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Umbria under the Ottonians


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Otto I 
King of Italy (950-73)
While the power of the Holy Roman Empire was disintegrating in Italy, the seeds of its revival were being sown in Germany.  The prestige of Henry of Saxony, King of East Francia grew after an important victory over the Hungarians in 933.  When he died three years later, his prestige passed to his son and successor, King Otto I.  
Otto I naturally turned his mind to Italy: Lothar of Provence was nominal king there, but power resided in the hands of Berengar of Ivrea, who had sworn fealty to Otto I in 941 (see the page on Umbria in the Early 10th Century).  When Lothar died (perhaps murdered) in 950, Berengar repudiated his oath to Otto I and declared himself to be King Berengar II of Italy.  He also tried to force Lothar’s widow, Adelaide to marry his own son, Adalbert and when she refused he treated her harshly until she escaped to Canossa.
Otto I used Berengar’s bad faith and his treatment of Adelaide as his excuse to march into Italy, but his real reason was probably to pre-empt the aspirations of his brother Henry, Duke of Bavaria, and of his son Liutolf, Duke of Swabia, each of whom coveted the crown.  Duke Alberic II of Spoleto, the effective ruler of Rome, allowed Pope Agapitus II  to encourage Otto I in order to curb Berengar’s power.  Otto duly crossed the Alps, released and married Adelaide and had himself crowned as King of Italy at Pavia in 950.  When Alberic II refused him entry into Rome, he returned to East Francia, but his prestige was greatly enhanced.  Berengar paid homage to Otto at a diet in Augsburg in 952 and returned to Italy as its ruler, although no longer (at least formally) its king.
Otto’s prestige soared in 955 when he decisively defeated the Hungarians, putting an end to their raiding activities in Germany.  His claim on the Imperial title was now irrefutable, but he was still prepared to wait.  Alberic II had died a year earlier, having extracted a promise from the Romans that his young son Ottaviano, to whom he bequeathed the temporal power in Rome, should also become pope when Pope Agapitus died.  Thus it was that Ottaviano became Pope John XII (955-64).  
In 959, Berengar of Ivrea invaded and conquered the Duchy of Spoleto and threatened Rome.  John XII and the Margrave Hubert of Tuscany (who had also held the title of Duke of Spoleto in the period 943-6) therefore turned to Otto I, who crossed the Alps for a second time in 960.  When he and his huge army arrived at Pavia in 961, Berengar fled.  He was later captured and died as a prisoner in Germany in 963. 
Holy Roman Emperor (962-73)
John XII crowned Otto I as Holy Roman Emperor in Rome in 962.  However, their relationship broke down shortly afterwards.  Otto I marched on Rome in 963, causing John XII to flee.  Otto I effectively deposed him and arranged for the election of his own supporter as Pope Leo VIII.  The two men vied for the papal crown but fortunately both soon died. 
Otto I now appointed Bishop John of Narni as Pope John XIII (965-72).  The new pope was a member of the powerful Crescentius family: he had  succeeded his father, John Crescentius, as Bishop of Narni in 960.  He was also related to the Theophylact family through his mother Theodora, the sister of Marozia, and had thus been a cousin of Alberic II (see the page on Umbria in the Early 10th Century).   
Otto I probably thought that the family connections of John XIII would secure the allegiance of the Roman nobility.  However, the fact that Otto I had appointed him, apparently without consultation, provoked rebellion in Rome.  Otto I marched on Rome in 966, suppressed the rebellion with great ferocity, and released John XIII from imprisonment.  [Otto I briefly occupied Amelia as part of this assault.  Then, when Tadino tried to revive its independence late in 966, the Otto destroyed it.]  
The presence of Otto I and John XIII is recorded in 967 in Narni, as they passed through the city en route for Ravenna, where they jointly celebrated Easter.  During this stay in Ravenna, Otto I formally restored to John XIII the Exarchate of Ravenna.  The men returned to Rome, where John XIII crowned Otto II, the young son of Otto I, as co-emperor in December 967. 
 [Bishop Balderik of Utrecht, who was in Italy for the coronation, acquired relics of St Pontian of Spoleto.  As a result, St Pontian is also venerated in Utrecht.]
In 967, Otto I accepted the homage of Pandolfo Testa di Ferro, Duke of Capua and Benevento and combined his dukedom with that of Camerino and Spoleto.  The two men then waged a campaign to take the remaining Byzantine territory of southern Italy.  They occupied Apulia and besieged Bari.  However, this campaign ended in failure and Pandolfo was captured and held prisoner in Constantinople. 
Otto I sent Bishop Liutprand of Cremona as an ambassador to the Emperor Nikephoros Phokas in Constantinople in 968.  The proposal was that Otto II would marry a Byzantine princess and that her dowry would include the Byzantine territory in Apulia and Calabria.  However, this diplomatic mission ended in failure.  In 969, John I Tzimiskes conspired with the Empress Theophano to assassinate the Emperor Nikephoros Phokasand seize the throne.  He released Pandolfo from imprisonment in Constantinople and dispatched a Byzantine lady called Theophano to marry Otto II.  (She is described as his niece, but her actual parentage is unclear).  John XIII presided over the marriage of Otto II and Theophano at Saint Peter's, Rome in 972, and crowned her as co-Empress. 
The Imperial party then returned to Germany in 972, and Otto I died there a year later. 
Dispersal of Relics under Otto I
Bruno, Duke of Lorraine and Archbishop of Cologne 
In 951, Archbishop Bruno, the brother of the future Emperor Otto I, took some of the relics of St Gregory of Spoleto from San Gregorio Maggiore to Cologne.  A bust reliquary (16th century) survives in the treasury of Cologne Cathedral.  
Archbishop Bruno acquired the body of St Pantaleon from Nicomedia and translated it placed in St Pantaleon in Cologne, a church that Bruno had restored in 964.  [He was buried there in 965.  
Decio Gelosi, who was the Prior of San Gregorio Maggiore in the late 16th century, discovered a relic of a nail that was thought to have been used to pierce the skull of St Pantaleon during his martyrdom (presumably identified by an inscription) in a marble vase.  A painted wooden reliquary bust (late 16th century ) that subsequently housed it, which from the canonica of San Gregorio Maggiore, is now in the Museo Diocesano.
Duke Conrad of Ivrea 
In 954, Conrad, son of Duke Berengar of Ivrea was briefly Duke of Spoleto.  He fled back to Ivrea to escape an epidemic, taking with him relics of St Sabinus.
Bishop Balderik of Utrecht
In 966 Bishop Balderik (who was in Italy for the coronation of the Otto I) took most of the relics of St Pontian of Spoleto for the cathedral that he built in Utrecht.  
Bishop Theoderic of Metz 
In 970-2, Bishop Theoderic (Dietrich or Thierry) I, cousin and adviser of the Emperor Otto I, travelled to Italy with the Emperor Otto II.  He embarked upon a major raid on the relics of Italy in 970-2 in order to enrich the Abbey of St Vincent, which he established in his diocese.   Sigebert of Gembloux, in his ‘Vita Deoderici, Mettensis Episcopi’ (Life of Bishop Theodoric of Metz), carefully listed the booty, which included the relics of St Vincent of Valencia, which the Bishop of Arezzo gave to him, and those of St Lucy from what was then Corfinium in the Abruzzi. 
The relics that Theoderic acquired in what is now Umbria were as follows: 
On 4th October, Theoderic’s representatives, Bertraus and Heriwardus, arrived in ‘Fulinias [sic] ’ (Fulginia/ Foligno), where they forced Bishop Benedict to hand over the relics of St Felician.  
On the 9th October, 970, while the Emperor Otto I hunted at a place called ‘Collis’ (probably Colle, near Bettona), above the Tiber, Bertraus, Rothardus and Heriwardus found a marble sarcophagus in the ruins of what they described as a very ancient monastery.  This was probably the Abbazia di San Crispolto at Piana in Passaggio, some 3 km to the east of Colle on the old road from Assisi to Perugia.  They believed that the sarcophagus contained the relics of a saint that they identified (presumably from an inscription) as “martyris egregii Asclepiotati” (the eminent martyr, Asclepiodotus).  Local people told them that the feast day of this saint was 24th October, but the ‘Episcopo de Sisa’ (Bishop of Assisi, to whom the place belonged) refused to give them the text of his legend.  They took these relics to Metz.  (These might have been the presumed relics of St Crispoltus, whose name is sometimes given as ‘Sclipiodoctus’, although his feast day was on the 12th May.)
On 22nd November, Rothardus obtained the relics of St Serena from the church of San Savino, outside Spoleto, and also those of St Gregory of Spoleto. 
On an unknown date, Bertraus extracted the relics of another St Vincent from a priest at Petram Pertusam, a pass in the Apennines.  In his ‘Chronicon’, Sigebert identified this saint as St Vincent of Mevania (Begvagna), whose relics were apparently moved to what is now the Abbazia di San Vincenzo at Furlo in the Marche in the Lombard period. 
Sigebert also recorded the arrival in Metz of the relics of three other Umbrian saints: 
Those of St Fortunatus of Todi arrived on 2nd July (presumably in 971), although Sigebert complained that he could find no trace of these). 
Those of SS Fidentius and Terentius (together with those of St Felician of Foligno and St Asclepiodotus of Colle, both mentioned above) arrived on 14th April (again, presumably of 971)
Emperor Otto II (967-83)
Otto II was still only eighteen years old when his father Otto I died in 973.  It was to be seven years before he was able to return to Italy, but the administrative structure that his father had established there ensured relative stability.
There was, however, a rebellion in Rome, where a nobleman, Crescentius (the brother of John XIII) deposed Pope Benedict VI (whom Otto I had appointed) in 974.  
[“Crescentius filius  Theodorade”, the younger brother of John XIII, was recorded in an inscription (now lost) from San Cassiano, Narni.]
He named a deacon, Franco as Pope Boniface VII and imprisoned Benedict VI in the Castel Sant’ Angelo.  Otto II sent his representative, Count Sicco (Siegfried) of Spoleto to restore order, and when Boniface VII had Benedict VI murdered, Sicco forced him from office.  He then orchestrated the election of a Roman aristocrat as Pope Benedict VII (974-83).  
The truce between the Empires of east and west that had led to Otto’s marriage to Theophano came to an end when the Emperor John I Tzimiskes died suddenly in 976.  Boniface VII was able to re-establish himself in Rome in 980, but Otto II returned to Italy and marched on Rome in 981, where he re-installed the legitimate pope.  The deposed Boniface VII, whom Benedict VI had excommunicated, fled to Constantinople, where he further exacerbated the tense political situation.  
In 982 Otto II marched on the Byzantine territory of Apulia and Calabria, which he regarded as part of Theophano’s dowry.  He was initially successful, but when he threatened the Saracen settlements in Apulia, the Emperor Basil II offered the Saracens an alliance.  Otto II was soundly defeated in a battle at Cotrone in Calabria and forced to flee in disguise to Rome.
Otto II assembled his most powerful nobles at Verona in 982 and had his baby son, Otto III elected as King of Germany.  When Benedict VII died in 983, Otto II appointed one of his official as Pope John XIV to replace him.  Otto II received absolution from the new pope and died in his arms a few days later. 
Emperor Otto III (995-1001)
Otto III was only three years old when his father died in 983.  His mother Theophano acted as regent.  She was preoccupied in Germany and could do nothing when the Emperor Basil II financed the return of Boniface VII to Rome in 983.  Boniface VII imprisoned and John XIV and declared himself to be pope.  This confused situation ended when: 
Crescentius, who had become a monk in San Bonifacio (later Sant’ Alessio), died in 984; 
John XIV died in the Castel Sant’ Angelo, probably of starvation, also  in 984; and 
Boniface VII died in 985. 
When Crescentius died, his son Crescentius II seized power, taking the title of Patricius Romanorum.  He probably orchestrated the election of a Roman as Pope John XV.  Theophano seems to have had amicable relations with both Crescentius II and John XV during her visit to Rome in 989-90.  She died in 991 and Adelaide, the grandmother of Otto III acted as regent.  Her good relationship with John XV was manifest in 993, when John XV canonised Bishop Ulrich of Augsburg (923-73) in the first ritual canonisation to be effected by a pope. 
Otto III came of age in 995, when he was 15 years old and soon faced his first test, when Crescentius II forced John XV from Rome.   Otto III duly entered Italy in 996 and deposed Crescentius II.  Pope John XV had just died, and Otto nominated his cousin Bruno, an ardent Cluniac as Pope Gregory V (996–99).  Gregory V, the first German pope, in his turn crowned Otto as Emperor.  Otto III then returned to Germany.
Gregory V initially established good relations with Crescentius II, and this clouded his relations with Otto III.  Thus Otto III refused to intervene directly when the Romans drove the hated foreign pope from Rome in 996.  Gregory V secured the protection of the Duke Conrad of Spoleto, but his two armed attempts to re-enter Rome failed.  
Crescentius II, changing sides, now declared a papal vacancy and installed John Philagathos, a Byzantine who had been Otto’s tutor, as anti-pope in 987.  Otto III returned to Italy and  marched into Rome in 998.  He took savage reprisals: the anti-pope was blinded, mutilated and immured in a monastery (where he died in 1001), and Crescentius II was beheaded.  
Gregory V and Otto III then developed a working relationship that survived, despite further strains, until Gregory’s death in 999.  Otto III appointed his former tutor, Gerbert of Aurillac as Pope Sylvester II (999-1003), the first French pope.  In 1001, the Romans forced both Otto III and Sylvester II to flee the city, and Otto died of malaria soon after.  
John Crescentius, the son of Crescentius II, now took the title of Patricius Romanorum.  He allowed Sylvester II to return and to exercise spiritual authority until his death in 1003.  John Crescentius remained the ruler of rome until his death in 1012, at which point the Crescentii vanished from recorded history.
St Romuald and the Camaldolesians
The late 10th century saw the emergence of a new form of monasticism that stressed the eremitical rather than the communal vocation.  Its founder was St Romuald, a nobleman from Ravenna who joined the Benedictine monastery of Sant' Apollinare in Classe sometime in the 970s.  He soon became dissatisfied with its laxity and left to become a hermit in the Veneto.  
In 978, no less a person than Pietro Orseolo, Doge of Venice sent for him.  Guarino, the Abbot of the monastery of St Michel de Cuxa in the Pyrenees had persuaded the Doge to join his community, and he wanted Romuald’s opinion.   The result was that Pietro, Romuald and a number of associates, moved to Cuxa.  Pietro and most of the others lived in the monastery, while Romuald spent most of his time in seclusion in a nearby hermitage.  When Pietro died after a short period at Cuxa, Romuald returned to Italy and lived as a hermit in the environs of Ravenna.
Otto III entrusted St Romuald with the reform of Sant' Apollinare in Classe in 996 (see below).   However, he found the task uncongenial, and in 999returned to his life of a wandering hermit.  
St Romuald is reputed to have founded a large number of hermitages in each of which a dispersed community of hermits lived close to and was supported by a monastic community. Some of these were in Umbria and the Marches:
the Eremo di Fonte Avellana and the Abbazia di Santa Maria di Sitria, both outside Gubbio: and 
the Abbazia di San Salvatore di Monte Corona near Perugia.  
According to the biography by St Peter Damian, Count Farolfo of Orvieto gave Romuald land for another hermitage, but no trace of this remains.  
In 1024, Count Maldolus gave land for another monastery at a place called Campus Maldoli that became known as the hermitage of Camaldoli.  St Romuald died here in 1027.  In his lifetime, the various foundations with which he was associated had been unconnected.  However, after his death, Camaldoli became the head of the Congregation of Monk Hermits of Camaldoli, a monastic order that Pope Alexander II confirmed in 1072.  San Romuald was canonised in 1595. 
Cluniac Reform 
In this period, Cluniac reform spread throughout France and into Italy and Spain.  Under Abbot Odilo of Cluny (994-1049), some 30 abbeys accepted Cluny as their mother house, and its practices were adopted by many other abbeys that did not formally affiliate.  He appointed priors for the daughter houses, which were thus permanently under a central jurisdiction, thereby creating the first monastic order in the modern sense.  
In 996, Odilo visited Italy to promote reform at Sant’ Apollinaire in Ravenna and at Farfa.  As noted above, Otto III had persuaded the future St Romuald to become Abbot of Sant’ Apollinaire (996-9)
Both Odilo and St Romuald gave their support to the reforming agenda of Abbot Hugh of Farfa (998-1010).
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