Saints, Sovereigns, Artists – Encounter with historical personalities

Meet fascinating characters of medieval times in the TRANSROMANICA-regions! Take a stop in Saxony-Anhalt, following the traces of Otto the Great or experience the „Kaiserfrühling” in his domicile Quedlinburg. Visit Terri Matildici during summer when the medieval „Settimana Matildici” is taking place. Or join the pilgrims along the Hemma-pilgrimage trail in Carinthia and Slovenia!

Personalities give us a better understanding of the past. The Middle Ages are rich of names and legends!
Do you know the “Walk to Canossa”? This phrase refers to the trek of German king Henry IV from Speyer (Germany) to the fortress of Canossa in Emilia-Romagna (Italy) and to the circumstances of the journey. These events took place in and around January 1077.
The pope Gregory VII, who feared Henry’s army could remove him from power, fled to today’s Northern Italy trying to gain support in the Italian towns. That is were he met Matilda, Countess of Tuscany. She offered him to bring him to a place safe from Henry’s attacks. Matilda was the daughter of Boniface III, who was among others the count of Modena and Ferrara.
Gregory and Matilda traveled together to the fortress of Canossa and shut themselves inside. After a very long and harsh walk over the Alps, he reached at the gates of Canossa but had to wait for three days before the pope granted him access. He knelt before the pope and begged his forgiveness so the Pope finally signalized the end of Henry’s excommunication.

An emperor of truly European dimension is Otto the Great (912 – 973). Otto I was the most influential character of Central Europe during the whole of the 10th century. Magdeburg played its part when Otto I married the English princess Editha († 946) in 929 where she was given the city as a wedding gift. In the near-by Quedlinburg, Otto built the castle-complex which served as palatinate of the Saxon emperors.
Through his politics the city became one of the leading centres of government in the 10th century. After Edith died, and after his first campaign to Italy (951-952), he married Adelheid of Burgundy. In grateful recognition he ordered in the same year the Magdeburg Cathedral to be built, which is the predecessor of the building still standing today. Since his second campaign to Italy (961 – 965), Otto the Great is said to be one of the founders of the Holy Roman Empire. The Emperor’s heart was, according to the old custom, buried in the place where he died, in Memleben.

Another great personality of this time is Hemma von Gurk, who is still worshipped as a Saint in Carinthia. In the 11th century, Hemma devoted her life to God and began distributing her large inheritance even more generously to the poor and founded several religious houses. In Gurk, Hemma built a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, which was later enlarged to become Gurk Cathedral. Upon Hemma’s death in 1045, she was buried at the church in Gurk, and the saint’s remains were placed in the crypt under the choir.

But it wasn’t until the 20th century that Hemma received her greatest honors: official canonization in 1938 (with the distinction of sharing her feast day, June 29, with Peter and Paul); and a pilgrimage visit to Gurk from Pope John Paul II on June 25, 1988, during which he celebrated Mass before 80,000 pilgrims. Pilgrims today can follow the „Hemma-Pilgerweg” running from Carinthia to Slovenia.

Encounters with Otto the Great and Martin Luther in Saxony-Anhalt

Personalities make history come to life – and the Middle Ages are full of great names and legends!

Two big historic names are connected to the German region of Saxony-Anhalt: Otto the Great and Martin Luther. You can discover where these two famous historical figures lived and worked on the TRANSROMANICA routes.

Otto the Great (912-973) was a leader of truly European dimensions – the most influential character in Central Europe throughout the tenth century. Above all, he was the first emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Between 936 and 961 he lived in his favourite city, Magdeburg, which he had given to his first wife Editha as a wedding present. Magdeburg lies in modern-day Saxony-Anhalt, and is the departure point for the Romanesque Road. The Romanesque Road connects 88 mainly sacred buildings along a north-south axis, which is about one thousand kilometres long. Immediately after taking the throne, Otto designated Quedlinburg as a place of veneration for his dynasty, thus making it into the most important place for the Ottonians in their Saxon homeland. According to tradition, the Emperor’s heart was buried in Memleben where he died. The burial grounds in Memleben, Magdeburg Cathedral, and the church of Quedlinburg are all sites along the Romanesque Road that you can visit.

Almost 500 years ago in 1517, Martin Luther (1483-1546) nailed his theses to the door of All Saint’s Church in Wittenberg, sparking the Reformation. Along the Romanesque Road you will also find places of the Reformation such as Magdeburg, Allstedt, Zeitz, Naumburg, Merseburg or Osterwieck. Why not combine a visit to the nearby Romanesque Road with a detour to the sights of the reformation? Luther’s place of birth, Eisleben, his place of work, Wittenberg, and the Reformation Centenary on the Romanesque Road in Osterwieck await your visit!