Humbert I, Count of Savoy

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Umberto I
Count of Savoy
Humbert I of Savoy tomb.jpg
The cenotaph of Umberto I of Savoy in the Cathedral of Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne
Successor Amadeus I
Spouse(s) Ancilla of Lenzburg
Noble family House of Savoy
Father Amadeus, Count of Belley
Born c. 980
Died 1047 or 1048
Buried Cathedral of Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne

Umberto I or Humbert I (French: Humbert aux blanches-mains; Italian: Umberto Biancamano; c. 980 – 1042 or 1047/1048) was the first Count of Savoy from 1032, when the County of Vienne, which had been sold to the Archdiocese of Vienne, was divided between the County of Albon and Maurienne.



Umberto was the son of Amadeus (who was perhaps count of Maurienne).[1] His brother was Bishop Otto of Belley. Umberto is the progenitor of the dynasty known as the House of Savoy. The origins of this dynasty are unknown, but Humbert's ancestors are variously said to have come from Saxony,[2] Burgundy or Provence. Given Humbert's close connections with Rudolf III of Burgundy,[3] it is likely that his family were Burgundian, and were descended either from the dukes of Vienne,[4] or from a Burgundian aristocratic family (such as the Guigonids, ancestors of the counts of Albon).[5]

Umberto initially held lands around Belley and in the county of Sermorens,[6] before gaining lands in Aosta and Valais.[7]

Umberto Whitehands[edit]

He is also called Umberto the White-Handed (French: Humbert aux Blanches-Mains; Italian: Umberto Biancamano) reportedly to signify his generosity. However, this posthumously applied title may derive from a misreading of a late medieval record (in Latin) which actually refers to the walls of his castle (blancis moenibus), not his hands (blancis manibus), as white.[8]

Umberto and empire[edit]

After Rudolf III’s death (1032), Umberto I swore fealty to Emperor Conrad II.[9] He supported Conrad II in his campaigns against Odo II, Count of Blois and Archbishop Aribert of Milan.[10] In return, Conrad II appointed Umberto count of Savoy and granted him Maurienne, Chablais and perhaps Tarentaise.[11] These imperial grants to a loyal supporter secured key passes through the Alps, controlling trade between Italy and the rest of Europe, which would be the core of Savoy power for centuries.[12]

Marriage and children[edit]

Umberto married Ancilla (Auxilia or Ancilia). She may have been Ancilla of Lenzburg, the daughter of the master of ceremonies of Burgundy. Alternatively, Ancilla may have been a daughter of Anselm and Aldiud, and thus a member of a northern Italian dynasty known as the Anselmids.[13] With his wife, Umberto had at least four sons:

  1. Amadeus I (died 1056), Count of Savoy, successor
  2. Aymon (died 1054 or 1055), Bishop of Sion
  3. Burchard (died 1068 or 1069), Archbishop of Lyon
  4. Otto (died ca. 1057), Count of Savoy, successor of his brother

Some authors believe that he had additional sons.


Umberto is often said to have died c.1047/8 at Hermillon, a town in the Maurienne region of present day Savoie, France.[14] More recently, it has been suggested that he died by 1042.[15] Umberto was buried in the cathedral of Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne.


  1. ^ Hellmann, Grafen, p. 2. By contrast, according to a late medieval legend, Umberto's father was a Saxon noble named Berold, who was the grandson of Emperor Otto II
  2. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg "Savoy". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. 
  3. ^ For Umberto's relationship with Rudolf III, see Previté-Orton, Early History, pp. 9, 13ff.,26, 38, 47ff,
  4. ^ Previté-Orton, Early History
  5. ^ Ducourthial, ‘Géographie du pouvoir'
  6. ^ Ducourthial, ‘Géographie,’ pp. 223-235
  7. ^ Previté-Orton, Early History, pp. 19ff., 90ff.
  8. ^ History of House of Savoy
  9. ^ Previté-Orton, Early History, pp. 32f.
  10. ^ Previté-Orton, Early History, pp. 19, 30ff., 35, 41; Hellmann, Grafen, pp. 8ff.
  11. ^ Ducouthial, ‘Géographie,’pp. 235-238. By contrast, Hellmann, Grafen, p. 3 argues Umberto possessed Maurienne long before this.
  12. ^ Cox 1967, p. 18-19.
  13. ^ On the identity of Umberto's wife, see Previté-Orton, Early History, pp. 10f., 19ff., 67f., 71; Die Urkunden der burgundischen Rudolfinger, p. 23 n.11.
  14. ^ Previté-Orton, Early History, pp. 39f., 69; Hellmann, Grafen, p. 10
  15. ^ Ducourthial, ‘Géographie,’ p. 231


  • Cox, Eugene L. (1967). The Green Count of Savoy. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. LCCN 67-11030. 
  • C.W. Previté-Orton, The Early History of the House of Savoy (1000-1233) (Cambridge, 1912), accessible online at:
  • S. Hellmann, Die Grafen von Savoyen und das Reich: bis zum Ende der staufischen Periode (Innsbruck, 1900), accessible online (but without page numbers) at: Genealogie Mittelalter
  • Die Urkunden der burgundischen Rudolfinger, ed. T. Schieffer, MGH DD Burg (Munich, 1977), accessible online at: Monumenta Germaniae Historia
  • C. Ducourthial, ‘Géographie du pouvoir en pays de Savoie au tournant de l’an Mil,’ in C. Guilleré, J- M. Poisson, L. Ripart and C. Ducourthial, eds., Le royaume de Bourgogne autour de l’an mil (Chambéry, 2008), pp. 207–246.

External links[edit]

Umberto the White-Handed
Born: c. 980 Died: 1047 or 1048
Regnal titles
New title Count of Savoy
Succeeded by
Amadeus I