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Saint Mathilda
Born 895, Engern, Duchy of Saxony (corresponding to modern day North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
Died March 14 968, Quedlinburg, district of Harz, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Major shrine Quedlinburg Abbey
Feast March 14

Saint Mathilda or Saint Matilda (c. 895 – March 14 968) was the wife of Henry I, King of the East Franks and the first ruler of the Ottonian or Liudolfing dynasty. Their son, Otto, succeeded his father as King (and later Emperor) Otto I.

The details of St. Mathilda's life come largely from brief mentions in the Res Gestae Saxonicae (Deeds of the Saxons) of the monastic historian Widukind of Corvey, and from two sacred biographies (the vita antiquior and vita posterior) written, respectively, c. 974 and c. 1003.

St. Mathilda was the daughter of the Westphalian count Dietrich and his wife Reinhild, and her biographers traced her ancestry back to the famed Saxon hero, Widukind (c. 730 - 807). As a young girl, she was sent to the convent of Herford, where her reputation for beauty and virtue is said to have attracted the attention of Duke Otto of Saxony, who betrothed her to his son, Henry the Fowler. They were married in 909 and had three sons and two daughters:

  1. Hadwig, wife of the West Frankish duke Hugh the Great
  2. King (and later Emperor) Otto I
  3. Gerberga, wife of (1) Duke Giselbert of Lotharingia and (2) King Louis IV of France
  4. Henry I, Duke of Bavaria
  5. Archbishop Brun of Cologne

After Henry the Fowler's death in 936, St. Mathilda remained at the court of her son Otto, until a cabal of royal advisors is reported to have accused her of weakening the royal treasury in order to pay for her charitable activities. After a brief exile at the Westphalian monastery of Enger, St. Mathilda was brought back to court at the urging of Otto I's first wife, the Anglo-Saxon princess Queen Edith.

St. Mathilda was celebrated for her devotion to prayer and almsgiving; her first biographer depicted her (in a passage indebted[citation needed] to the sixth-century vita of the Frankish queen Radegund by Venantius Fortunatus) leaving her husband's side in the middle of the night and sneaking off to church to pray. St. Mathilda founded many religious institutions, including the canonry of Quedlinburg, Saxony-Anhalt, a center of Ottonian ecclesiastical and secular life and the burial place of St. Mathilda and her husband, and the convent of Nordhausen, Thuringia, likely the source of at least one of her vitae. She was later canonized, with her cult largely confined to Saxony and Bavaria. St. Mathilda's feast day is on March 14.

Preceded by
Cunigunde of Swabia
German Queen
919 – 936
Succeeded by
Edith of Wessex
Preceded by
Hedwiga of Franconia
Duchess consort of Saxony
30 November 912 – 2 July 936
Succeeded by
Edith of Wessex




Primary sources

  • Widukind, Res gestae Saxonicae, ed. Paul Hirsch and H.-E. Lohmann, Die Sachsengeschichte des Widukind von Korvei. MGH SS rer. Germ. in usum scholarum 60. Hanover, 1935. Available online from the Digital Monumenta Germaniae Historica
  • Vita Mathildis reginae antiquior (c. 974, written for her grandson Otto II), ed. Bernd Schütte. Die Lebensbeschreibungen der Königin Mathilde. MGH SS rer. Germ. in usum scholarum 66. Hanover, 1994. 107-142. Available from the Digital MGH; ed. Rudolf Koepke. MGH SS 10. 573-82; tr. in Sean Gilsdorf, Queenship and Sanctity, 71-87.
  • Vita Mathildis reginae posterior (c. 1003, written for her great-grandson Henry II), ed. Bernd Schütte. Die Lebensbeschreibungen der Königin Mathilde. MGH SS rer. Germ. in usum scholarum 66. Hanover, 1994. 143-202. Available from the Digital MGH; ed. Georg Pertz. MGH SS 4: 282-302; tr. in Sean Gilsdorf, Queenship and Sanctity, 88-127.

Secondary sources

  • Corbet, Patrick. Les saints ottoniens. Sainteté dynastique, sainteté royale et sainteté féminine autour de l'an mil. Thorbecke, 1986. Description (external link)
  • Gilsdorf, Sean. Queenship and Sanctity: The Lives of Mathilda and the Epitaph of Adelheid. Catholic University of America Press, 2004. Description (external link)
  • Glocker, Winfrid. Die Verwandten der Ottonen und ihre Bedeutung in der Politik. Böhlau Verlag, 1989. 7-18.
  • Schmid, Karl. "Die Nachfahren Widukinds," Deutsches Archiv für Erforschung des Mittelalters 20 (1964): 1-47.
  • Schütte, Bernd . Untersuchungen zu den Lebensbeschreibungen der Königin Mathilde. MGH Studien und Texte 9. Hanover, 1994. ISBN 3-7752-5409-9.
  •  "St. Matilda". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. 

Further reading

  • Schlenker, Gerlinde. Königin Mathilde, Gemahlin Heinrichs I (895/96-968). Aschersleben, 2001.
  • Stinehart, Anne C. "Renowned Queen Mother Mathilda:" Ideals and Realities of Ottonian Queenship in the Vitae Mathildis reginae (Mathilda of Saxony, 895?-968)." Essays in history 40 (1998). Available online


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