failed to take Troia. Henry almost executed the treacherous prince of Capua, but relented at the last moment at Pilgrim's pleading and instead sent him off to Germany in chains and appointed Pandulf of Teano to replace him as prince. Though his main objective had been missed, Henry left the south in the knowledge that western imperial authority still extended that far. On his return journey, he attended a synod at Pavia where he advocated Church reform.

Ecclesiastical politics

Henry's most significant contributions as emperor came in the realm of church-state relations and ecclesiastic administration within the Empire. He supported the bishops against the monastic clergy and aided them in establishing their temporal rule over broad territories. He strongly enforced clerical celibacy in order that the public land and offices he granted the church would not be passed on to heirs. This ensured that the bishops remained loyal to him, from whom they received their power, and provided a powerful bulwark against rebellious nobles and ambitious family members. Henry founded the Diocese of Bamberg, which quickly became a center of scholarship and art, in 1007.

Henry had been working with the pope to call a Church Council to confirm his new system of politico-ecclesiastical control when he died suddenly in 1024, leaving this work unfinished. Henry and his wife, Cunigunde of Luxemburg, had no children, reportedly because they had taken a mutual vow of chastity.


Henry was canonized in July, 1147 by Pope Clement II; and his spouse, Cunigunde, was canonized in the year 1200, by Pope Innocent III. His relics were carried on campaigns against heretics in the 1160's.

Henry is buried in Bamberg Cathedral, which also has the tomb of Pope Clement II. He is the patron saint of the city of Basel, Switzerland, and of St Henry's Marist Brothers' College in Durban, South Africa.

Feast Day

Saint Henry's name, which does not appear in the Tridentine Calendar, was inserted in 1631 in the Roman Calendar as a commemoration within the celebration of Saint Anacletus on 13 July, the day of his death and the traditional day for his celebration on a local level. In 1668, it was moved to 15 July for celebration as a Semidouble. This rank was changed by Pope Pius XII in 1955 to that of Simple, and by Pope John XXIII in 1960 to that of Third-Class Feast. In 1969, it was returned to its original date of 13 July as a non-obligatory Memorial.[2]


Thietmar's Chronicle

Page of Thietmar's Chronicle

Between 1012 and 1018 Thietmar of Merseburg wrote a Chronicon, or Chronicle, in eight books, which deals with the period between 908 and 1018. For the earlier part he used Widukind's Res gestae Saxonicae, the Annales Quedlinburgenses and other sources; the latter part is the result of personal knowledge. The chronicle is nevertheless an excellent authority for the history of Saxony during the reigns of the emperors Otto III and Henry II. No kind of information is excluded, but the fullest details refer to the bishopric of Merseburg, and to the wars against the Wends and the Poles.


  1. ^ From 1631, when it was first included in the calendar, to 1668, the feast was, as now, on 13 July
  2. ^ Calendarium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 1969), pp. 97 and 130


See also

External links

Henry II, Holy Roman Emperor
Born: 973 Died: 1024
German royalty
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Henry II
Duke of Bavaria
Succeeded by
Henry V
Preceded by
King of Italy
Succeeded by
Conrad II
Preceded by
Otto III
King of Germany
Holy Roman Emperor


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