Ottonian dynasty

Ottonian dynasty
CountryDuchy of Saxony, Kingdom of Germany, Holy Roman Empire
Founded9th century: Liudolf, Duke of Saxony
Final rulerHenry II, Holy Roman Emperor
Titles
Dissolution1024 (after the death of Emperor Henry II)
Cadet branchesBrunonids
Depiction of the Ottonian family tree in a 13th-century manuscript of the Chronica sancti Pantaleonis. The founder of the dynasty Liudolf, Duke of Saxony is at the top center

The Ottonian dynasty (German: Ottonen) was a Saxon dynasty of German monarchs (919–1024), named after three of its kings and Holy Roman Emperors named Otto, especially its first Emperor Otto I. It is also known as the Saxon dynasty after the family's origin in the German stem duchy of Saxony. The family itself is also sometimes known as the Liudolfings (Liudolfinger), after its earliest known member Count Liudolf (d. 866) and one of its primary leading-names. The Ottonian rulers were successors of the Germanic king Conrad I who was the only Germanic king to rule in East Francia after the Carolingian dynasty and before this dynasty.[1]

Origins

Gandersheim Abbey Church

In the 9th century, the Saxon count Liudolf held large estates on the Leine river west of the Harz mountain range and in the adjacent Eichsfeld territory of Thuringia. His ancestors probably acted as ministeriales in the Saxon stem duchy, which had been incorporated into the Carolingian Empire after the Saxon Wars of Charlemagne. Liudolf married Oda, a member of the Frankish House of Billung. About 852 the couple together with Bishop Altfrid of Hildesheim founded Brunshausen Abbey, which, relocated to Gandersheim, rose to a family monastery and burial ground.

Liudolf already held the high social position of a Saxon dux, documented by the marriage of his daughter Liutgard with Louis the Younger, son of the Carolingian king Louis the German in 869. Liudolf's sons Bruno and Otto the Illustrious ruled over large parts of Saxon Eastphalia, moreover, Otto acted as lay abbot of the Imperial abbey of Hersfeld with large estates in Thuringia. He married Hedwiga, a daughter of the Babenberg duke Henry of Franconia. Otto possibly accompanied King Arnulf on his 894 campaign to Italy; the marriage of his daughter Oda with Zwentibold, Arnulf's illegitimate son, documents the efforts of the Carolingian ruler to win the mighty Saxon dynasty over as an ally. According to the Saxon chronicler Widukind of Corvey, Otto upon the death of the last Carolingian king Louis the Child in 911 was already a candidate for the East Frankish crown, which however passed to the Franconian duke Conrad I.

Upon Otto's death in 912, his son Henry the Fowler succeeded him as Duke of Saxony. Henry had married Matilda of Ringelheim, a descendant of the legendary Saxon ruler Widukind and heiress to extended estates in Westphalia.