Depiction of the Ottonian family tree in a 13th-century manuscript of the Chronica sancti Pantaleonis.

The Ottonian dynasty was a dynasty of German Kings (919–1024), named after its first Emperor but also known as the Saxon dynasty after the family's origin. The family itself is also sometimes known as the Liudolfings, after its earliest known member Liudolf and one of its primary leading-names. The Ottonian rulers were successors of the Frankish Carolingian dynasty in Germany.

Ottonian Salian dynasty

Ottonian family tree

Ruling in Germany and the Holy Roman Empire[]

Quedlinburg Stiftskirche

Former collegiate church of St. Servatius in Quedlinburg, founded in 936 by Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor, at the request of his mother Queen Matilda, in honour of her late husband, Otto's father, King Henry the Fowler, and as his memorial

Although never Emperor, Henry I the Fowler, Duke of Saxony, was arguably the founder of this imperial dynasty, since his election as German king in 919 made it possible for his son, Otto the Great to take on the imperium. Under the reign of the Ottonian rulers, the kingdom of the Eastern Franks included of the duchies of Lorraine, Saxony, Franconia, Swabia, Thuringia, and Bavaria.

Otto I inherited the Duchy of Saxony upon the death of his father in 936. He continued his father's work of unifying all of the German tribes into a single kingdom, greatly expanding the powers of the king at the expense of the aristocracy. Through strategic marriages and personal appointments, Otto installed members of his own family to the Kingdom's most important duchies. This reduced the various Dukes, who had previously been co-equals with the king, into royal subjects under the king's authority. Otto also transformed the Church in Germany into a major royal power base to which he donated charity and for the creation of which his family was responsible. After putting down a brief civil war, Otto defeated the Magyars in 955, ending the Hungarian invasions of Europe and as well as securing his hold over his kingdom. The victory against the pagan Magyars earned Otto the reputation as the savior of Christendom. By 961, Otto had conquered the Kingdom of Italy, which was a troublesome inheritance that none wanted, and extended the Kingdom's borders to the north, east, and south. In control of much of central and southern Europe, the patronage of Otto and his immediate successors caused a limited cultural renaissance of the arts and architecture.

By excluding the Bavarian line of Ottonians from the line of succession, Otto's son and successor Otto II strengthened Imperial authority and secured his own son's succession to the Imperial throne. During his reign, Otto II attempted to annex the whole of Italy into the Empire, bringing him into conflict with the Byzantine Empire and with the Saracens of the Fatimid Caliphate. Otto II's campaign against the Saracens ended in 982 following a disastrous defeat. In 983 Otto II experienced a major uprising of the Slavs against his rule. Otto II died suddenly in 983 at the age of 28 after a ten-year reign. Succeeded by his three-year-old son Otto III as King, his sudden death plunged the dynasty into crisis. During her regency for Otto III, the Byzantine princess Theophanu abandoned her late husband's imperialistic policy and devoted herself entirely to furthering her own agenda in Italy.

The childless Otto III was succeeded by Henry II in 1002, a son of duke Henry II, Duke of Bavaria who was a member of the Bavarian line of the Ottonians. Henry II spent the next several years consolidating his political power on his borders. He waged a campaign against Boleslaw I of Poland and then moved successfully into the Kingdom of Italy. After the extinction of the Ottonian dynasty with the death of Henry II in 1024 the crown passed to Conrad II of the Salian dynasty. Liutgarde, a daughter of Otto I had married the Salian Duke Conrad the Red of Lorraine. His great-grandson was Conrad II. When Rudolph III, King of Burgundy died on 2 February 1032, Conrad II successfully claimed also this Kingship on the basis of an inheritance Emperor Henry II had extorted from the former in 1006, after having invaded Burgundy to enforce his claim after Rudolph attempted to renounce it in 1016.

Ottonian Kings and Emperors[]

German royal dynasties
Ottonian dynasty
Henry I 919936
Otto I 936973
Otto II 973983
Otto III 9831002
Henry II 10021024
Family tree of the German monarchs
Preceded by
Conradine dynasty
Followed by
Salian dynasty

Some other famous members of the Liudolfing or Ottonian House:

  • Liudolf, Count of Saxony, died 864/866
  • Saint Altfrid, Bishop of Hildesheim, died 874
  • Otto the Illustrious, Duke of Saxony, died 912
  • Gerberga of Saxony, died 954
  • Henry I, Duke of Bavaria, died 955
  • Liudolf, Duke of Swabia, died 957
  • Hedwige of Saxony, died 965
  • Bruno I, Archbishop of Cologne and Duke of Lotharingia, died 965
  • William, Archbishop of Mainz, died 968
  • Mathilde, Abbess of Essen, 973-1011
  • Matilda, Abbess of Quedlinburg, died 999
  • Adelheid I, Abbess of Quedlinburg, died 1044
  • Matilda of Germany, Countess Palatine of Lotharingia, 979-1025
  • Otto, Duke of Swabia and Bavaria, died 982
  • Henry II, Duke of Bavaria, the Wrangler, died 995
  • Bruno, Bishop of Augsburg, died 1029

See also[]

  • Kings of East Frankia family tree. The Ottonians were the 3rd dynasty to rule East Frankia and were related by marriage to all the others.
  • Ottonian Renaissance
  • Ottonian art
  • Ottonian architecture
  • Concordat of Worms
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  • Karl Leyser, "Ottonian Government" The English Historical Review 96.381 (October 1981), pp 721–753.

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