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Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor

SIGISMUND, HOLY ROMAN EMPEROR

King of Hungary, 1387; King of the Romans, 1410; King of Bohemia, 1419; Holy Roman Emperor, May 31, 1433; b. Nuremberg, Germany, Feb. 12, 1368; d. Znojmo, Czechoslovakia, Dec. 9, 1437. The son of Emperor Charles IV and Elizabeth, daughter of Boguslav, Duke of Polish Pomerania, Sigismund was educated chiefly at the Hungarian Court. In 1385 he married Maria, daughter of King Louis the Great of Poland-Hungary and heir to Hungary; he had been rejected by Hedwig, the young Queen of Poland. In 1378 he had succeeded his father to the Mark of Brandenburg; on March 31, 1387, he was crowned King of Hungary. He also claimed the Mark of Moravia, which was under the rule of Duke Jobst, his cousin. His Hungarian reign was marked by domestic wars and failures in foreign policy (e.g., his defeat by the Turks at Nicopolis in 1396). Because of his involvement in the political skirmishing of German and other European princes for the Roman imperial crown, Sigismund lost any real influence in Hungary after 1396; but upon the forced resignation of Emperor wenceslaus iv, his step-brother, he became vicar of the Holy Roman Empire in 1400. However, Rupert III, elector palatine of the Rhine, received the German crown despite Sigismund. These defeats precipitated new domestic wars with his Hungarian magnates, who "deposed" and actually imprisoned him for a short time in 1401. These skirmishes were followed by wars with Venice and with King Ladislaus of Naples, who sold the Dalmatian cities claimed by Hungary to the Republic of Venice. In 1401 Sigismund imprisoned Wenceslaus, who was still King of Bohemia, but was able to rule there in his stead for only 19 months before Wenceslaus escaped and returned. In 1410, after the death of Emperor Rupert, Sigismund was finally elected German king, that is, king of the Romans. Coronation was impeded by the wars among factions of German princes; but finally, on Nov. 8, 1414, he was crowned king at Aachen.

In his new role Sigismund attempted to achieve the unity of the Empire and the Church. To end the disorder of the Church occasioned by the western schism and particularly by the election of antipope John XXIII at the Council of pisa, he pressured the convocation of the Council at constance (141418). Later, with Pope mar tin v, he convoked the Council at basel (1431). As imperial protector of the Church, Sigismund exercised a dominant influence in the councils; with his support, the contesting popes at Constance resigned, and reunion under Martin V was achieved. Sigismund was popularly held responsible for the Council's condemnation of John hus, Bohemian religious reformer and agitator, to the stake.

In 1419 Sigismund became king of Bohemia also, but the actual ruler was the widow of Wenceslaus, Queen Sophie.

The hussite wars in Bohemia (c. 142036) and the second victory of the ottoman turks, who were invading Hungary's Danubian province (142627), considerably augmented Sigismund's difficulties in uniting all German princes under his rule. To strengthen his camp of princely supporters, Sigismund made Frederick I, a Hohenzollern, the burgrave of Nuremberg, margrave of Brandenburg, and an elector of the Empire (1415); but in 1424 Frederick joined the opposition. With this Sigismund lost any real authority over the German princes; however, he was able to retain control of the Italian domains. On Nov. 25, 1431, he was crowned king of the Lombards at Milan; on May 31, 1433, Pope Eugene IV crowned him Holy Roman Emperor. Finally, the estates of Bohemia formally recognized him as their king.

When Sigismund died (he was buried at Oradea, Rumania), he had not achieved the basic goal of his life, the unification of Christendom under his authority to fight the Turks, who constituted the gravest danger to the existence of the Byzantine Empire and Western Christendom. Upon his death, the house of Luxembourg became extinct; his only daughter, Elizabeth, from his second wife, Barbara of Cile, married the Hapsburg Duke Albert V of Austria, the future German King Albert II, Sigismund's successor.

Bibliography: j. von aschbach. Geschichte Kaiser Sigmunds, 4 v. (Hamburg 183845). w. berger, Johannes Hus und König Sigmund (Augsburg 1871). e. windecke, Denkwürdigkeiten zur Geschichte des Zeitalters Kaiser Sigmunds, ed. w. altmann (Berlin 1893). a. main, The Emperor Sigismund (London 1903). m. spinka, John Hus and the Czech Reform (Chicago 1941). l. r. loomis, tr., The Council of Constance, ed. j. h. mundy and k. m. woody (New York 1961). a. posch, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765) 9:749750.

[b. b. szczesniak]

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