Henry Raspe IV of Thuringia


*1202 ca- †16.II.1247






Short Biography


House of Liudolf

Landgrave of Thuringia

Count Palatine of Saxony

Royal Images

Elected King

A Posthumous Portrait

A Supposed Early Portrait


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*1202 ca- †16.II.1247

Regent in Thuringia 1227-1238

Count Palatine of Saxony 1241

 Landgrave of Thuringia 1241

Elected King of Rome 22.V.1246


Short Biography


After Siegfried III of Eppstein, archbishop of Mainz had abandoned emperor Frederick II, Henry Raspe was appointed imperial guardian of Conrad IV, then still a minor (1242). When Frederick II was deposed at the Council of Lyon (1245), he made preparations to join the papal side. At the instance of the papal legate and after some hesitation, he declared himself a candidate for the election of a Roman and German king. On papal invitation the archbishops of Köln and Mainz elected him, with the consent of the archbishop of Trier and some other bishops, on 22 May 1246 in Veitshöchheim. As no secular prince participated in the election he was nicknamed “The Papist King”.

His first Reichstag was convocated in Frankfurt but, as the city apparently refused to admit him it was held in the fields  outside the ramparts.

Thanks to treason of count Ulrich of Württemberg, who was bribed with 7000 mark silver, he could defeat Conrad IV who had attacked him near the city. This however did not prevent Conrad IV to continue his offensive to conquer the duchy of Swabia. Only nine months after his election  Henry died in the Wartburg near Eisenach.[1]


Taking into account his short rule it is astonishing that so relatively many keepsakes of him have been preserved. This, doubtlessly, is due to the heavy propaganda for his sake, sponsored by the pope himself who apparently wanted the election and rule of a counter-king and -emperor against the excommunicated and deposed  but still not defeated and strong Frederick II.




House of Liudolf




The arms of the House of Liudolf are known from coins from the middle of the 12th century. They were also borne by Henry Raspe who was a member of that house. They are documented by Matthew Paris for the year 1247, the year of the death of Henry Raspe.


A. Mattheus Parisiensis: Chronica  Majora. Corp. Chr. Coll. Ms. 16, fol. 211: Death of Henry Raspe of Thuringia,1247: lower right margin: inverted lance and shield (gyronny of eight Or and Azure, a roundel in an orle of smaller roundels Gules edged Argent).



B. Mattheus Parisiensis: Historia Anglorum. B.L. Ms. Roy. 14.C.VII fol. 140: Death of Henry Raspe of Thuringia,1247: - bottom right margin: inverted shields: a) gyronny of six Or and Azure, a roundel between six smaller roundels Gules edged Argent. b) Azure, an eagle displayed Or: Obiit Andegravius Duringiæ, ad cujus promotionem, ut imperaret, dominus papa infinitam effudit pecuniam. Hic Henricus Raspe dicitur. [2]


Landgrave of Thuringia



Arms of the landgrave of Thuringia

after the wedding-chest of Quedlinburg 1209 ca. [3]


Arms: Azure, a lion rampant fessy Gules and Argent.


The arms of the Landgrave of Thuringia date from the beginning of the 13th century. In the time of Henry Raspe they are documented by Konrad von Mure (ca. 1240):


            Thuringen clipeo stat forma leonis

            Cuius pellem variam rubeo niveoque reponis


They are also confirmed by the seal of the city of Alsfeld:

Seal: The Landgrave, sitting, with sword in his right and a banner in his left, on his shield a lion. L.: X s scvlteti • et • bvrigesiv • i • alsfelt. Date: 2nd quarter of the 13th century (before 1248). [4]


Count Palatine of Saxony



Arms: Azure, an eagle Or.


These arms are documented by Matthew Paris as cited above. They are confirmed by the seal of the city of Bamberg:

Seal of the City of Bamberg





Present arms of the city of Bamberg


Seal: A warrior in coat of mail, on his coat of arms a square cross, in his right hand a banner with a rectangular (square) cross and supporting with his left hand a shield with an eagle. L.: X  s • civium • civitatis • babenbergensis • l. Date: 2nd - 3rd quarter of the 13th century Æ 7,9 cm. (Bamberg, Hist. Mus, Inv. Nr. 13/24).


In 1232 bishop Egbert of Andechs-Merano brought king Henry VII about to decree that the citizens of Bamberg would only be summoned by their own court. It is supposed that he is depicted on this seal even when it is only known from a document of 1279. 


* The warrior however,  looks more like Henry Raspe than like Henry VII. The seal matches well with the seals of Alsfeld, Frankfurt a/Main and Gelnhausen in its artistic design, reason why it may have been cut during the rule of this king (1246-’47).

In the actual arms of Bamberg the banner is white with a red cross and the shield is Azure, an eagle Argent. The banner is the banner of the church (Ecclesia) and would demonstrate that the bearer was on the Papal side.



They give a clue to determine to whom a chasuble, today in the treasury of Halberstadt, may have belonged.


Blue chasuble with embroidered eagles

Blue silk samit, gilt silver thread, red silk. H.: 161 cm, W.: 146 cm. 2nd half of the 13th century. Treasury of the Dom of Halberstadt. Inv. Nr. 210. 2  [5]



The chasuble is actually one of the few real coats of arms preserved.The eagles on it are easily comparable with the eagle on the arms on the seal of Bamberg. According to Eike von Repgow in his Sachsenspiegel an eagle is the emblem of an imperial vassal. For the owner of the mantle Henry Raspe is suggested because of the arms documented by Matthew Paris. It would mean that the count palatine of Saxony considered himself as an imperial vassal, referring to ancient times when the count palatine of Saxony was appointed by the emperor.

The mantle could as well have been of the (first) successor of Henry Raspe from the House of Wettin, (Henry III, the Illustrious) who was appointed by special decree of Frederick II in 1247.

The arms Azure, an eagle Or were used by all later counts palatine from the House of Wettin and is always called: Arms of the Count Palatine of Saxony.


This would imply that the arms with the eagle are not the arms of the king of Germany.


Royal Images


Elected Roman King



To know how the Papist King looked, his seals are of crucial importance. Those known and preserved are of  very high artistic quality and suggest a great resemblance with the sitter.



Golden Bull: The king on his throne with crown, lily-sceptre and orb. L.: heinricvs di gra romanor rex sep avgvst. (Reverse: Rome). Date: 1246-05-23  [6]


City of Frankfurt a/Main. Second seal


Seal: The king, crowned, with lilysceptre and orb. L: X frankenvortis • specialis • domvs • Imperii. Date: 1249-’53. [7]


This seal may have been granted after the defeat of Conrad IV near Frankfurt a/M. Together with the seal of Alsfelt it may be the best portrait of the king.



Seal: The king on his throne with crown, lily-sceptre and orb. L.: heinricvs dei gracia romanorvm rex semp avgvstvs. Date: 1246-08-13  [8]


The crown on this seal is not a leafed crown but a crown composed of vertical plates. It may be an early picture of the so-called Crown of Otto the Great, alias the Imperial Crown. This crown was kept in the castle of Trifels. The crown on the seal suggests that Henry Raspe did have access to the treasury of Trifels.

Seal of the city of Gelnhausen.


Seal: The king and his queen consort, crowned, the king with lily-sceptre and orb, the queen with a lily-sceptre; sitting within a vaulted structure, probably symbolizing Rome. L.: X SIGILLVM • SCULTETI • ET • CIVIVM • DE • GEILENHVSEN. Date: before 1248. Æ 7,6 cm. Modern cast of the die (reversed). (Gelnhausen, Stadtverwaltung (Heimatmuseum)).


This seal of the bailiff and citizens of Gelnhausen was used for the first time on a document dated 21 March 1248. [9]


The current opinion is that Emperor Frederick Barbarossa and empress Beatrice are depicted on this seal. Comparing it with the contemporary seals from Alsfeld, Bamberg and Frankfurt a/M. makes us decide that king Henry Raspe is portrayed.

Contrary to the seal of Frankfurt a/M the king does not wear a royal crown but a version of the imperial crown, lacking the square cross symbolizing the Imperium. Such a crown is characteristic for the emperors from the Salian House. It is depicted fourteen times on the sheath of the Imperial Sword on the heads of the emperors ranging from Charlemagne to Henry III (1039-’56).[10] The crowns on the seal anticipate the imperial coronation of Henry Raspe who died prematurely.

Henry Raspe has been married three times: his first marriage was with Elizabeth of Brandenburg, his second with Gertrude of Austria and his third with Beatrice of Brabant. So, on the seal a Beatrice is really depicted but she is not the consort of Frederick Barbarossa but of Henry Raspe.


The seals of the cities demonstrate the fact that Henry Raspe was, thanks to the generosity of the pope, not in need of money. The artistic quality is of high level and possibly the seals are cut by the same artisan. They demonstrate also that Henry apparently tried to make the cities change side in his struggle with his rival king Conrad IV of Hohenstaufen.


A Posthumous Portrait of King Henry Raspe of Thuringia


Detail of the Tomb of Archbishop Siegfried III von Eppstein

with the counter-kings Henry Raspe of Thuringia  and William II of Holland, ca. 1250 (copy).


Original: H.: 214 cm, B. 102 cm. Limestone. The monument was restored in 1834 and was repainted in the supposed original colours by the masterpainter Gräf. Parts of the hand of the Archbishop, the upper part of the crozier and the crowns of the two kings were renewed.


The tombstobe of  Archbishop Siegfried III von Eppstein, deceased in Bingen in 1249 and buried in the chorus ferreus of the cathedral of Mayence, was set in the nave near the first pillar from the south in 1865. [11] 


Apparently the artist did not know Henry Raspe by life. Also, as we may demonstrate somewhere else, the portrait of King William of Holland is not very accurate.














Picture: Internet




A supposed early portrait of Henry Raspe as a regent in Thuringia



Picture: Internet


By the portraits of Henry Raspe as a landgrave, a count palatine and a king, which are of so great a quality, our attention is drawn to a statue in Magdeburg Cathedral. This statue is known as St. Maurice, the patron saint of the secular Roman Empire and counterpart of St. George, the patron saint of the spiritual Roman Empire.

It is remarkable that this St. Maurice, who was supposed to be of moorish descent, is sculptured with some negroïd traits which are augmented by the actual black paint on his face and also by the mutilation of his nose.


I may propose here that not St. Maurice but Henry Raspe is portrayed and in a less idealized and juvenile way as he is on his seals. Indeed, the sculpture is dated 1235-’40 and consequently is from the time that Henry Raspe was of the age between 33 and 38 and also from the time he was a regent in Thuringia (1228-’38). The man depicted can well be of this age and the resemblance with Henry Raspe would even be greater if the red and black paint was removed from his face.

When we date the sculpture somewhat later, and in the time Henry was a Count Palatine of Saxony and an Imperial Guardian, it would be explained why the sculpture is in Magdeburg cathedral because this city  is situated in his judicial district.

It would be of great help if the original colours of the statue could be reconstructed.

Some more research about the origins an vicissitudes of the statue would certainly be worth wile.



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 © Hubert de Vries 2010-01-08. Updated  2015-02-23; 2018-01-08




[1] Die Zeit der Staufer, I, p. 38.

[2] Both quotes from: Lewis, Suzanne: The Art of Matthew Paris in the Chronica Majora. Univ. of California Press. Berkeley/Los Angeles, 1987. “Death of Landgrave of Thuringia, for whose promotion and rule the Lord Pope versed endless sums of money. He was called Henry Raspe.”

[3] Schwineköper, B.: Eine unbekannte heraldische Quelle zur Geschichte Kaiser Ottos IV. und seine Anhänger. In: Festschrift für H. Heimpel zum 70. Geburtstag am 19. Sept. 1971. II, Göttingen 1972, 959-1022. N° 3.

[4]  Die Zeit der Staufer n° 144

[5]  Kostbarkeiten aus dem Domschatz zu Halberstadt. Halle a/d Saale, 2001. Pp. 74-75. Picture.

[6] Die Zeit der Staufer Kat. nr 56; Hessen und Thüringen. Ausstellung des Landes Hessen 1992. Nr 177 (illustration).

[7]  Ibid n° 147

[8]  Ibid.  Kat. nr 55

[9]  Ibid.  n° 145, Abb. 74.

[10]  Schulze-Dörlamm, M.: Das Reichsschwert. Sigmaringen, 1995.

[11] Die Zeit der Staufer. Kat. 450, Abb. 251