Henry III, Roman Emperor
HENRY III, ROMAN EMPEROR
June 4, 1039 to Oct. 5, 1056; son of conrad ii and Gisella; b. Osterbeck, Oct. 28, 1017. His father named him his successor in 1026, and he was crowned as joint king in 1028. Following a good education, he was married (1036) to Gunhild (d. 1038), the daughter of canute of england and denmark; in 1043, after the death of Gunhild, he married Agnes of Poitou (d. 1077). In 1038 he became Duke of Swabia, and the following year he succeeded his father. During the more than 15 years of his reign, Henry demonstrated his deep concern for the future of the German monarchy and for the reform of the Church. The new king's first task was to enlarge and consolidate the royal domains. He attempted to retain control and to administer personally Swabia, Bavaria, and Carinthia, but he was finally forced to rule through elected dukes. He came to rely upon such ecclesiastical princes of the Empire as adalbert of bremen, with the result that he has been blamed for weakening the monarchy, for whose future he had such genuine anxiety. Too often, the bishops he trusted betrayed his confidence and acted from motives as base as those of the turbulent lay nobility. Despite Henry's efforts at enforcing the peace of god, private war flourished throughout his reign. Nevertheless, his efforts were rewarded, since Bratislav I did homage for his Duchy of Bohemia in 1041. Subsequently, Henry received the homage of King Peter of Hungary.
Both Henry and his second wife Agnes were persons of deep piety. Agnes' family had founded the monastery of Cluny, where the reform movement of the tenth century began. In 1046 Henry's interest in the reform in the Church took him to Italy to settle the question of papal succession, disputed by three claimants: Benedict IX, Sylvester III, and Gregory VI. For Henry sincerely believed that a healthy papacy was fundamental for a reformed Church. At Piacenza in November, Henry met Gregory, who greeted him with full honors. Nevertheless, Henry brought about the deposition of Gregory and Sylvester in a synod at Sutri and declared Benedict deposed at a later synod in Rome. He then selected a bishop from his retinue, Suidger of Bamberg to the throne of St. Peter. Suidger, who took the name Clement II, crowned Henry and Agnes emperor and empress on Christmas Day 1046. Clement also granted Henry the title Patricius Romanorum, which gave ecclesiastical sanction to his role as the defender of the Church. Henry's influence was paramount in the selection of the three popes after Clement II, the most important of whom was leo ix. At his accession in 1049, the imperial effort at reform was reinforced by vigorous, intelligent pope, who spent most of his five-year pontificate traveling throughout Europe in an attempt to correct ecclesiastical abuses.
Henry's final journey to Italy, in 1055, when be accompanied Pope victor ii for his coronation, was marked by his failure to gain the submission of the Count of Tuscany, a failure pregnant with significance for future relations between the papacy and the Empire. Henry died at Bodfeld and was buried in the cathedral of Speyer. His heir was a mere boy; and the great edifice of Empire, which he had defended, had no protector.
Henry's legacy is ambivalent. He certainly succeeded in freeing the papacy from the control of Roman aristocrats, who, if the reformers' reports are to be believed, used the institution only for their own material advantage. In contrast, between 1046 and 1057 there were five German popes, but inspired by the reform movement, which was very strong north of the Alps, the papacy was not about to develop into an imperial chaplaincy. The popes took the opportunity that the minority of his son Henry IV provided to assert their independence of the empire and of lay control. In doing so they struck at the foundation of the very institution that been instrumental in initiating ecclesiastical reform, since control of the Church was integral to the success of the imperial government. In strengthening the papacy, Henry weakened the throne upon which his successors would sit. But the future seems clear only in retrospect. Henry approached his obligations with a high seriousness and fulfilled them with considerable skill. His premature death at the age of 39 and the events that flowed from it were not within his ability to foresee.
Bibliography: e. l. h. steindorff, Jahrbücher des deutschen Reichs unter Heinrich III, 2 v. (Leipzig 1874–81). p. f. kehr, Vier Kapitel aus der Geschichte Kaiser Heinrichs III (Berlin 1931). g. ladner, Theologie und Politik vor dem Investiturstreit (Baden bei Wien 1936). t. schieffer, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 1957–65) 5:180. m. l. bulst thiele, Kaiserin Agnes (Hildesheim 1972). k. hampe, Germany under the Salian and Hohenstaufen Emperors (Oxford 1973). h. fuhrmann, Germany in the High Middle Ages, c. 1050–1200, tr. t. reuter (Cambridge 1986). j. fleckenstein, ed., Investiturstreit und Reichsverfassung (Sigmaringen 1973). r. schieffer, Die Entstehung des päpstlichen Investiturverbots für den deutschen König, (Stuttgart 1981). u.-r. blumenthal, The Investiture Controversy: Church and Monarchy from the Ninth to the Twelfth Century (Philadelphia 1988).
[j. m. powell/
t. e. carson]