1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Henry II. "the Saint"
HENRY II. (973–1024), surnamed the “Saint,” Roman emperor, son of Henry II, the Quarrelsome, duke of Bavaria, and Gisela, daughter of Conrad, king of Burgundy, or Arles (d. 993), and great-grandson of the German king Henry I., the Fowler, was born on the 6th of May 973. When his father was driven from his duchy in 976 it was intended that Henry should take holy orders, and he received the earlier part of a good education at Hildesheim. This idea, however, was abandoned when his father was restored to Bavaria in 985; but young Henry, whose education was completed at Regensburg, retained a lively interest in ecclesiastical affairs. He became duke of Bavaria on his father’s death in 995, and appears to have governed his duchy quietly and successfully for seven years. He showed a special regard for monastic reform and church government, accompanied his kinsman, the emperor Otto III., on two occasions to Italy, and about 1001 married Kunigunde (d. 1037), daughter of Siegfried, count of Luxemburg. When Otto III. died childless in 1002, Henry sought to secure the German throne, and seizing the imperial insignia made an arrangement with Otto I., duke of Carinthia. There was considerable opposition to his claim; but one rival, Ekkard I., margrave of Meissen, was murdered, and, hurrying to Mainz, Henry was chosen German king by the Franks and Bavarians on the 7th of June 1002, and subsequently crowned by Willigis, archbishop of Mainz, who had been largely instrumental in securing his election. Having ravaged the lands of another rival, Hermann II., duke of Swabia, Henry purchased the allegiance of the Thuringians and the Saxons; and when shortly afterwards the nobles of Lorraine did homage and Hermann of Swabia submitted, he was generally recognized as king. Danger soon arose from Boleslaus I., the Great, king of Poland, who had extended his authority over Meissen and Lusatia, seized Bohemia, and allied himself with some discontented German nobles, including the king’s brother, Bruno, bishop of Augsburg. Henry easily crushed his domestic foes; but the incipient war with Boleslaus was abandoned in favour of an expedition into Italy, where Arduin, margrave of Ivrea, had been elected king. Crossing the Alps Henry met with no resistance from Arduin, and in May 1004 he was chosen and crowned king of the Lombards at Pavia; but a tumult caused by the presence of the Germans soon arose in the city, and having received the homage of several cities of Lombardy the king returned to Germany. He then freed Bohemia from the rule of the Poles, led an expedition into Friesland, and was successful in compelling Boleslaus to sue for peace in 1005. A struggle with Baldwin IV., count of Flanders, in 1006 and 1007 was followed by trouble with the king’s brothers-in-law, Dietrich and Adalbero of Luxemburg, who had seized respectively the bishopric of Metz and the archbishopric of Trier (Treves). Henry sought to dislodge them, but aided by their elder brother Henry, who had been made duke of Bavaria in 1004, they held their own in a desultory warfare in Lorraine. In 1009, however, the eldest of the three brothers was deprived of Bavaria, while Adalbero had in the previous year given up his claim to Trier, but Dietrich retained the bishopric of Metz. The Polish war had been renewed in 1007, but it was not until 1010 that the king was able to take a personal part in these campaigns. Meeting with indifferent success, he made peace with Boleslaus early in 1013, when the duke retained Lusatia, but did homage to Henry at Merseburg.
In 1013 the king made a second journey to Italy where two popes were contending for the papal chair, and meeting with no opposition was received with great honour at Rome. Having recognized Benedict VIII. as the rightful pope, he was crowned emperor on the 14th of February 1014, and soon returned to Germany laden with treasures from Italian cities. But the struggle with the Poles now broke out afresh, and in 1015 and 1017 the king, having obtained assistance from the heathen Liutici, led formidable armies against Boleslaus. During the campaign of 1017 he had as an ally the grand duke of Russia, but his troops suffered considerable loss, and on the 30th of January 1018 he made peace at Bautzen with Boleslaus, who again retained Lusatia. As early as 1006 Henry had concluded a succession treaty with his uncle Rudolph III., the childless king of Burgundy, or Arles; but when Rudolph desired to abdicate in 1016 Henry’s efforts to secure possession of the territory were foiled by the resistance of the nobles. In 1020 the emperor was visited at Bamberg by Pope Benedict, in response to whose entreaty for assistance against the Greeks of southern Italy he crossed the Alps in 1021 for the third and last time. With the aid of the Normans he captured many fortresses and seriously crippled the power of the Greeks, but was compelled by the ravages of pestilence among his troops to return to Germany in 1022. It was probably about this time that Henry gave Benedict the diploma which ratified the gifts made by his predecessors to the papacy. Spending his concluding years in disputes over church reform he died on the 13th of July 1024 at Grona near Göttingen, and was buried at Bamberg, where he had founded and richly endowed a bishopric.
Henry was an enthusiast for church reform, and under the influence of his friend Odilo, abbot of Cluny, sought to further the principles of the Cluniacs, and seconded the efforts of Benedict VIII. to prevent the marriage of the clergy and the sale of spiritual dignities. He was energetic and capable, but except in his relations with the church was not a strong ruler. But though devoted to the church and a strict observer of religious rites, he was by no means the slave of the clergy. He appointed bishops without the formality of an election, and attacked clerical privileges although he made clerics the representatives of the imperial power. He held numerous diets and issued frequent ordinances for peace, but feuds among the nobles were common, and the frontiers of the empire were insecure. Henry, who was the last emperor of the Saxon house, was the first to use the title “King of the Romans.” He died childless, and a tradition of the 12th century says he and his wife took vows of chastity. He was canonized in 1146 by Pope Eugenius III.
See Adalbold of Utrecht, Vita Heinrici II., Thietmar of Merseburg, Chronicon, both in the Monumenta Germaniae historica, Scriptores, Bände iii. and iv. (Hanover and Berlin, 1826 seq.); W. von Giesebrecht, Geschichte der deutschen Kaiserzeit (Leipzig, 1881–1890); S. Hirsch, continued by R. Usinger, H. Pabst and H. Bresslau, Jahrbücher des deutschen Reichs unter Kaiser Heinrich II. (Leipzig, 1874); A. Cohn, Kaiser Heinrich II. (Halle, 1867); H. Zeissberg, Die Kriege Kaiser Heinrichs II. mit Boleslaw I. von Polen (Vienna, 1868); and G. Matthaei, Die Klosterpolitik Kaiser Heinrichs II. (Göttingen, 1877).