Otto of Nordheim

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Otto of Northeim (c. 1020 – 11 January 1083) was Duke of Bavaria from 1061 until 1070. He was one of the leaders of the Saxon Rebellion (1073-1075) and the Great Saxon Revolt (1077-1088) against Henry IV of Germany.


Otto belonged to the rich and influential Saxon family of the counts of Northeim. He was born c.1020 and his parents were Bernard, count of Northeim, and Eilika.[1] He succeeded his father as count of Northeim in 1049.

Role during the regency of Henry IV[edit]

In 1061 Otto was appointed duke of Bavaria by the Dowager Empress Agnes.[2] Agnes was the widow of Emperor Henry III, and mother of, and regent for, the young king Henry IV. The following year (1062), Otto was among those who assisted Archbishop Anno II of Cologne in seizing control of Henry IV and the regency, in the so-called Coup of Kaiserswerth.[3]

Otto took a prominent part in the government of the kingdom during Henry's minority. He led a successful expedition into Hungary in 1063 to reinstall Solomon as king. (Solomon, who was betrothed to Henry's sister, Judith of Swabia, had been driven out by his uncle Béla I of Hungary.) In 1064 Otto went to Italy to settle a papal schism caused by the appointment of Antipope Honorius II. Otto was also instrumental in securing the banishment from court of Archbishop Adalbert of Bremen-Hamburg. He crossed the Alps in the royal interests on two other occasions and in 1069 shared in two expeditions to the east of Germany.[3]

Conflict with Henry IV[edit]

Otto neglected his duchy, but added to his personal possessions in the southern Harz region, which ultimately led into conflict with Henry IV, who had crown lands in this region.[3] In 1070 he was accused by Egeno I of Konradsburg of being privy to a plot to murder the king, and it was decided he should submit to trial by combat with his accuser at Goslar. Fearing for his safety, Otto asked for a safe-conduct to and from the place of meeting. When this was refused he declined to appear and was consequently placed under the imperial ban and deprived of Bavaria, while his Saxon estates were plundered.[4] He obtained no support in Bavaria, but raised an army among the Saxons and carried out a campaign of plunder against Henry until 1071, when he submitted. In the following year he received back his private estates,[3] though not the ducal title, which had been granted to his former son-in-law, Welf I, Duke of Bavaria.[5]


According to Bruno, author of De bello Saxonico (On the Saxon War), when the Saxon Rebellion broke out in summer 1073, Otto delivered an inspiring speech to the assembled Saxons at Wormsleben, after which he took command of the insurgents. By the peace of Gerstungen on 2 February 1074 Bavaria was formally restored to him,[3] which however met strong opposition with the result that Otto's former son-in-law Welf I remained de facto duke of Bavaria.[citation needed] He also participated in the second rising of 1075[3] following the demolition of Harzburg Castle,[citation needed] after which he was again pardoned by Henry and made administrator of Saxony.[3]

After the excommunication of Henry IV by Pope Gregory VII in 1076, Otto attempted to mediate between Henry and the Saxons at Trebur,[3] but when these efforts failed he again joined the insurgents. Otto was not the leader of the Great Saxon Revolt, however. Once he was assured that the duchy of Bavaria would be returned to him, Otto accepted the election of Rudolf of Rheinfelden as Antiking of Germany. Through his skill and bravery, Otto inflicted defeats on Henry's forces at the battles of Mellrichstadt, Flarchheim and Hohenmölsen.[3]

Otto remained in arms against the king until his death on 11 January 1083.[3] He is buried in the Nicolai Chapel in Northeim.[6]


Otto is described as a noble, prudent and warlike man, and he possessed great abilities. His repeated pardons showed that Henry could not afford to neglect such a powerful personality, and his military talents were repeatedly displayed.

Marriage and children[edit]

By his wife Richenza, who was probably a member of the Billung dynasty, he had four sons and three daughters.[3]


  1. ^ von Hindte, 'Otto,' col. 1578.
  2. ^ Black-Veldtrupp, Kaiserin Agnes, p. 239.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Chisholm 1911, p. 376.
  4. ^ Annales altahenses maiores, a.1070, pp. 77f.
  5. ^ Lampert of Hersfeld, Annales, a.1071, p. 132
  6. ^ von Hindte, 'Otto,' col. 1578.
  7. ^ K-H. Lange, Die Grafen von Northeim (950-1144). Politische Stellung, Genealogie und Herrschaftsbereich. Beiträge zur Geschichte des sächsischen Adels im Hochmittelalter (Dissertation, Kiel, 1958), pp. 142-145, accessible online at: Genealogie Mittelater


  • H. von Hindte, 'Otto von Northeim,' Lexikon des Mittelalters, vol. 6 (1993), col. 1578.
  • M. Black-Veldtrupp, Kaiserin Agnes (1043-1077) Quellenkritische Studien.
  • Lampert of Hersfeld, Annales, in O. Holder-Egger, ed., Lamperti monachi Hersfeldensis Opera, MGH SS rer Germ 38 (Hanover, 1894), pp. 1–304, accessible online at: Monumenta Germaniae Historica (in Latin)
  • Annales Altahenses maiores (written c.1075), ed. W. Giesebrecht and E. L. B. von Oefele, MGH SS rer Germ 4 (Hannover, 1890, 2nd edition), accessible online at: Monumenta Germaniae Historica (in Latin).
  • Giesebrecht, Wilhelm von (1881–1890), Geschichte der deutschen Kaiserzeit III, Leipzig 
  • Mehmel, H. (1870), Otto von Nordheim, Herzog von Bayern, Göttingen 
  • Neumann, E. (1871), Duc Ottone de Nordheim, Breslau 
  • Riezler, 1878, Geschichte Bayerns, Gotha 
  • Vogeler, A. (1880), Otto von Nordheim, Göttingen 

External links[edit]

This article incorporates information from the equivalent article on the German Wikipedia.
Otto of Nordheim
House of Nordheim
Born: c. 1020 Died: 1083
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Henry VIII
Duke of Bavaria
Succeeded by
Welf I