Conrad III

Gertrude of Sulzbach

Henry Berengar

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Conrad III







Henry Berengar (son)


Counter-king 1127-1135

Crowned Monza 1128

Roman King 1138-1152

? Duke of Bavaria 1141-1143 ?

¥ 1115 ca Gertrude of Comburg †1130/’31

¥ 1136 Gertrude of Sulzbach c. 1110-14 April 1146

Co-ruler 1147-1150



After 1116 Conrad called himself sometimes Duke of Swabia  and was a duke of Franconia for some time. He became the counter-king of Lothar of Supplinburg on 18 September 1127 and was crowned in Monza in 1128. The coronation in Monza was the start of a new tradition.

For that matter the German coronation in Aachen implied also the right to rule in Italy (and Burgundy) because Henry III and Henry V had been crowned only in Aachen. The first coronation took place in 1128 when Conrad was crowned. Then also it was a counter-king Lothar- who, with his claims, made him to take the iniative for a coronation. These, however did not take place in St. John Baptists Cathedral, founded by Theodolinde, but in St. Michaels Church and thus had no relation with the Lombard tradition and the Iron Crown. That the election took place in Monza may have been due to the influence of Archbishop Anselm of Mailand, because Pavia was in the hands of counter-king Lothar then. [1]

In 1135 he submitted himself to Lothar. After the death of Lothar he was elected King of the Germans on 7 March 1138 in Koblenz and crowned in Aachen on the 13th following.


Bust of St. Candide. 12th cent.

Treasury of  St Maurice d’Agaune Abbey


The accepted opinion is that the head is a portrait of Amadeus III of Savoye (1103-1148) abbot of St Agaune until 1147. [2]

The man represented has a moustache and a short beard. On his head a closed crown with a hoop. The crown can be compared with the crowns of Rudolph of Swabia (Roman King 1070-’80) and Konrad of Lorraine (Roman King 1087-’98) buit also with the crown of Lothair II (Roman King 1125-’33). Like these crowns the pendilia are missing. Therefore with great plausibility a Roman king is represented, the crown imitating the crown of Roman King Lothair II.  Certainly this Roman King was not Lothair of Supplinburg because he had a pointed beard. Also Fredrick Barbarossa does not qualify because he had a short curly beard. Because of the resemblance with the portrait on his seal from 1138, Conrad III may be represented. We prefer however to date the bust between 1128 and 1138 because the pendilia are missing.

The presence of his portrait in St. Maurice d’Agaune can be explained by the fact that this important abbey is on the road from Monza to Swabia by Aosta and the pass of St Bernard, when entering  the Kingdom of Burgundy. By offering his bust to the abbey he presented himself as the new king of Burgundy. He may have referred to King Boso of Burgundy who had been lay abbot of St. Maurice en Agaune before becoming king of Burgundy in 879. St. Maurice also was the patron of the Western Roman Empire (and the Hohenstaufen) to which Conrad paid homage by offering this bust.


Below is a scene of the killing of St. Candide, the soul of the saint, represented by a little human figure, taken to heaven by an angel. St. Candide was a soldier of the Theban Legion and the partner of St. Maurice and was martyred together with him during the rule of Emperor Maximian (r. 286-305). The Theban Legion was massacred in Agaune (286). In the Middle Ages the symbol of St. Maurice was a white cross on a red field.


Seal of Conrad III, 1138


Seal of majesty: The king sitting with a closed crown with pendilia , in his right hand a lily-sceptre and in his right hand an orb with cross.



Like the St. Maurice en Agaune-bust the king has a moustanche and a short beard.



In 1146, Conrad heard Bernard of Clairvaux preach the Second Crusade at Speyer, and he agreed to join Louis VII in a great expedition to the Holy Land. Before leaving, he had the nobles elect and crown his son Henry Berengar king. The succession secured in the event of his death, Conrad set out. His army of 20,000 men went overland, via Hungary, causing disruptions in the Byzantine territories through which they passed. They arrived at Constantinople by September 1147, ahead of the French army.

Rather than taking the coastal road around Anatolia through Christian-held territory, by which he sent most of his noncombatants, Conrad took his army across Anatolia. On 25 October 1147, they were defeated by the Seljuk Turks at the Battle of Dorylaeum. Conrad and most of the knights escaped, but most of the foot soldiers were killed or captured. The remaining 2,000 men of the German army limped on to Nicaea, where many of the survivors deserted and tried to return home. Conrad and his adherents had to be escorted to Lopadium by the French, where they joined the main French army under Louis. Conrad fell seriously ill at Ephesus and was sent to recuperate in Constantinople, where his host the Emperor Manuel I acted as his personal physician. After recovering, Conrad sailed to Acre, and from there reached Jerusalem. He participated in the ill-fated Siege of Damascus and after that failure, grew disaffected with his allies. Another attempt to attack Ascalon failed when Conrad's allies did not appear as promised, and Conrad returned to Germany.


Reliquary of the Sons of Sigismund. ~1160. Side B.

W. 33,5 ´ H. 43,2 cm

St. Maurice d’Agaune Abbey, Treasury


This side shows a rider on horseback, armed with a shield with a latin cross. On both sides of his head  the inscription: MAVRICIVS SCS. The shield is a norman shield with a wide gilded border and charged with a gilded latin cross. On his pennon is a cross between 4 ´ 5 besants 2: 1 : 2. This identifies him as a crusader, the pennon as a (chief-) commander. The knight can be determined as king Conrad III (*1093-†1152) as a crusader (1147-’48).


Reliquiary of the sons of Sigismund. Side A. ~1160

St. Maurice d’Agaune (Wallis, CH).


Ruler seated on a lion throne with crown and lily-sceptre, facing two bearded men. The foremost with sword upright.

The ruler may be Conrad III and the  two bearded men his nephews Frederick (Barbarossa) (*1122-‘90) and  Conrad (*1135-‘95) .


Lit.: Thurre, Daniel: L’Atelier roman dorfèvrerie de l’Abbaye de Saint-Maurice. 1992.


Gertrude of Sulzbach

*c. 1110-†14 April 1146



Å Madonna in/on the Johanniskirche, Schwäbisch-Gmünd

Sandstone, H. 130 cm



Since 1972 the romanesque ‘Madonna of the Column’ also called the ‘Staufen Madonna’, is under the vault of the choir of St. John’s church in Schwäbish-Gmünd (Baden-Württemberg). Until then she was on the southern wall of the church, nowadays replaced by a replica. At first the Madonna was in the predecessor of the Gmünd Minster of the Holy Cross. She was qualified as the most precious sculpture of Schwäbisch-Gmünd city, dated at the end of the 12th century. [4]

Until now no comparable sculpture has been found but such a Mary-and-Child-group is very common in Christian Europe. [5]


Be it as it is, the question remains who actually is represented. We are of the opinion that such Mary-and-Child groups were often taken as an alibi to introduce the successor of the ruler to the people, demonstrating that the succession was guaranteed.

Taking into account that Schwäbisch-Gmünd is situated on the former Limes and the border between the medieval duchies of Franconia and Swabia, the sculpture may have served to introduce the successor in both duchies in the middle of the 12th century, that is of Conrad III. In that case the sculpture may represent the wife of Conrad III, Gertrude of Sulzbach and her little son Henry Berengar, born in 1137.

As the little boy is given an orb by his mother and apparently is swearing an oath, the sculpture may be intended to announce the co-regency of Henry Berengar which took place in 1147.


At that time, Gertrude had already died at Hersfeld Abbey, as she became ill after the birth of her second son Frederick. She was buried in the church of the former Cistercian monastery of Ebrach.

There she is represented in late-gothic style on her tomb, made after the consecration of the second church in 1285.





Henry (V) Berengar

*1137- †1150

co-ruler, Aachen 30.03.1147 - 1150


Conrad had the princes elect Henry Berengar, then ten years old, as co-King of Germany at a diet in Frankfurt on 13 March 1147, before Conrad left on the Second Crusade  Henry was anointed and crowned on Laetare Sunday (30 March) in Aachen. During his father's absence on crusade (June 1147–May 1149), he was placed under the tutorship of the powerful abbot Wibald and the notary Heinrich von Wiesenbach.

After a quite succesful career Henry died in 1150 at the age of 13 and was buried in Lorch Monastery.



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 © Hubert de Vries 2016-11-14; 2018-12-11




[1] Bárány-Oberschall, Magda von-: Die Eiserne Krone der Lombardei und der Lombardische Königsschatz. Wien 1966. P. 32.

[2]. Thurre, Daniel: L’Atelier Roman d’Orfèvrerie de l’Abbay de Saint-Maurice. Sierre, 1992, who gets hopelessly entangled in his sophisticated history of art analysis.

[3]  Landeshauptarchiv Koblenz, Best.180, Nr. 23: 1143 (In: Die Zeit der Staufer, Kat nr. 27).

[4] By Hermann Kissling

[5] The sculpture was exposed amongst others in 2010/’11 during the  Die Staufer und Italien  expostion in the Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen in Mannheim.