Sophia I, Abbess of Gandersheim

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Sophia I
Abbess of the Imperial Abbey of Gandersheim
Reign 1001–1039
Predecessor Gerberga II
Successor Adelheid II
Born October 975
Died 30 January 1039
Gandersheim Abbey
House Ottonian Dynasty
Father Otto II, Holy Roman Emperor
Mother Theophanu
Religion Roman Catholic

Sophia I (October 975[1] – 30 January 1039), also known as Sophie I, was an Ottonian princess who was Abbess of Gandersheim from 1002, and from 1011 Abbess of Essen. She was an important kingmaker of medieval Germany.[2]

Early life[edit]

Sophia was the eldest daughter born to Otto II, Holy Roman Emperor, and Empress Theophanu. Since the age of four or five, Sophia was raised and educated in the Gandersheim Abbey. She was raised to become abbess of Gandersheim since childhood.[3] Her father's first cousin, Abbess Gerberga II, taught her convent discipline and common law, both of which she mastered.[4]

Reign as princess-abbess[edit]

Sophia received many grants of rights and property by her father and brother, Otto III, Holy Roman Emperor. From 995 until 997, Sophia was absent from the convent, accompanying her brother and acting as his consort. She acted as abbess of Eschwege from 997. In 1001, Abbess Gerberga II died. However, due to her brother's death, Sophia was not to be elected until 1002, with the approval of Henry II, Holy Roman Emperor. Her consecration was protracted by Sophia's demand to be consecrated by the Archbishop of Mainz, instead of the Bishop of Hildesheim who usually consecrated abbesses of Gandersheim. She was finally consecrated in 1002 by both the archbishop of Mainz and the bishop of Hildesheim. Sophia would later fight her ecclesiastical superiors who, with approval of Emperor Henry II, endangered Gandersheim's privilges and her own status.[3][4]


Together with her younger sister Adelheid I, Abbess of Quedlinburg, Sophia significantly influenced the election of Henry II as King of the Romans and legitimazing him in 1024, when he visited Vreden and Quedlinburg. Sophia and her sister would play the same role in election of Conrad II as Holy Roman Emperor.[3]


In 1011, Sophia was granted the Abbey of Essen, on the death of her cousin Mathilde, Abbess of Essen. For Sophia Essen was always secondary, and the importance of the abbey declined somewhat under her rule. She ruled her abbeys successfully until her death in 1039. Despite being helped by the sisters, Conrad II denied Adelheid's request to succeed Sophia as Abbess of Gandersheim. Henry III, Holy Roman Emperor, eventually granted her the right to rule Gandersheim too.[2][3]



  1. ^ Seibert, Hubertus (1998). Otto II. Neue Deutsche Biographie (NDB) Volume 19 (in German). Historische Kommission, Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften (BAdW). pp. 660–662. 
  2. ^ a b Wolfram; Kaiser, Herwig; Denise Adele (2006). Conrad II, 990-1039: emperor of three kingdoms. Penn State Press. ISBN 0-271-02738-X. Retrieved 2009-07-09. 
  3. ^ a b c d Bernhardt, John W. (2002). Itinerant Kingship and Royal Monasteries in Early Medieval Germany, C.936-1075. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-52183-1. Retrieved 2009-07-08. 
  4. ^ a b Eckenstein, Lina (1894). Women under Monasticism. Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 2009-07-11. 
Religious titles
Preceded by
Gerberga II
Abbess of Gandersheim
Succeeded by
Adelheid I