Otto of Freising

Otto of Freising

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Otto von Freising (c. 1114 in Klosterneuburg
Klosterneuburg
Klosterneuburg is an attractive small town in Lower Austria, Austria with a population of 24,442.It is located on the Danube, immediately north of Vienna, from which it is separated by the Kahlenberg and Leopoldsberg hills...

 – 22 September 1158) was a German
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 bishop
Bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

 and chronicler.

Life


He was the fifth son of Leopold III
Leopold III, Margrave of Austria
Saint Leopold III was the Margrave of Austria in 1073–1136. He is the patron saint of Austria, of the city of Vienna, of Lower Austria, and, jointly with Saint Florian, of Upper Austria. His feast day is November 15.-Biography:...

, margrave of Austria, by his wife Agnes
Agnes of Germany
Agnes of Germany was the daughter of Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor and Bertha of Savoy. Her maternal grandparents were Otto, Count of Savoy, Aosta and Moriana and Adelaide, Marchioness of Turin and Susa....

, daughter of the emperor Henry IV
Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor
Henry IV was King of the Romans from 1056 and Holy Roman Emperor from 1084 until his forced abdication in 1105. He was the third emperor of the Salian dynasty and one of the most powerful and important figures of the 11th century...

. By her first husband, Frederick I
Frederick I, Duke of Swabia
Frederick I von Staufen was Duke of Swabia from 1079 to his death. He was the first ruler of Swabia from the House of Hohenstaufen, and was the builder of dynasty's ancestral Hohenstaufen Castle near Göppingen.-Parents:...

 of Hohenstaufen
Hohenstaufen
The House of Hohenstaufen was a dynasty of German kings in the High Middle Ages, lasting from 1138 to 1254. Three of these kings were also crowned Holy Roman Emperor. In 1194 the Hohenstaufens also became Kings of Sicily...

, duke of Swabia
Duke of Swabia
The following is a list of Dukes of Swabia in southwest Germany.Swabia was one of the five stem duchies of the medieval German kingdom, and its dukes were thus among the most powerful magnates of Germany. The most notable family to hold Swabia were the Hohenstaufen, who held it, with a brief...

, Agnes was the mother of the German king Conrad III
Conrad III of Germany
Conrad III was the first King of Germany of the Hohenstaufen dynasty. He was the son of Frederick I, Duke of Swabia, and Agnes, a daughter of the Salian Emperor Henry IV.-Life and reign:...

, and grandmother of the emperor Frederick I
Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor
Frederick I Barbarossa was a German Holy Roman Emperor. He was elected King of Germany at Frankfurt on 4 March 1152 and crowned in Aachen on 9 March, crowned King of Italy in Pavia in 1155, and finally crowned Roman Emperor by Pope Adrian IV, on 18 June 1155, and two years later in 1157 the term...

. Also, Otto's sister Judith or Ita
Judith of Babenberg
Judith of Babenberg , , was a daughter of Agnes of Germany and her second husband Leopold III of Austria. The chronicler Otto of Freising was one of her older brothers; Conrad III of Germany her half-brother. Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor was her nephew.She married c...

 was married to the Marquess William V of Montferrat. He was thus related to the most powerful families in Germany and Northern Italy.

The notices of his life are scanty and the dates somewhat uncertain. He studied in Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

, where he took an especial interest in philosophy
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

, is said to have been one of the first to introduce the philosophy of Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

 into Germany, and he served as provost
Provost (religion)
A provost is a senior official in a number of Christian churches.-Historical Development:The word praepositus was originally applied to any ecclesiastical ruler or dignitary...

 of a new foundation in Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

.

Having entered the Cistercian order, Otto convinced his father to found Heiligenkreuz Abbey
Heiligenkreuz Abbey
Heiligenkreuz Abbey is a Cistercian monastery in the village of Heiligenkreuz in the southern part of the Vienna woods, c. 13 km north-west of Baden in Lower Austria...

 in 1133, thus bringing literacy and sophisticated agriculture (including wine
Wine
Wine is an alcoholic beverage, made of fermented fruit juice, usually from grapes. The natural chemical balance of grapes lets them ferment without the addition of sugars, acids, enzymes, or other nutrients. Grape wine is produced by fermenting crushed grapes using various types of yeast. Yeast...

 making) to the region that would become Vienna
Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

. He became abbot of the Cistercian monastery of Morimond
Morimond Abbey
Morimond Abbeyis a religious complex in Parnoy-en-Bassigny, Haute-Marne department, in the Champagne-Ardenne region of France. It was the fourth of the four great daughter abbeys of Cîteaux Abbey, of primary importance in the spread of the Cistercian Order, along with La Ferté to the south,...

 in Burgundy about 1136, and soon afterwards was elected bishop of Freising. This diocese, and indeed the whole of Bavaria
Bavaria
Bavaria, formally the Free State of Bavaria is a state of Germany, located in the southeast of Germany. With an area of , it is the largest state by area, forming almost 20% of the total land area of Germany...

, was then disturbed by the feud between the Welfs and the Hohenstaufen, and the church was in a deplorable condition; but a great improvement was brought about by the new bishop in both ecclesiastical and secular matters.

In 1147 he took part in the disastrous crusade
Second Crusade
The Second Crusade was the second major crusade launched from Europe. The Second Crusade was started in response to the fall of the County of Edessa the previous year to the forces of Zengi. The county had been founded during the First Crusade by Baldwin of Boulogne in 1098...

 of Conrad III
Conrad III of Germany
Conrad III was the first King of Germany of the Hohenstaufen dynasty. He was the son of Frederick I, Duke of Swabia, and Agnes, a daughter of the Salian Emperor Henry IV.-Life and reign:...

. The section of the crusading army led by the bishop was decimated, but Otto reached Jerusalem, and returned to Bavaria in 1148 or 1149. He enjoyed the favour of Conrad's successor, Frederick I
Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor
Frederick I Barbarossa was a German Holy Roman Emperor. He was elected King of Germany at Frankfurt on 4 March 1152 and crowned in Aachen on 9 March, crowned King of Italy in Pavia in 1155, and finally crowned Roman Emperor by Pope Adrian IV, on 18 June 1155, and two years later in 1157 the term...

; was probably instrumental in settling the dispute over the duchy of Bavaria
Duchy of Bavaria
The Duchy of Bavaria was the only one of the stem duchies from the earliest days of East Francia and the Kingdom of Germany to preserve both its name and most of its territorial extent....

 in 1156; was present at the famous diet of Besançon in 1157, and, still retaining the habit
Religious habit
A religious habit is a distinctive set of garments worn by members of a religious order. Traditionally some plain garb recognisable as a religious habit has also been worn by those leading the religious eremitic and anachoritic life, although in their case without conformity to a particular uniform...

 of a Cistercian monk, died at Morimond on 22 September 1158. In 1857 a statue of the bishop was erected at Freising.

Chronica de duabus civitatibus


The first of these is his Chronica sive Historia de duabus civitatibus (Chronicle or history of the two cities), a historical and philosophical work in eight books, which follows to some extent the lines laid down by Augustine
Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo , also known as Augustine, St. Augustine, St. Austin, St. Augoustinos, Blessed Augustine, or St. Augustine the Blessed, was Bishop of Hippo Regius . He was a Latin-speaking philosopher and theologian who lived in the Roman Africa Province...

 and Orosius. Written during the time of the civil war in Germany (1143–1145), it contrasts Jerusalem and Babel
Babylon
Babylon was an Akkadian city-state of ancient Mesopotamia, the remains of which are found in present-day Al Hillah, Babil Province, Iraq, about 85 kilometers south of Baghdad...

, the heavenly and the earthly kingdoms, but also contains much valuable information about the history of his own time. The chronicle, which was held in very high regard by contemporaries, goes down to 1146, and from this date until 1209 has been continued by Otto, abbot of St Blasius
St. Blaise's Abbey in the Black Forest
Sankt Blaise's Abbey in the Black Forest was a Benedictine monastery in the village of St. Blasien in the Black Forest in Baden-Württemberg, Germany.- 9th–12th centuries :The early history of the abbey is obscure...

 (d. 1223). In the Chronica, Otto reports a meeting he had with Bishop Hugh of Jabala
Hugh of Jabala
Hugh was the bishop of Jabala, a town in Syria, during the 12th century. When the County of Edessa fell to Zengi in 1144, Raymond, prince of Antioch, sent Hugh to report the news to Pope Eugene III. In response, Eugene issued the papal bull Quantum praedecessores the following year calling for the...

, who told him of a Nestorian Christian king in the east named Prester John
Prester John
The legends of Prester John were popular in Europe from the 12th through the 17th centuries, and told of a Christian patriarch and king said to rule over a Christian nation lost amidst the Muslims and pagans in the Orient. Written accounts of this kingdom are variegated collections of medieval...

. It was hoped this monarch would bring relief to the crusader states: this is the first documented mention of Prester John
Prester John
The legends of Prester John were popular in Europe from the 12th through the 17th centuries, and told of a Christian patriarch and king said to rule over a Christian nation lost amidst the Muslims and pagans in the Orient. Written accounts of this kingdom are variegated collections of medieval...

.


Gesta Friderici Imperatoris


Better known is Otto's Gesta Friderici imperatoris (Deeds of Emperor Frederick), written at the request of Frederick I, and prefaced by a letter from the emperor to the author. The Gesta is in four books, the first two of which were written by Otto, and the remaining two, or part of them, by his pupil Ragewin, or Rahewin; it has been argued that the third book and the early part of the fourth were also the work of Otto. Beginning with the quarrel between Pope Gregory VII
Pope Gregory VII
Pope St. Gregory VII , born Hildebrand of Sovana , was Pope from April 22, 1073, until his death. One of the great reforming popes, he is perhaps best known for the part he played in the Investiture Controversy, his dispute with Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor affirming the primacy of the papal...

 and the emperor Henry IV
Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor
Henry IV was King of the Romans from 1056 and Holy Roman Emperor from 1084 until his forced abdication in 1105. He was the third emperor of the Salian dynasty and one of the most powerful and important figures of the 11th century...

, the first book takes the history down to the death of Conrad III in 1152. It is not confined to German affairs, as the author digresses to tell of the preaching of Bernard of Clairvaux
Bernard of Clairvaux
Bernard of Clairvaux, O.Cist was a French abbot and the primary builder of the reforming Cistercian order.After the death of his mother, Bernard sought admission into the Cistercian order. Three years later, he was sent to found a new abbey at an isolated clearing in a glen known as the Val...

, of his zeal against the heretics, and of the condemnation of Pierre Abélard; and discourses on philosophy and theology. The second book opens with the election of Frederick I in 1152, and deals with the history of the first five years of his reign, especially in Italy, in some detail. From this point (1156) the work is continued by Ragewin. Otto's Latin is excellent, and in spite of a slight partiality for the Hohenstaufen
Hohenstaufen
The House of Hohenstaufen was a dynasty of German kings in the High Middle Ages, lasting from 1138 to 1254. Three of these kings were also crowned Holy Roman Emperor. In 1194 the Hohenstaufens also became Kings of Sicily...

, and some minor inaccuracies, the Gesta has been rightly described as a "model of historical composition."

Further reading

  • Mierow, Charles Christopher
    Charles Christopher Mierow
    Charles Christopher Mierow was an American academic.He had a Princeton Ph.D. in classical languages and literature, and was known as a translator. In years the 1923-1924 and 1925-1934 he was president of Colorado College...

    . "Bishop Otto of Freising: Historian and Man", Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, Vol. 80. (1949), pp. 393–402.

External links