Conrad II, Holy Roman Emperor

Conrad II, Holy Roman Emperor
Conrad II
The abdication of Conrad II from the Chronicle of Ekkehard von Aura.
King of the Romans (also known as King of the Germans)
Reign 1024 – 04 June, 1039
Coronation 1024
Holy Roman Emperor, King of Italy
Reign March 26, 1027 – 04 June, 1039
Coronation March 26, 1027
Predecessor Henry II, Holy Roman Emperor
Successor Henry III, Holy Roman Emperor
Consort Gisela of Swabia
Henry III, Holy Roman Emperor
House Salian
Father Henry, Count of Speyer
Mother Adelaide of Alsace
Born 990
Speyer, Germany
Died 04 June 1039
Utrecht, Netherlands
Religion Roman Catholicism

Conrad II (Konrad) (c. 990 – June 4, 1039) was Holy Roman Emperor from 1027 until his death.

The son of a mid-level nobleman in Franconia, Count Henry of Speyer and Adelaide of Alsace, he inherited the titles of count of Speyer and of Worms as an infant when Henry died at age twenty. As he matured he came to be well known beyond his power base in Worms and Speyer, so when the Saxon line died off and the elected monarchy for the German realm stood vacant, he was elected King in 1024 at the respectably old age of thirty-four years and crowned emperor of the Holy Roman Empire on March 26, 1027, becoming the first of four kings and emperors of the Salian Dynasty.


Early life

Salian family tree

During his reign, he proved that the German monarchy had become a viable institution. Survival of the monarchy was no longer dependent on contracts between sovereign and territorial nobles.

The father of Conrad II, Henry of Speyer was a grandson of Liutgarde, a daughter of the great Emperor Otto I who had married the Salian Duke Conrad the Red of Lorraine.

Despite his bloodline in that age when people died young and younger, the orphaned Conrad grew up poor by the standards of the nobility and was raised by Burchard, Bishop of Worms.

He was reputed to be prudent and firm out of consciousness of deprivation. In 1016, he married Gisela of Swabia, a widowed duchess. Both parties claimed descent from Charles the Great (Charlemagne) and were thus distantly related. A daughter named Matilda became the first wife of Henry I of France, King of Franks.

Strict canonists took exception to the marriage, and Emperor Henry II used this to force Conrad into temporary exile.

They became reconciled, and upon Henry's death in 1024, Conrad appeared as a candidate before the electoral assembly of princes at Kamba, an historical name for an area on the East banks of the river Rhine and opposite to the German town Oppenheim (Today the position of Kamba is marked by a small monument, which displays Conrad on a horse). He was elected by the majority and was crowned king in Mainz on September 8, 1024, arguably in the prime of life. It was equally obvious that the Saxon line of Emperors was at an end, and all of Europe speculated and maneuvered to influence the Prince-electors in unseemly disrespect for the aging Henry II. That same year, Conrad commissioned the construction of the Speyer Cathedral in Speyer which was started in 1030.

The Italian bishops paid homage at Conrad's court at Konstanz in June 1025, but lay princes sought to elect William V of Aquitaine, as king instead. However early in 1026 Conrad went to Milan, where Ariberto, archbishop of Milan, crowned him king of Italy. After overcoming some opposition of the towns Conrad reached Rome, where Pope John XIX crowned him emperor on Easter, 1027.


He formally confirmed the popular legal traditions of Saxony and issued new constitutions for Lombardy. In 1028 at Aachen he had his son Henry elected and anointed king of Germany. Henry married Gunhilda of Denmark, daughter of King Canute the Great of England, Denmark and Norway by Emma of Normandy. This was an arrangement that Conrad had made many years prior, when he gave Canute the Great parts of northern Germany to administer[citation needed]. Henry, the later Emperor Henry III, became chief counselor of his father.

Conrad campaigned unsuccessfully against Poland in 1028-1030, but in 1031 in a combined action with the Kievan Rus' forced King Mieszko II, son and heir of Bolesław I, to make peace and return the land that Bolesław had conquered from the Empire during Henry II's reign. Mieszko II was compelled to give up his royal title and for the remainder of his troubled rule became the Duke of Poland and Conrad's vassal.

In 1029 some Bavarian border conflicts undermined the good relations with Stephen I of Hungary. One year later Conrad launched a campaign against Hungary. The Hungarians successfully used the scorched earth tactics and the emperor had to withdraw with his army. Finally the Hungarian army forced him to surrender at Vienna. After his defeat Conrad was obliged to cede some border territory to Hungary.

When Rudolph III, King of Burgundy died on February 2, 1032, Conrad claimed the Kingship on the basis of an inheritance Emperor Henry II extorted from the former in 1006, after having invaded Burgundy to enforce his claim after Rudolph attempted to renounce it in 1016. Despite some opposition, the Burgundian and Provençal nobles paid homage to Conrad in Zürich in 1034. This Kingdom of Burgundy, which under Conrad's successors would become known as the Kingdom of Arles, corresponded to most of the southeastern quarter of modern France and included western Switzerland, the Franche-Comté and Dauphiné. It did not include the smaller Duchy of Burgundy to the north, ruled by a cadet branch of the Capetian King of France. (Piecemeal over the next centuries most of the former Kingdom of Arles was incorporated into France - but King of Arles remained one of the Holy Roman Emperor's subsidiary titles until the dissolution of the Empire in 1806.)

Conrad upheld the rights of the valvassores (knights and burghers of the cities) of Italy against Archbishop Aribert of Milan and the local nobles. The nobles as vassal lords and the bishop had conspired to rescind rights from the burghers. With skillful diplomacy and luck Conrad restored order.

The grave of Conrad II, Holy Roman Emperor at the crypt of the cathedral of Speyer, Germany.

Last years

In 1038, Prince Guaimar IV of Salerno requested his adjudication in a dispute over Capua with its Prince Pandulf, whom Conrad had released from imprisonment in 1024, immediately after his coronation. Hearing that Michael IV the Paphlagonian of the Byzantine Empire had received the same request, Conrad went to Southern Italy, to Salerno and Aversa.

He appointed Richer, from Germany, as abbot of Monte Cassino, the abbot Theobald being imprisoned by Pandulf. At Troia, he ordered Pandulf to restore stolen property to Monte Cassino. Pandulf sent his wife and son to ask for peace, giving 300 lb of gold and a son and daughter as hostages. The emperor accepted Pandulf's offer, but the hostage escaped and Pandulf holed up in his outlying castle of Sant'Agata de' Goti. Conrad besieged and took Capua and gave it to Guaimar with the title of Prince. He also recognised Aversa as a county of Salerno under Ranulf Drengot, the Norman adventurer. Pandulf, meanwhile, fled to Constantinople. Conrad thus left the Mezzogiorno firmly in Guaimar's hands and loyal, for once, to the Holy Roman Empire.

During the return trip to Germany an epidemic broke out among the troops. Conrad's daughter-in-law and stepson died. Conrad himself returned safely and held several important courts in Solothurn, Strasbourg and in Goslar. His son Henry was invested with the kingdom of Burgundy.

A year later in 1039 Conrad fell ill and died of gout in Utrecht. His heart and bowels are buried at the Cathedral of Saint Martin, Utrecht. His body was transferred to Speyer via Cologne, Mainz and Worms, where the funeral procession made stops. His body is buried at Speyer Cathedral, which was still under construction at this time. During a major excavation in 1900 his sarcophagus was relocated from his original resting place in front of the altar to the crypt, where it is still visible today along with those of seven of his successors.

A biography of Conrad II in chronicle form, Gesta Chuonradi II imperatoris, was written by his chaplain Wipo of Burgundy, and presented to Henry III in 1046, not long after the latter was crowned.

Depictions of Conrad II

The Basilica of Aquileia (northern Italy) contains an apse fresco (c. 1031) showing emperor Conrad II, his wife Gisela of Swabia and Patriarch Poppone of Aquileia.


See also

  • Kings of Germany family tree


Conrad II, Holy Roman Emperor
Born: c 990 Died: 1039
German royalty
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Henry II
King of Germany
Succeeded by
Henry III
Holy Roman Emperor
King of Italy
Preceded by
Rudolph III
as King of Burgundy
King of Arles

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