Salian dynasty

The Salian dynasty (German: Salier; also known as the Frankish dynasty after the family's Salian Frankish origin and position as dukes of Franconia) was a dynasty in the High Middle Ages. The dynasty provided four German Kings (1024–1125), all of whom went on to be crowned Holy Roman Emperor (1027–1125); as such, the term Salic dynasty is also used to refer to the Holy Roman Empire of the time as a separate term.

After the death of the last Saxon of the Ottonian Dynasty in 1024, the elective titles of King of the Germans and then three years later Holy Roman Emperor both passed to the first monarch of the Salian dynasty in the person of Conrad II, the only son of Count Henry of Speyer and Adelheid of Alsace (both territories in the Franconia of the day). He was elected German King in 1024 and crowned Holy Roman Emperor on 26 March 1027.

The four Salian kings of the dynasty—Conrad II, Henry III, Henry IV, and Henry V—ruled the Holy Roman Empire from 1027 to 1125, and firmly established their monarchy as a major European power. They achieved the development of a permanent administrative system based on a class of public officials answerable to the crown.


Werner of Worms and his son Duke Conrad the Red of Lorraine, who died in 955, founded the ancestral dynasty. Conrad the Red married Liutgarde, a daughter of Emperor Otto I. Their son Otto I, Duke of Carinthia ruled Carinthia from 978 to 1004.

Duke Otto had three sons: Bruno, who became Pope Gregory V; Conrad; and Henry, count of Speyer. Henry was the father of the first Salian Emperor Conrad II.

Pope Leo IX (in office 1049 to 1054) also had family ties to the dynasty, since his grandfather Hugo III was the brother of Adelheid, the grandmother of Henry III.

Ruling in the Holy Roman Empire

After the death of the last Saxon Emperor Henry II the first Salian regent Conrad II was elected by the majority of the Prince-electors and was crowned German king in Mainz on 8 September 1024. Early in 1026 Conrad went to Milan, where Ariberto, archbishop of Milan, crowned him king of Italy. When Rudolph III, King of Burgundy died 1032, Conrad II also claimed this kingship on the basis of an inheritance Henry II had extorted from the former in 1006. Despite some opposition, the Burgundian and Provençal nobles paid homage to Conrad in Zürich in 1034. This Kingdom of Burgundy would become known as the Kingdom of Arles under Conrad's successors.

Already in 1028 Conrad II had his son Henry III elected and anointed king of Germany. Henry's tenure led to an overstatement of previously unknown sacral kingship. So during this reign Speyer Cathedral was expanded to be the largest church in Western Christendom. Henry's conception of a legitimate power of royal disposition in the duchies was successful against the dukes, and thus secured royal control. However, in Lorraine, this led to years of conflict, from which Henry emerged as the winner. But also in southern Germany a powerful opposition group was formed in the years 1052–1055. 1046 Henry ended the papal schism, freed the Papacy from dependence on the Roman nobility, and laid the basis for its universal applicability. His early death in 1056 was long regarded as a disaster for the Empire.

The early Salians owed much of their success to their alliance with the Church, a policy begun by Otto I, which gave them the material support they needed to subdue rebellious dukes. In time, however, the Church came to regret this close relationship. The alliance broke down in 1075 during what came to be known as the Investiture Controversy (or Investiture Dispute), a struggle in which the reformist Pope, Gregory VII, demanded that Emperor Henry IV renounce his rights over the Church in Germany. The pope also attacked the concept of monarchy by divine right and gained the support of significant elements of the German nobility interested in limiting imperial absolutism. More important, the pope forbade ecclesiastical officials under pain of excommunication to support Henry as they had so freely done in the past. In the end, Henry IV journeyed to Canossa in northern Italy in 1077 to do penance and to receive absolution from the pope. However, he resumed the practice of lay investiture (appointment of religious officials by civil authorities) and arranged the election of an antipope (Antipope Clement III) in 1080.

The monarch's struggle with the papacy resulted in a war that ravaged through the Holy Roman Empire from 1077 until the Concordat of Worms in 1122. The reign of the last ruler of the Salian dynasty Henry V coincided with the final phase of the great Investiture Controversy, which had pitted pope against emperor. By the settlement of the Concordat of Worms, Henry V surrendered to the demands of the second generation of Gregorian reformers. This agreement stipulated that the pope would appoint high church officials but gave the German king the right to veto the papal choices. Imperial control of Italy was lost for a time, and the imperial crown became dependent on the political support of competing aristocratic factions. Feudalism also became more widespread as freemen sought protection by swearing allegiance to a lord. These powerful local rulers, having thereby acquired extensive territories and large military retinues, took over administration within their territories and organized it around an increasing number of castles. The most powerful of these local rulers came to be called princes rather than dukes.

According to the laws of the feudal system of the Holy Roman Empire, the king had no claims on the vassals of the other princes, only on those living within his family's territory. Lacking the support of the formerly independent vassals and weakened by the increasing hostility of the Church, the monarchy lost its pre-eminence. Thus the Investiture Contest strengthened local power in the Holy Roman Empire – in contrast to the trend in France and England, where centralized royal power grew. The Investiture Contest had an additional effect. The long struggle between emperor and pope hurt the Holy Roman Empire's intellectual life, in this period largely confined to monasteries, and the empire no longer led or even kept pace with developments occurring in France and Italy. For instance, no universities were founded in the Holy Roman Empire until the fourteenth century.

The first Hohenstaufen king Conrad III was a grandson of the Salian Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor. (Agnes, Henry IV's daughter and Henry V's sister, was the heiress of Salian dynasty's lands: her first marriage produced the royal and imperial Hohenstaufen dynasty and her second marriage the ducal Babenberg potentates of Duchy of Austria which was elevated much due to such connections Privilegium Minus.)

Salian Kings and Emperors

German royal dynasties
Salian dynasty
Conrad II 1024 1039
Henry III 1039 1056
Henry IV 1056 1105
Henry V 1105 1125
Family tree of the German monarchs
Preceded by
Ottonian dynasty
Followed by
Süpplingenburg dynasty
  • Conrad II 1024–1039, crowned emperor on 26 March 1027
  • Henry III 1039–1056, crowned emperor on 25 December 1046
  • Henry IV 1056–1106, crowned emperor on 31 March 1084
    • Conrad (III) 1087–1098, nominal king under his father Henry IV
  • Henry V 1106–1125, crowned emperor on 13 April 1111

Their regnal dates as emperor take into account elections and subsequent coronations.

Family tree of Salians

Otto I
king of Germany
count of Speyergau, Wormsgau
∞ Hicha of Swabia
(daughter of Burchard II)
Liutgard of Saxony
Conrad the Red
duke of Lorraine
Conrad I
king of Burgundy
Otto I
duke of Carinthia
∞ Judith of Carinthia (?)
Gerberga of Burgundy
count of Speyer, Worms
Adelaide of Metz
Pope Gregory V
Conrad I
duke of Carinthia
Matilda of Swabia
Gisela of Swabia
Conrad II the Elder
king of Germany, Italy, Burgundy
Conrad II the Younger
duke of Carinthia
bishop of Würzburg
Henry III
king of Germany, Italy, Burgundy
1.Gunhilda of Denmark
2.Agnes of Poitou
Henry IV
king of Germany, Italy, Burgundy
1.Bertha of Savoy
2.Eupraxia of Kiev
Conrad II
duke of Bavaria
1.Frederick I
duke of Swabia
Agnes of Waiblingen
2.Leopold III
margrave of Austria
co-king of Germany, Italy
Henry V
king of Germany, Italy
Matilda of Normandy
Conrad III
king of Germany

See also

Further reading

  • Lenelotte Möller, Hans Ammerich: Die Salier. 1024-1125. Wiesbaden 2015


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