Middle Ages

Europe 1214, Bouvines
Europe 1214, Bouvines

The castle ruins of Drachenfels, Löwenburg and Rosenau, Heisterbach Abbey and the ruins of the medieval church on Petersberg remind us of the High Middle Ages. Obviously, there is a lot to report from this era, the time of knights, minnesang, medieval castles and the crusades.

The time of the Ottonian and Salian emperors

in 925, under king Henry the Fowler, the Rhineland became part East Francia. His son Otto I the Great rose to become the most powerful ruler of the Occident. Nonetheless, he had a hard time with the dukes. Therefore, he sought the support of the clergy, the Ottonian Imperial Church system came into being. His brother Bruno was archbishop of Cologne. His daughter-in-law Theophanu is buried in St. Pantaleon, Cologne.

The Salian kings gave us the great imperial cathedrals in Speyer, Worms and Mainz. In Cologne, St. Georg and St. Maria im Kapitol came into being, whose cloverleaf choir soon became a model for other churches in Cologne and the region. The archbishops of Cologne were powerful men in the empire and in our region. In 1118 they built the castle on the Wolkenburg, the first castle in the Siebengebirge.

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The time of the Staufer emperors

Frederick Barbarossa, the Red Beard, Henry VI, who hold the crusader Richard the Lionheart in captivity, and finally Frederick II in faraway Puglia. In the Staufer period we encounter the most famous names of the High Middle Ages. It was an eventful time, and our region was devastated by wars.

Despite his numerous campaigns in Italy, Barbarossa’s empire was north of the Alps. This changed already Henry V, under his son and successor. Henry’s mother Beatrix came from Burgundy, his wife Norman wife Constanze of Hauteville brought the Kingdom of Sicily into the marriage. His son Frederick II grew up in Palermo, he loved his homeland. During his reign, southern Italy was the center of his empire, his grandfather’s northern alpine territories came second.

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Richard and Otto, uncle and nephew

German and European history met again when Richard the Lionheart was king of England. After a long capitvity in Germany, Richard was finally released. However, he had to send hostages, among them his nephew Otto, the son of his sister Matilda Plantagenet and duke Henry the Lion of Brunswick. Richard and Otto were very close. After the sudden death of Henry VI, Richard proposed his nephew as a candidate for the throne.

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A look beyond the Rhineland

The first spouse of the Saxon Otto I the Great was Eadgyth (910-946), a princess born to the anglo-saxon royal house of Wessex.

After William the Conqueror’s victory in the Battle of Hastings 1066, the Norman conquest of England began (Norman Britain (1066-1154). Wilhelm’s son and successor was Henry I, his daughter Matilda married Henry V, the last emperor of the Salian dynasty. After his death, she kept her title as Empress and married Geoffrey of Anjou. Her father Henry I nominated her as his heir, but the Anglo-Norman barons did not approve.

After Henry’s death, Matildas cousin Stephen of Blois took the throne. Years of anarchy followed. Eventually, in 1154, Matilda’s son with Geoffrey ascended the throne as Henry II.

Now here we have the political map of Europe at the time of the Hohenstaufen dynasty. In southern Italy and Sicily, the Normans had established their kingdom. France was controversial. King Louis in Paris only ruled over the Ile de France and the bordering territories. Most of western France, however, belonged to the Anglo-Norman Plantagenets (Angevin Empire (1154-1214), King Henry II of England and his wife Eleonore of Aquitaine and their son Richard I Lionheart.

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