Facts and Events
Henry II (May 6, 972 – July 13, 1024), also known as Saint Henry, Obl.S.B. ("Oblate of Saint Benedict"), was Holy Roman Emperor from 1014 until his death in 1024. The last member of the Ottonian dynasty of Emperors, Henry II became king of Germany following the sudden death of his second-cousin Emperor Otto III in 1002 and was crowned as Emperor in 1014.
The son of Henry II, Duke of Bavaria, and his wife Gisela of Burgundy, Emperor Henry II was a great-grandson of German King Henry I and a member of the Bavarian branch of the Ottonian dynasty. Since his father had rebelled against two previous emperors, the younger Henry was often in exile. This led him to turn to the Church at an early age, first finding refuge with the Bishop of Freising and later being educated at the cathedral school of Hildesheim. He succeeded his father as Duke of Bavaria in 995 as "Henry IV". As Bavarian Duke, he attempted to join his second-cousin, Holy Roman Emperor Otto III, in suppressing a revolt against imperial rule in Italy in 1002. Before Henry II could arrive, however, Otto III died of fever, leaving no heir. After defeating several other claimants to the throne, Henry II was crowned King of Germany on July 9, 1002, and King of Italy on May 15, 1004. Henry II in 1004 helped the Bohemian duke Jaromír against Poles, definitively incorporated the Duchy of Bohemia into the Holy Roman Empire.
Unlike his predecessor, who had focused upon imperial attention in Italy, Henry spent most of his reign concerned with imperial territory north of the Alps. His main focus was on a series of wars against the Polish Duke Bolesław I. Henry II did, however, lead three expeditions into Italy to ensure imperial dominion over the peninsula: twice to suppress secessionist revolts and once to challenge the Byzantine Empire for dominance over southern Italy. On February 14, 1014, Pope Benedict VIII crowned Henry II as Holy Roman Emperor in St. Peter's Basilica.
The rule of Henry II is seen as a period of centralized authority throughout the Holy Roman Empire. He consolidated his sovereign power by cultivating personal and political ties with the Catholic Church. He greatly expanded the Ottonian dynasty's custom of employing clergy as a counter-weight against the secular nobility. Through donations to the Church and the establishment of new dioceses, Henry II strengthened the pillars of imperial rule across the Empire and increased imperial control over Church affairs. He stressed service to the Church and promoted monastic reform. For his efforts to support the Church, Pope Eugene III proclaimed him a saint in 1146, making Henry II the only German monarch to ever be canonized.
Henry II married Cunigunde of Luxembourg. As the union produced no children, Henry II was the last Emperor of the Ottonian dynasty. The German nobles elected Conrad II, a great-great-grandson of Emperor Otto I, to succeed Henry II. Conrad was the first of the Salian dynasty of Emperors.