Thursday, 8 December 2016

German King, Otto I

Otto I (23 November 912 – 7 May 973), traditionally known as Otto I the Great (German: Otto I. der Gro├če), was German king from 936 and emperor of the Holy Roman Empire from 962 until his death in 973. He was the oldest son of Henry I the Fowler and Matilda.
Otto I

Otto inherited the Duchy of Saxony and the kingship of the Germans upon his father's death in 936. He continued his father's work of unifying all German tribes into a single kingdom and greatly expanded the king's powers at the expense of the aristocracy.

Through strategic marriages and personal appointments, Otto installed members of his family in the kingdom's most important duchies.

This reduced the various dukes, who had previously been co-equals with the king, to royal subjects under his authority. Otto transformed the Roman Catholic Church in Germany to strengthen royal authority and subjected its clergy to his personal control.

After putting down a brief civil war among the rebellious duchies, Otto defeated the Magyars at the Battle of Lechfeld in 955, thus ending the Hungarian invasions of Western Europe. The victory against the pagan Magyars earned Otto a reputation as a Saviour of Christendom and secured his hold over the kingdom. By 961, Otto had conquered the Kingdom of Italy and extended his realm's borders to the north, east, and south. The patronage of Otto and his immediate successors facilitated a so-called "Ottonian Renaissance" of arts and architecture.
Otto I
 Following the example of Charlemagne's coronation as "Emperor of the Romans" in 800, Otto was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 962 by Pope John XII in Rome.

Otto's later years were marked by conflicts with the papacy and struggles to stabilise his rule over Italy. Reigning from Rome, Otto sought to improve relations with the Byzantine Empire, which opposed his claim to emperorship and his realm's further expansion to the south.

To resolve this conflict, the Byzantine princess Theophanu married his son Otto II in April 972. Otto finally returned to Germany in August 972 and died at Memleben in May 973. Otto II succeeded him as Holy Roman Emperor.

Arnulf, Duke of Bavaria, died in 937 and was succeeded by his son Eberhard. The new duke quickly came into conflict with Otto, as Eberhard opposed the king's sovereignty over Bavaria under the peace treaty between King Henry and Arnulf. Refusing to recognise Otto's supremacy, Eberhard rebelled against the king.

In two campaigns in the spring and fall of 938, Otto defeated and exiled Eberhard from the kingdom and stripped him of his titles.
Otto I
 In his place, Otto appointed Eberhard's uncle Berthold, a count in the March of Carinthia, as the new Duke of Bavaria on the condition that Berthold would recognise Otto as the sole authority to appoint bishops and to administer royal property within the duchy.

At the same time, Otto had to settle a dispute between Bruning, a Saxon noble, and Duke Eberhard of Franconia, the brother of the former king Conrad I of Germany. After the rise of a Saxon to kingship, Bruning, a local lord with possessions in the borderland between Franconia and Saxony, refused to swear fealty to any non-Saxon ruler.

Eberhard attacked Bruning's Helmern castle near Peckelsheim, killed all of its inhabitants and burned it down. The king called the feuding parties to his court at Magdeburg, where Eberhard was ordered to pay a fine, and his lieutenants were sentenced to carry dead dogs in public, which was considered a particularly shameful punishment.

Infuriated with Otto's actions, Eberhard joined Otto's half-brother Thankmar, Count Wichmann, and Archbishop Frederick of Mainz and rebelled against the king in 938. Duke Herman I of Swabia, one of Otto's closest advisors, warned him of the rebellion and the king moved quickly to put down the revolt.
Otto I
 Wichmann was soon reconciled with Otto and joined the king's forces against his former allies. Otto besieged Thankmar at Eresburg and had him killed at the altar of the Church of St. Peter. Following their defeats, Eberhard and Frederick sought reconciliation with the king. Otto pardoned both after a brief exile in Hildesheim and restored them to their former positions.

Beginning in the late 940s, Otto changed his internal policy and began to use the Catholic Church as a tool of his dominance. He increasingly associated himself with the Church and his "divine right" to rule the kingdom, viewing himself as the protector of the Church. As a key element of this change in domestic structures, Otto sought to strengthen ecclesiastical authorities, chiefly bishops and abbots, at the expense of the secular nobility who threatened his power.
Otto I coin

Otto controlled the various bishops and abbots by investing them with the symbols of their offices, both spiritual and secular, so the clerics were appointed as his vassals through a commendation ceremony. Historian Norman Cantor concludes: "Under these conditions clerical election became a mere formality in the Ottonian empire, and the king filled up the ranks of the episcopate with his own relatives and with his loyal chancery clerks, who were also appointed to head the great German monasteries."

The most prominent member of this blended royal-ecclesiastical service was his own brother Bruno the Great, Otto's Chancellor since 940, who was appointed Archbishop of Cologne and Duke of Lorraine in 953. Other important religious officials within Otto's government included Archbishop William of Mainz (Otto's illegitimate son), Archbishop Adaldag of Bremen, and Hadamar, the Abbot of Fulda.
Otto's Crown

Otto endowed the bishoprics and abbeys of his kingdom with numerous gifts, including land and royal prerogatives, such as the power to levy taxes and to maintain an army.

Over these Church lands, secular authorities had neither the power of taxation nor legal jurisdiction. This raised the Church above the various dukes and committed its clerics to serve as the king's personal vassals. In order to support the Church, Otto made tithing mandatory for all inhabitants of Germany.

Otto granted the various bishops and abbots of the kingdom the rank of count as well as the legal rights of counts within their territory. Because Otto personally appointed all bishops and abbots, these reforms strengthened his central authority, and the upper ranks of the German Church functioned in some respect as an arm of the royal bureaucracy. Otto routinely appointed his personal court chaplains to bishoprics throughout the kingdom. While attached to the royal court, the chaplains would perform the work of the government through services to the royal chancery. After years within the royal court, Otto would reward their service with promotion to a diocese.

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