Facts and Events
Egbert (ca. 950 – 9 December 993) was the Archbishop of Trier from 977 until his death.
Egbert was a son of Dirk II, Count of Holland. After being trained in the abbey of Egmond, controlled by his family, and at the court of Bruno I, Archbishop of Cologne, he became the chancellor of Otto II in 976. The following year he was appointed to the archdiocese of Trier, still probably in his twenties. He accompanied Otto II on visits to Italy in 980 and 983, and many have made other trips there. After Otto II's death in 983, he joined the party supporting the succession of Henry the Quarrelsome, Duke of Bavaria, rather than Otto III, but the following year returned to the allegiance of Otto.
Egbert was a significant patron of science and the arts, who established one or more workshops of goldsmiths and enamellers at Trier, which produced works for other Ottonian centres and the Imperial court. Beginning with his tenure, Trier came to rival Mainz and Cologne as the artistic centre of the Ottonian world. These were the three most important episcopal sees in Germany, who at this period disputed the primacy of the emerging German (East Frankish) kingdom between them. To be established as the Primate of Germany would bring important political advantages, and increasing the prestiege of his see through cultural means was probably an important element in Egbert's presumed role in establishing or encouraging artists and craftsmen to settle there. When Otto II was crowned in Aachen in 961, all three archbishops had performed the ceremony together.
In the traditional account, the battle for the primacy was in fact effectively lost in 975, two years before Egbert acceded to Trier, when Willigis, the new Archbishop of Mainz, Egbert's predecessor as chancellor, where Egbert worked under him, obtained privileges from Pope Benedict VII that amounted to a primacy which later developments would confirm and formalize. There were also earlier privileges from 969 and 973. But as archbishop Egbert seems to have still been fighting a rearguard action, building on developments by his predecessor of the story of the origins of the see, in which a staff given by Saint Peter to Eucharius, the supposed first bishop, played a large role. Trier was also the old Roman northern capital, still with abundant Roman ruins. However the authenticity of the Mainz privileges has recently been questioned, with some scholars now arguing that they were forgeries produced not long after Egbert's lifetime, so the question may have been more open. The appearance, not recorded before Egbert's episcopy, of an actual staff alleged to be that Saint Peter gave to Eucharius, certainly deserves to be treated with great suspicion as a "brazen" fabrication. Though apparently smoothed over, Egbert's initial support for Henry the Quarrelsome as successor to Otto II (who Willigis of Mainz had supported throughout) may have put paid to any chances he had of succeeding in his ambitions for primacy.
There are three main survivals of metalwork pieces certainly commissioned by Egbert, though contemporary literary references make it clear there was originally a large production, and both the three clear survivals and a larger group of objects often related to Trier both show "astonishingly little unity" in style and workmanship, which makes the confident attribution of other pieces such as the Cross of Otto and Mathilde very difficult. The three clear survivals are the reliquary and portable altar for a sandal of Saint Andrew, still at Trier Cathedral, the staff-religuary of St Peter, now in Limburg Cathedral Treasury, and the metalwork treasure binding for the Codex Aureus of Echternach, commissioned by Empress Theophanu. Of these, Peter Lasko wrote: "Each seems to have been made in a totally different workshop, using different sources, techniques, and principles of composition, and indeed, if the evidence for Archbishop Egbert as the donor for all three pieces were not so overwhelming, no one would have dared to attribute them all to one centre." It has been suggested that, as there is little evidence of the Trier workshop after Egbert's death, Mathilde, Abbess of Essen recruited it for Essen.
The staff-reliquary now in Limburg uses iconography to promote the claims of the see of Trier, with sets of enamel plaques with portraits of the Apostles paired with those of the earliest bishops of Trier, and other sets matching popes with later bishops. There is evidence that "Egbert put the reliquary to frequent use" to relieve droughts and the like, and very likely to also to "brandish" it to increase his authority in synods and other important meetings.
As for manuscripts, Egbert himself commissioned the compilation of the Registrum Gregorii. He was also the recipient of the illuminated manuscript Codex Egberti, showing an early form of Romanesque style, which was probably produced at the up-and-coming centre of Reichenau, though the manuscripts associated with Egbert and with Reichenau at this period show something of the same confusing diversity of style as the metalwork. Egbert's psalter is now in Cividale del Friuli.