St.Adelaide-Also known as Adelheid
Feast Day : December 16
Princess, foundress of religious programs, regent Name meaning: noble person.
Adelaide was born in 931, the daughter of King Rudolph II of Burgundy. She became a political pawn at age two. Her father, embroiled in a war with Hugh of Provence for the crown of Lombardy (Italy), agreed to betroth her to Hugh’s son Lothaire in order to end the fighting in 933. Her brother Conrad honored his father’s agreement in 947, when Adelaide was 16; Rudolph had died years before, and his widow, Adelaide’s mother, had since married Hugh. Meanwhile, Berengarius (or Berengar) II, Marquis of Ivrea, claimed Lombardy and forced Hugh to abdicate in favor of Lothaire. Lothaire and Adelaide were king and queen of Italy only a short while before Lothaire died, probably from poison at the instigation of Berengarius in 950. Berengarius tried to force Adelaide to marry his son, but the young widow refused and was imprisoned in a castle in the middle of Lake Garda. Accounts differ about her escape from Castle Garda: One story says a priest named Martin dug a subterranean passage under the lake, rescued Adelaide and kept her in the passage, surviving on fish alone, until Alberto Uzzo, duke of Canossa, whisked the queen off to his castle. Nevertheless, the Italian nobles, tired of Berengarius and his wars, invited King Otto I of Germany, called the Great, to invade Italy and dispose of Berengarius. Otto entered Italy in 951, rescued Queen Adelaide (either from Castle Garda or from the eager duke) and married her on Christmas Day 951 at Pavia, thereby taking the title King of the Lombards. Berengarius fled to his castle at Montefeltro. The couple did not linger long in Italy because Liudolf, Otto’s son by his first wife Edith, was trying to start an uprising against the French influence of his stepmother. He failed, however, and the German people supposedly adored their new queen. She and Otto had five children, with the son and heir, Otto II, born in 955. Throughout the next 10 years, Otto I fought continuous wars over the control of Italy, which was not only plundered by soldiers but also allowed to decay under the debauched reign of Pope John XII. When Berengarius became a threat again in 961, the pope offered Otto I the crown of the empire in return for protection. The spectacular coronation of Otto I and Adelaide as Holy Roman Emperor and Empress of the German Nation on February 2, 962, not only assured Germany’s dominance in Europe but also fulfilled Otto’s ultimate goal of reestablishing a Christian empire with himself as the new Caesar. In 969, Otto I designated his 14-year-old son Otto II as co-emperor, thereby securing the boy’s right of succession. To further cement Otto II’s authority, Otto I arranged his son’s marriage to the Byzantine princess Theophano, daughter of the usurper John Tzimisces. Tzimisces, called Little Slippers, was the lover to the wife (also named Theophano) of the murdered Byzantine emperor Nicephorus II Phocas. Otto II and Theophano were married in Rome in 972 and ascended to the throne after Otto I died in 973. Theophano, a politically astute and strong-willed woman, exerted great influence on royal affairs and reputedly turned her husband against his mother. Relations with her mother-in-law Empress Adelaide were strained at best, and Adelaide left court to join her brother Conrad in Vienne, appealing to St. Majolus, abbot of Cluny, to intervene. The abbot arranged a reconciliation at Adelaide’s court at Pavia. Relations between the two women remained difficult until Otto II’s death on December 7, 983. Theophano traveled to Pavia seeking refuge with Adelaide. The heir, three-year-old Otto III, was in the care of the bishop of Cologne, far too close to the domain of Prince Henry of Bavaria, called the Quarrelsome, who, along with Henry of Carinthia and Bishop Henry of Augsburg, was trying to take the crown. On Christmas Day, 983, Otto III was symbolically crowned Holy Roman Emperor in Aachen, Charlemagne’s ancient seat. Almost immediately Henry of Bavaria kidnapped the child and took him to Quedlinburg, where Henry had himself proclaimed king. Adelaide and Theophano appealed to Gerbert of Aurillac, a brilliant theologian, mathematician, counselor to Otto II and eventually Pope Sylvester II, to intercede, and he created a coalition of powerful kings and churchmen to put pressure on Henry. Conceding defeat, Henry returned young Otto III to his mother, Empress Theophano, on June 29, 984. Adelaide returned to Pavia, still unable to reconcile fully with Theophano, while the empress ably ruled as her son’s regent until her sudden death in June 991. But Otto III was still underage in 991, so his grandmother Adelaide assumed the regency until Otto III could be fully crowned at age 16 in 996. Writers of the period characterized Adelaide’s regency as a wise and peaceful era in which the empress established monasteries and churches, supported the works of St. Adalbert of Magdeburg, St. Majolus of Cluny and St. Odilo, also of Cluny. She concentrated on converting the Slavs and other pagans on the empire’s northern borders. After Otto III took the throne, Adelaide retired to a convent and continued her works of charity and conversion. In 999 Adelaide traveled to Burgundy to arrange a reconciliation between her nephew Rudolph and his vassals. She died en route at her monastery at Seltz, near Strasbourg in Alsace, on December 16 at age 68. Her relics are enshrined at Hanover.