Sneha Girap (Editor)

Adelaide of Italy

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit
Feast  16 December
Name  Adelaide Italy
Role  Holy Roman Empress

Adelaide of Italy photosgenicomp1386acb0255344483a9e8196f8a
Venerated in  Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church
Canonized  1097 by Pope Urban II (Roman Catholicism)
Attributes  Empress dispensing alms and food to the poor, often beside a ship
Patronage  abuse victims; brides; empresses; exiles; in-law problems; parenthood; parents of large families; princesses; prisoners; second marriages; step-parents; widows
Died  December 16, 999 AD, Selz Abbey
Spouse  Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor (m. 951 AD–973 AD), Lothair II of Italy (m. 947 AD–950 AD)
Children  Otto II, Holy Roman Emperor, Matilda, Abbess of Quedlinburg, Emma of Italy
Parents  Rudolph II of Burgundy, Bertha of Swabia
Grandchildren  Otto III, Holy Roman Emperor, Louis V of France
Similar People  Otto I - Holy Roman Emperor, Otto II - Holy Roman Emperor, Theophanu, Otto III - Holy Roman E, Henry the Fowler

Adelaide of Italy (931 – 16 December 999), also called Adelaide of Burgundy, was a Holy Roman Empress by marriage to Holy Roman Emperor Otto the Great; she was crowned as the Holy Roman Empress with him by Pope John XII in Rome on February 2, 962. She was regent of the Holy Roman Empire as the guardian of her grandson in 991-995.


Early life

Born in Orbe Castle, Orbe, Kingdom of Upper Burgundy (now in modern-day Switzerland), she was the daughter of Rudolf II of Burgundy, a member of the Elder House of Welf, and Bertha of Swabia. Her first marriage, at the age of fifteen, was to the son of her father's rival in Italy, Lothair II, the nominal King of Italy; the union was part of a political settlement designed to conclude a peace between her father and Hugh of Provence, the father of Lothair. Their daughter, Emma of Italy, was born about 948.


The Calendar of Saints states that her first husband was poisoned by the holder of real power, his successor, Berengar II of Italy, who attempted to cement his political power by forcing her to marry his son, Adalbert; when she refused and fled, she was tracked down and imprisoned for four months at Como.

According to Adelaide's contemporary biographer, Odilo of Cluny, she managed to escape from captivity. After a time spent in the marshes nearby, she was rescued and taken to a "certain impregnable fortress," likely the fortified town of Canossa near Reggio. She managed to send an emissary to Otto I, and asked the East Frankish king for his protection. The widow met Otto at the old Lombard capital of Pavia and they married in 951. Pope John XII crowned Otto Holy Roman Emperor in Rome on February 2, 962, and, breaking tradition, also crowned Adelaide as Holy Roman Empress.

In Germany, the crushing of a revolt in 953 by Liudolf, Otto's son by his first marriage, cemented Adelaide's position, for she retained all her dower lands. She and their eleven-year-old son, the crown prince who became Otto II, accompanied Otto in 966 on his third expedition to Italy, where Otto restored the newly elected Pope John XIII to his throne (and executed some of the Roman rioters who had deposed him). Adelaide remained in Rome for six years while Otto ruled his kingdom from Italy. Their son Otto II was crowned co-emperor in 967, then married the Byzantine princess Theophanu in April 972, resolving the conflict between the two empires in southern Italy, as well as ensuring the imperial succession. Adelaide and her husband then returned to Germany, where Otto died in May 973, at the same Memleben palace where his father had died 37 years earlier.


In 983, her son Otho II died and was succeeded by her grandson Otho III under the regency of his mother Adelaide's daughter-in-law Dowager Empress Theophanu. When Theophanu died in 991, Adelaide assumed regency on behalf of her grandson the Emperor until he reached legal majority four years later. Adelaide resigned as regent when Otho III was declared of legal majority in 995.

Adelaide had long entertained close relations with Cluny, then the center of the movement for ecclesiastical reform, and in particular with its abbots Majolus and Odilo. She retired to a nunnery she had founded in c. 991 at Selz in Alsace.

On her way to Burgundy to support her nephew Rudolf III against a rebellion, she died at Selz Abbey on December 16, 999, days short of the millennium she thought would bring the Second Coming of Christ. She had constantly devoted herself to the service of the church and peace, and to the empire as guardian of both; she also interested herself in the conversion of the Slavs. She was thus a principal agent—almost an embodiment—of the work of the pre-schism Orthodox Catholic Church at the end of the Early Middle Ages in the construction of the religious culture of Central Europe. Some of her relics are preserved in a shrine in Hanover. Her feast day, December 16, is still kept in many German dioceses.


In 947, Adelaide was married to King Lothair II of Italy. The union produced one child:

  • Emma of Italy (born 948), queen of France and wife of Lothair of France
  • In 951, Adelaide was married to King Otto I, the future Holy Roman Emperor. The union produced four children:

  • Henry (born 952)
  • Bruno (born 953)
  • Matilda – born 954, the first Princess-Abbess of Quedlinburg
  • Otto II (born 955), later Holy Roman Emperor
  • Legacy

  • Lotario is an opera seria in three acts by George Frideric Handel. It is a fictionalisation of some events in the life of Adeläide.
  • Adelaïde is the heroine of Gioacchino Rossini's 1817 opera, Adelaide di Borgogna and William Bernard McCabe's 1856 novel Adelaide, Queen of Italy, or The Iron Crown.
  • Adelaide is a featured figure on Judy Chicago's installation piece The Dinner Party, being represented as one of the 999 names on the Heritage Floor.
  • References

    Adelaide of Italy Wikipedia

    Similar Topics
    Bertha of Swabia
    Henry the Fowler
    Holy Roman Emperor