Adelaide of Italy

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"Saint Adelaide" redirects here. For another Saint Adelaide, see Adelaide, Abbess of Vilich.
Saint Adelaide of Italy
Adelaide of Italy.jpg
Holy Roman Empress
Born 931
Burgundy, France
Died 16 December 999
Seltz, Alsace
Honored in
Roman Catholic Church,
Eastern Orthodox Church
Canonized 1097 by Pope Urban II
Feast 16 December
Attributes Empress dispensing alms and food to the poor, often beside a ship
Patronage abuse victims; brides; empresses; exiles; in-law problems; parenthood; parents of large families; princesses; prisoners; second marriages; step-parents; widows

Adelaide of Italy (931 – 16 December 999), also called Adelaide of Burgundy, was the second wife of Holy Roman Emperor Otto the Great[1] and was crowned as the Holy Roman Empress with him by Pope John XII in Rome on February 2, 962.[2] She was the daughter-in-law of St. Queen Matilda of East Francia. Empress Adelaide was perhaps the most prominent European woman of the 10th century; she was regent of the Holy Roman Empire as the guardian of her grandson in 991-995.[1]

Life[edit]

Born in Orbe, today in Switzerland, she was the daughter of Rudolf II of Burgundy, a member of the Elder House of Welf, and Bertha of Swabia.[2] Her first marriage, at the age of fifteen, was to the son of her father's rival in Italy, Lothair II, the nominal King of Italy;[3] the union was part of a political settlement designed to conclude a peace between her father and Hugh of Provence, the father of Lothair. They had a daughter, Emma of Italy.

Marriage to Otto I[edit]

Adelaide and her second spouse Otto I the Great

The Calendar of Saints states that her first husband was poisoned by the holder of real power, his successor, Berengar of Ivrea, who attempted to cement his political power by forcing her to marry his son, Adalbert; when she refused and fled, she was tracked down and imprisoned for four months at Como.

According to Adelheid's contemporary biographer, Odilo of Cluny, she managed to escape from captivity. After a time spent in the marshes nearby, she was rescued and taken to a "certain impregnable fortress," likely the fortified town of Canossa near Reggio.[4] She managed to send an emissary to throw herself on the mercy of Otto the Great. His brothers were equally willing to save the dowager queen, but Otto got an army into the field. The widow met her rescuer at the old Lombard capital of Pavia and they married in 951. They had four children, as discussed below. Pope John XII crowned Otto Holy Roman Emperor in Rome on February 2, 962, and, breaking tradition, also crowned Adelheid as Holy Roman Empress.[2]

In Germany, the crushing of a revolt in 953 by Liudolf, Otto's son by his first marriage, cemented Adelheid's position, for she retained all her dower lands. She and their eleven-year old son, the crown prince who became Otto II, accompanied Otto in 966 on his third expedition to Italy, where Otto restored the newly elected Pope John XIII to his throne (and executed some of the Roman rioters who had deposed him). Adelheid remained in Rome for six years while Otto ruled his kingdom from Italy. Their son Otto II was crowned co-emperor in 967, then married the Byzantine princess Theophanu in April 972, resolving the conflict between the two empires in southern Italy, as well as ensuring the imperial succession. Adelheid and her husband then returned to Germany, where Otto died in May 973, at the same Memleben palace where his father had died 37 years earlier.

Retirement[edit]

Adelaide had long entertained close relations with Cluny, then the center of the movement for ecclesiastical reform, and in particular with its abbots Majolus and Odilo. She retired to a nunnery she had founded in c. 991 at Selz in Alsace.[5] Though she never became a nun, she spent the rest of her days there in prayer. On her way to Burgundy to support her nephew Rudolf III against a rebellion, she died at Selz Abbey on December 16, 999, days short of the millennium she thought would bring the Second Coming of Christ. She had constantly devoted herself to the service of the church and peace, and to the empire as guardian of both; she also interested herself in the conversion of the Slavs. She was thus a principal agent—almost an embodiment—of the work of the Catholic Church during the Early Middle Ages in the construction of the religion-culture of western Europe.[6] A part of her relics are preserved in a shrine in Hanover. Her feast day, December 16, is still kept in many German dioceses.

Issue[edit]

In 947, Adelaide was married to King Lothair II of Italy. The union produced one child:

In 951, Adelaide was married to King Otto I, the future Holy Roman Emperor. The union produced four children:

Legacy[edit]

Adelaïde is the heroine of Gioacchino Rossini's 1817 opera, Adelaide di Borgogna and William Bernard McCabe's 1856 novel Adelaide, Queen of Italy, or The Iron Crown.

Adelaide is a featured figure on Judy Chicago's installation piece The Dinner Party, being represented as one of the 999 names on the Heritage Floor.[7][8]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Campbell, Thomas. "St. Adelaide." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 20 Sept. 2012
  2. ^ a b c McKitterick, Rosamond (1999). The new Cambridge medieval history (1. publ. ed.). Cambridge [u.a.]: Cambridge Univ. Press. ISBN 0521364477. 
  3. ^ Gallick, Sarah (2009). The big book of women saints. Pymble, NSW: HarperCollins e-books. ISBN 0061956562. 
  4. ^ Odilo of Cluny, Epitaph of Adelheid ch. 3, in Gilsdorf, Queenship and Sanctity, 131
  5. ^ Saint Adelaide of Bugundy”. Saints.SQPN.com. 15 June 2012. Web. {2012-9-20}.
  6. ^ "The Saints: A concise Biographical Dictionary", edited by John Coulson, published by Hawthorn Books, Inc. 1960.[1]
  7. ^ "Adelaide". Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: The Dinner Party: Heritage Floor: Adelaide. Brooklyn Museum. 2007. Retrieved 15 December 2011. 
  8. ^ Chicago, 104-105.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Attwater, Donald and Catherine Rachel John. The Penguin Dictionary of Saints. New York: Penguin Books (1993). ISBN 0-14-051312-4.
  • Chicago, Judy. The Dinner Party: From Creation to Preservation. London: Merrell (2007). ISBN 1-85894-370-1
  • Gilsdorf, Sean, trans. Queenship and Sanctity: The Lives of Mathilda and the Epitaph of Adelheid. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press (2004). ISBN 0-81321-374-6

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Royal titles
Vacant
Title last held by
Edith of Wessex
Queen consort of Germany
951–961
Vacant
Title next held by
Theophanu
Vacant
Title last held by
Bertila of Spoleto
Empress consort of the Holy Roman Empire
962–973