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Not to be confused with Canosa in southern Italy.
Comune di Canossa
View of the Rock of Canossa with the ruins of the castle visible at the top
View of the Rock of Canossa with the ruins of the castle visible at the top
Coat of arms of Canossa
Coat of arms
Canossa is located in Italy
Location of Canossa in Italy
Coordinates: 44°36′N 10°25′E / 44.600°N 10.417°E / 44.600; 10.417
Country Italy
Region Emilia-Romagna
Province Reggio Emilia (RE)
Frazioni Albareto, Borzano Chiesa, Borzano di Sopra, Borzano di Sotto, Braglie, Casalino, Cavandola, Ceredolo de' Coppi, Ceredolo dei Coppi Nuovo, Cerezzola, Ciano d'Enza, Compiano, Crognolo, Currada, Dirotte, Fornace, Gazzolo, Iagarone, Massalica, Monchio delle Olle, Pietranera, Roncaglio, Roncovetro, Rossena, Selva, Selvapiana, Solara, Trinità, Vedriano, Verlano, Votigno
 • Mayor Enzo Musi
 • Total 53 km2 (20 sq mi)
Highest elevation 689 m (2,260 ft)
Lowest elevation 112 m (367 ft)
Population (31 May 2007)
 • Total 3,617
 • Density 68/km2 (180/sq mi)
Demonym Canossani
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 • Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Postal code 42263
Dialing code 0522
Website Official website

Canossa (Province of Reggio Emilia) is a comune and castle town in Emilia-Romagna, famous as the site where Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV did penance in 1077, standing three days bare-headed in the snow, in order to reverse his excommunication by Pope Gregory VII. The Walk to Canossa is sometimes used as a symbol of the changing relationship between the medieval Church and State.

Canossa has a population of 3,376, and borders the comuni of Casina, Castelnovo ne' Monti, Neviano degli Arduini (PR), San Polo d'Enza, Traversetolo (PR), Vetto, and Vezzano sul Crostolo.

Main sights[edit]

Matilda with Hugo of Cluny and Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV.

Canossa Castle was built before the middle of the 10th century by Adalbert Atto, son of Sigifred of Lucca.

When Adelaide of Italy, the respective daughter, daughter-in-law, and widow of the last three kings of Italy, was hard pressed by a local noble – Berengar of Ivrea, who declared himself king of Italy, abducted Adelaide, and tried to legitimize his reign by forcing Adelaide to marry his son Adalbert – it was to Canossa that she escaped. From the rocca of Canossa she issued a call for German intervention. Canossa was inherited by Matilda of Tuscany, the principal Italian supporter of Pope Gregory VII, in 1052. Matilda died in 1115 in Mantuan territory.

Matilda invited the Pope Gregory VII to take refuge in Canossa castle in 1076/77 during the dispute with Henry IV, the Holy Roman Emperor. In the end their joint fears proved groundless when Henry appeared in the guise of a penitent and begged for "forgiveness" and reinstatement in the church. After three days of waiting at the castle gates, Henry was admitted and forgiven.[1]

The fortress was destroyed by invaders from Reggio in 1256. The church of San Apollonio, within the walls and contemporary with the castle, was also destroyed. Only the christening font remains, preserved in the national museum "Naborre Campanini" next to the remains of the wall.

Perched spectacularly on top of the white cliffs of the Apennines, the castle is an abandoned ruin today. Because of its historical importance each year more than 30,000 tourists come here, especially from Germany.

A nearby Tempietto del Petrarca, Canossa celebrates the refuge of Petrarch here offered by a local warlord.


Saint Magdalen of Canossa is an Italian saint of the early 19th century, who set up the Institute of the Daughters of Charity and in whose name Canossian schools have been set up in many countries.

See also[edit]

  1. ^ This event is described in greater detail in the article Walk to Canossa.