Facts and Events
Henry II (6 May 972 – 13 July 1024), also known as Saint Henry, Obl. S. B. ("Oblate of Saint Benedict"), was Holy Roman Emperor ("Romanorum Imperator") from 1014 until his death in 1024 and the last member of the Ottonian dynasty of Emperors as he had no children. The Duke of Bavaria from 995, Henry became King of Germany ("Rex Romanorum") following the sudden death of his second cousin, Emperor Otto III in 1002, was crowned King of Italy ("Rex Italiae") in 1004, and was crowned by the Pope 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 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 as King of Germany ("Rex Romanorum") on July 9, 1002 and as King of Italy ("Rex Italiae") on 15 May 1004. Henry II in 1004 aided Jaromír, Duke of Bohemia against the Poles, definitively incorporating 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, who had already conquered a number of countries surrounding him. Henry 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 14 February 1014, Pope Benedict VIII crowned Henry as Holy Roman Emperor ("Romanorum Imperator") in Rome.
The rule of Henry II is seen as a period of centralized authority throughout the Empire. He consolidated his power by cultivating personal and political ties with the Catholic Church. He greatly expanded the Ottonian dynasty's custom of employing clergy as counter-weights against secular nobles. Through donations to the Church and the establishment of new dioceses, Henry strengthened imperial rule across the Empire and increased control over ecclesiastical affairs. He stressed service to the Church and promoted monastic reform. For his personal holiness and efforts to support the Church, Pope Bl. Eugene III canonized him in 1146, making Henry II the only German monarch to be a saint.
Henry II married Cunigunde of Luxembourg, who later became his queen and empress. As the union produced no children, after Henry's death the German nobles elected Conrad II, a great-great-grandson of Emperor Otto I, to succeed him. Conrad was the first of the Salian dynasty of Emperors.