Henry II, Roman Emperor, St.

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Reigned from June 7, 1002 until July 13, 1024; b. Bavaria or Hildesheim (?), May 6, 973; d. Grona by Göttingen, Germany. The son of Duke Henry II, the Quarrelsome, of Bavaria, and Gisela, daughter of King Conrad of Burgundy, and the great grandson of King Henry I of Germany, Henry received his earliest education from Bishop Abraham of Freising. Later, he began a clerical education at the cathedral school of Hildesheim, and he finished his education in Bavaria with Bishop Wolfgang of Regensburg, by whom he was introduced to the monastic reform emanating from Lotharingia. In 995, upon his father's death, he became Duke Henry IV of Bavaria and a loyal supporter of his second cousin Emperor Otto III. He married (99597/1000) Kunigunde, countess of Luxembourg. After Otto III's death, Henry contended for the throne and had himself elected and anointed king in June at Mainz by Archbishop Willigis. Henry II's significance as king lay in his attempts to establish undiminished royal power over secular princes, his complex and manifold relations with the church, his efforts to integrate the realm, and his elevation of a sacral notion of rulership to a new height, which one finds expressed verbally, visually, and liturgically in the sources. He received the imperial coronation in Rome from Benedict VIII on Feb. 14, 1014.

Henry II's elevation to kingship did not come easily. In January 1002, when Otto III died in Italy without an heir, three main candidates emerged for the German throne. Of these, Henry had the strongest hereditary claim to succession, yet a large part of the nobility opposed Henry or did not initially support his candidacy. To fortify his position, Henry seized the regalia, including the Holy Lance, from the entourage bearing Otto III's body from Italy to Aachen through Bavaria, and in a series of ritual acts he played the role of next of kin and presumptive successor to the throne. Despite the opposition, Henry managed to have himself elected, anointed, and crowned king at Mainz in June by a small but influential group of nobles and churchmen. Thereafter, he achieved final recognition on the battlefield and made his first royal progress (Umritt ) through the realm. On this progress, Henry had his election and kingship acclaimed and formally recognized by the peoples of the several duchies through a ritual repetition of ceremonial and constitutive acts.

In Henry II's foreign policy, three areas stand out: his long protracted feud or war with Boleslav Chrobry of Poland, his alterations of Otto III's policies regarding Italy and imperial ambitions, and his efforts to stabilize the West and establish the hereditary claim of the German king to the kingdom of Burgundy. One can argue that under Henry II the eastern borders of the German kingdom began to stabilize, the missionary expansion of the tenth century slowed, and Henry pursued an imperial policy within achievable limits. Henry's hostilities with Boleslav lasted most of his reign and drove him to ally with the heathen Liutizi against the Christian Boleslav. Henry's contemporaries criticized him harshly, and this criticism, coupled with the half-hearted support given Henry by the Saxon nobility, muted his effectiveness. He had to settle for compromises in 1005, 1013, and 1018, which granted Boleslav lands in the East as fiefs, yet curtailed Boleslav's takeover of Bohemia.

Henry's policies in Italy mark a pronounced shift of emphasis, of his rulership in comparison to his Ottonian predecessors. Whereas Otto III spent over fifty percent of his reign in Italy, Henry spent only seven percent of his reign there. He made only three trips to Italy, in 1004 to foil Arduin's usurpation of the Italian kingship, in 101314 to support Pope Benedict VIII by reissuing the Privilegium Ottonianum and to acquire the imperial coronation, and in 1022 to reassert imperial dominion over Capua and Salerno in the face of Byzantine advances in southern Italy. Despite his infrequent visits to Italy, Henry's charters, regardless of where issued, document intensive rulership activity there. Finally, Henry's initiatives in Burgundy set the stage for the acquisition of that kingdom by his successor, Conrad II.

Henry II's internal policies developed from his concept of a divinely ordained kingship with undiminished royal power in both the secular and the ecclesiastical spheres. Henry strengthened the authority of the king over German dukes, princes, and prelates, systematically augmented the wealth and the political and economic servitium regis of bishoprics and royal monasteries, and supported a general reform movement in the Church. Attempting to break up concentrations of princely power, Henry moved with varying success against dukes and princes alike. He managed to integrate the southern duchies more fully into the realm, to diminish the power of numerous magnates, and often to empower churchmen in their place. Henry's enrichment and empowerment of royal churches, both episcopal and monastic foundations, came with significant increases in royal dominion over these institutions, especially the king's right to invest, sometimes even appoint, bishops, abbots, and abbesses, and to employ candidates from the royal chapel in ecclesiastical positions throughout the realm. Thus, he used the royal church as well as itinerant kingship to bolster his power and to integrate the realm.

Nevertheless, Henry took his divinely conceded obligations seriously. He participated in monastic and episcopal prayer fraternities and became a canon in several cathedral chapters. The reinstatement of the bishopric of Merseburg (1004) and the foundation of the bishopric Bamberg (1007) count as Henry's greatest ecclesiastical achievements. He also founded numerous monasteries and imposed a Lotharingian-based monastic reform on many powerful royal monasteries. Finally, he took active part in numerous German synods and with the pope in general reforming synods of 1014 and 1022. He died in 1024 at the royal residence of Grone and received burial in the cathedral at Bamberg. Soon after his death legends began to circulate about the chastity of his marriage and his religious character. When Pope Eugene III canonized him in 1146, Henry became the sole medieval German king to be so honored.

Feast: July 15; in the diocese of Bamberg, July 13.

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[j. bernhardt]

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Henry II, Roman Emperor, St.

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