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Lothair II (III) of Saxony 


Duke of Saxony 1106 - 1137

King of Germany 1125 - 1137

elected 27.8.1125; crowned Aachen 13.9.1125

Roman Emperor 1133 - 1137

crowned Rome 4.6.1133


Little is known of Lothair's youth. He was a posthumous child, born at Unterlüß in 1075 shortly after his father, who had joined the Saxon Rebellion against the ruling Salian dynasty, died in the Battle of Langensalza on 9 June against troops loyal to Emperor Henry IV. In 1100 he married Richenza, daughter of Count Henry of Northeim and Gertrude of Brunswick, heiress of the Brunonids.

After years of purchasing lands or gaining them via inheritance or marriage alliances throughout Saxony, Lothair gained the domains of the House of Billung, the Counts of Northeim and the Brunonids, and became one of the dominant landowners in the North German duchy. He backed the emperor's son Henry V during the disempowerment of his father Henry IV and in turn was made Duke of Saxony upon the death of Magnus of Billung in 1106. Emboldened by the promotion and incensed over the imposition of a new tax on ducal lords, however, Duke Lothair subsequently revolted against Emperor Henry's rule and denied his ability to rule Saxony during the Investiture Controversy. He acted autonomously, vesting Count Adolf of Schauenburg with Holstein in 1110, was temporarily deposed in 1112 but reinstated after he tactically submitted himself to the rule of Henry V. In 1115 however, he joined the rebellious Saxon forces which defeated those of the Emperor in the Battle of Welfesholz. When in 1123 Henry V vested Count Wiprecht of Groitzsch with the Margraviate of Meissen, Lothair enforced the appointment of Conrad of Wettin and ceded the March of Lusatia to Count Albert the Bear.


After the death of Emperor Henry V in 1125, Lothair was viewed by the Imperial chancellor, the Archbishop of Mainz, as a perfect candidate. As an extensive landowner all over Saxony, he brought power to the table, but he was old (slightly over fifty years of age) and had no male issue, potentially making him malleable for the nobility. He was therefore elected King of the Romans after a contentious power struggle with Duke Frederick II, Duke of Swabia, head of the rising House of Hohenstaufen. His election was notable in that it marked a departure from the concept of hereditary succession. Somewhat naive concerning the complex power struggle between the papacy and the empire, Lothair also consented to several symbolic acts that were subsequently interpreted by Rome as signaling acceptance of papal confirmation of his position.




A series of portraits can be made of Lothair representing him thoughout his career. From the beginning Lothair is represented with curly hair and a curly pointed beard. According to his portrait from Reims he was red-haired but on later portraits his hair is white.


Portrait of Lothair II

Klosterkirche Hecklingen (Sachsen-Anhalt) [1]


Photo H.d.V. 2014

Head of a prophet

Fragment of a statue on a column

From the right entrance of the façade of St Denis Abbey, about 1137-‘40

Musée de Cluny, Paris, acquired 1992. Inv. n° Cl. 23415


The cap Lothair is wearing here consists of a demi-sphere, apparently of felt, decorated with a rim and a hoop of (gold-) brocade. The demi-sphere is not decorated with points or prependoulia, nor crested with a cross or ball. This would mean that this headdress is the headdress of a duke and not of a king or emperor. Consequently Lothair is represented here  as a Duke of Saxony (1106-1137).



Seal of Lothair II, 1125

München, Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Kaiserselekt 450.


On the charter of Lothair II for Bishop Herimann von Augsburg confirming the grant of the Imperial Abbey of Benedikbeuren. 27 November 1125



Head of the statue of king Lothair II


from the choir of St. Remi Cathedral in Reims. Made in the 12th century. Damaged during the French Revolution and excavated in 1919. The common opinion is that the head represents King Lothair of France (954-986) who was buried there in 986. 


Excavations have shown that the present Reims Cathedral occupies roughly the same site as the original cathedral, founded c.400 under the episcopacy of St Nicaise. That church was rebuilt during the Carolingian period and further extended in the 12th century.


The presence of the head of Lothar in Reims can be explained as follows:

In 1131 Lothar invited Innocent II for a meeting in Liège to talk about the situation of the church in Italy. Both arrived on 22 March 1131 with great pomp and Lothar even gave Innocent the strator service by leading his horse by the rein. As Lothar pleaded to give him back the rights of investment, Innocent almost flew Liege because he thought to be in even greater danger there  than in Rome. He then went to Reims where he held a Council. Here the archbishop of Magdeburg had to guarantee in the name of Lothar, who was campaigning against Frederick of Hohenstaufen, that the king would help Innocent with a campaign to Rome to secure his position against Anaclet. [2] In exchage Innocent promised himthe Imperial crown but due to the circumstance the coronation took only place in Rome on 4 June 1133, Anaclet still being in the posession of St. Peter’s Church.

Whilst conducting the Council of Reims of, Pope Innocent II (1130-’44)  anointed and crowned the 11-year old Louis VII on 19 october 1131 in the cathedral. Both his father Louis VI and Louis VII did not have a Lothar II-like beard.


Seal of Lothair III

on a charter confirming the jurisdiction over shipping of  Echternach Abbey, 1131


Paying homage to the king.

Stone high relief in the O.L.V. Kerk, Maastricht.


The king represented may be Lotair II. He is wearing a crown with four fleurs-de-lis and has a lily-scepter in his left hand. Behind him is his marshal with a sword inscribed  GLADIVS (sword).

The force Lothair took with him into Italy to help Innocent in 1132, was not strong, due to his leaving troops in Germany to prevent the Hohenstaufen from revolting. Whilst he carefully avoided any cities that were hostile, he did attempt to besiege Milan, which failed due to the small army he had at his disposal. Consequently, he reached Rome in 1133, which was mostly held by Anacletus.


Foto H.d.V. 08.06

King Lothair II of Supplinburg and his retinue

Baptismal font in the San Frediano in Lucca.


12th century Baptismal font, circular dish on a pillar attributed to three sculptors: The Master of the story of Mozes, Master Roberto (his signature on a part of the dish) and the Master of the month and of the apostles.


Lothair II on the Baptismal Font


Here it can  clearly be seen that his pointed beard has been chiseled away.


Emperor on horseback and his attendants

Fresco in the S. Clemente in Rome. Detail of the “History of Alexius”


The king rides a greyhorse and is dressed in a red tunica and golden cuirass. He wears a purple mantle. His head is uncovered and he has white  hair and a full beard with the characteristic little curls at the point.


The fresco tells the story of Saint Alexius.

Alexis was the only son of a rich Roman senator. From his good Christian parents, he learned to be charitable to the poor. Alexis wanted to give up his wealth and honors but his parents had chosen a rich bride for him. Because it was their will, he married her. Yet right on his wedding day, he obtained her permission to leave her for God. Then, in disguise, he traveled to Syria in the East and lived in great poverty near a Church of Our Lady. One day, after seventeen years, a picture of our Blessed Mother spoke to tell the people that this beggar was very holy. She called him "The man of God." when he became famous, which was the last thing he wanted, he fled back to Rome. He came as a beggar to his own home. His parents did not recognize him, but they were very kind to all poor people and so they let him stay there. In a corner under the stairs, Alexis lived for seventeen years. He used to go out only to pray in church and to teach little children about God. The servants were often very mean to him, and though he could have ended all these sufferings just by telling his father who he was, he chose to say nothing. What great courage and strength of will that took! After Alexis died, his family found a note on his body which told them who he was and how he had lived his life of penance from the day of his wedding until then, for the love of God. His veneration was later transplanted to Rome


The lower church of the San Clemente in Rome was consecrated in 1128.


‘A rich Roman Senator’ is represented here in the shape of Lothar II. who was of the age of  63 in 1128. The frescoes therefore may have been sponsored by Lothair to pave the way for his coronation in Rome which eventually took place in 1133.


As St. Peter's Basilica was closed to them, Innocent instead crowned Lothair as emperor in the Lateran on 4 June 1133. The emperor continued giving little or no resistance against papal interference with his power; he even ignored a bull by Innocent which stated that the emperor's authority derived from him. He also recognized papal claims to the Matildine lands (formerly owned by Countess Matilda), in exchange receiving those lands as fiefs.


Imperial seal of Lothair III, 26.05.1134

Niedersächsisches Landesarchiv Hannover


Seal of Majesty: The Emperor sitting on his throne, crowned, a lily-sceptre in his right- and an orb in his left hand



Emperor Lothair III grants Bursfelde Monastery (Burisfeldensi ecclesie), on request of its ministerial Bevo of Grone, to the memory of his son Gerung who he had lost at the liberation of the Church of Speyer, two Hufe in Grone. [3]


Returning to Germany, he set out to create peace. The Staufen brothers, falling short on resources, were compelled to submit. The Reichstag in Bamberg in 1135 pardoned the two brothers and restored them to their lands. In return, they recognized Lothair as emperor, Conrad abandoned his title of King of Italy,  and both promised to assist him in another Italian campaign, before a ten-year ‘Landpeace’ was declared.


Charter of Exemption of Vornbach Monastery (on the Inn, Bavaria) 1136

Bay. Staatshauptarch. KL Vornbach 1.


Lothair  of Supplinburg with a pointed crown with pendilia. L.: lotharivs impr iii


King in the Vita Sancti Amandi, 2nd half 12th century


The Vita Sancti Amandi is a text from the beginning of te 8th century ascribed to the monk Baudemond, a pupil of Amandus and successor of Flobertus, abbot of St. Peter’s Abbey. The text was extended by Philipp, abbot of Aumône (dept. Loir-et-Cher). There exist a number of copies of the original biography of Amandus amongst others Manuscript 502 (2nd half of the 11th cent.) 501 (Vie et miracles de St.-Amand) and 500 (both 2nd half 12th century) in the Library of Valenciennes. Ms. 501 contains special miniatures, amongst others of Amandus with the author Baudemond (illustration).

On this leaf is a posthumous portrait of Lothair.


Campaign against Sicily 1136

In 1136, at the insistence of Innocent and Byzantine Emperor John II Comnenus, the campaign began, directed against Roger of Sicily. Two main armies, one led by Lothair, the other by Henry the Proud of Bavaria, entered Italy. On the river Tronto, Count William of Loritello did homage to Lothair and opened the gates of Termoli to him. This was followed by Count Hugh II of Molise. Advancing deep into the southern part of the peninsula, the two armies met at Bari, and continued further south in 1137. Roger offered to give Apulia as a fief of the Empire to one of his sons and give another son as a hostage - terms which Lothair refused after being pressured by Innocent.

The German troops, however, were against campaigning during the hot summer and revolted. The emperor, who had hoped for the complete conquest of Sicily, instead separated Capua and Apulia from Roger's kingdom and gave them to Roger's enemies. Innocent protested, claiming that Apulia fell under papal claims; the two eventually jointly enfeoffed the duchy to Rainulf of Alife. Lothair turned north, but died while crossing the Alps on 4 December 1137. His body was boiled to prevent putrefaction, and his bones were carried to the monastery Kaiserdom church of Saints Peter and Paul at Königslutter, which he endowed as his burial church and for which he laid the cornerstone in 1135. There his tomb and the tomb of his wife Richenza can still be seen.

Shortly beforehand, he gave his Tuscan Matildine lands to his son-in-law, Henry the Proud of Bavaria, and his last acts were to give him also the Duchy of Saxony and the imperial regalia (i.e. crown, lance and sword). However, the kingship subsequently ended up in the hands of the Hohenstaufen, destroying Lothair's hopes for a powerful Welf hereditary monarchy.



The form of the crowns as depicted on the several representations of Lothair II looks somewhat arbitrary. A problem is posed by the fact that the representations are sometimes difficult to date.

There are at least three forms:

·         A demi-sphere decorated with one or two hoops and a (felt) cap we can find in Hecklingen and Paris.

·         A diadem decorated with three points and a cap imitating the crown of the Salians. Such a crown is on the seal of Lothair II

·         A diadem decorated with three ornaments like on the crown from Reims

·         A diadem with three fleurs-de-lis like on the crown from Maastricht and Lucca

·         A diadem with two points and prependoulia and a (felt) cap crested with a square cross. Such a crown is on his Imperial Seal

·         Eventually Lothair is crowned with a crown of three points, on each point a cross and prependoulia hanging from the lower rim. This crown is derived from the (imperial-) crown of Conrad II (Emp. 1027-39), the central hoop missing.



Eagle from Northern Italy, 12th century

Coll. Palazzo Venezia, Rome


As the eagle is guardant it may be the symbol of a Roman King or a Roman Emperor, the eagles of the King of Itay and the Kimg of Germany turning their head to the dexter or the sinister. Probably the eagle was made for the Emperor Lothair III but other like eagles are only known from the reign of Henry IV (Emp. 1084-1105) and  Frederick Barbarossa (Emp. 1155-’90).

At the same time (1136 ca) Geoffrey of Monmouth, writing about the fight of Emperor Lucius with King Arthur, thinks that the imperial standard was a golden eagle: "He commanded that a golden eagle, which he had brought with him as a standard, should be set up firmly in the centre.”[4]

This matches with the golden eagle on the floor of St Marks basilica in Venice.


Richenza of Northeim

*c. 1087/1089 –†1141


Richenza of Northeim was Duchess of Saxony from 1106 when she married Lothair of Supplinburg, German queen (formally Queen of the Romans) from 1125 and Holy Roman Empress from 1133 until the death of her husband in 1137.

She died in 1141 and was buried next to her husband Emperor Lothair and her son-in-law Duke Henry the Proud in the Imperial Cathedral at Königslutter. Her grave goods included a simple and elegant lead crown.

No contemporary portraits have been found so far.


Crown from the grave of Empress Richenza

Coll. Braunschweigisches Landesmuseum


This crown is of the common model found in medieval west-european royal graves (for example in Speyer)



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© Hubert de Vries  2017-08-08




[1] Schubart, Werner: Sachsenblume und Sachsenkaiser in der Klosterkirche zu Hecklingen. 111

[2] Heinrich, Christoph Gottlob: Allgemeine Weltgeschichte von de Schöpfung bis zur gegenwartigen Zeit. Leipzig, 1789. Pp. 21-22.  It is said that Innocent II again crowned Lothair as King of the Romans on 29 March 1131 but nothing is said about that coronation by Heinrich

[3] Hufe: a piece of land of  7-15 ha.

[4] Monmouth, Geoffrey of: The History of the Kings of Britain. (ca. 1136). Translated with an introduction by Lewis Thorpe. Penguin Classics, London, 1966. P. 251